I’ve been waiting a long, long time for this.
First of all: I’m cautiously optimistic. Book adaptations are tough, and this one has been in the works forever. The problem was that they couldn’t get a good script, from what I’ve heard, and for this version Orson Scott Card finally took a hand in writing it himself. That’s risky, but the fact that they delayed it this long makes me hope they were willing to wait for the right script.
Another reason to be optimistic: the actors. Obvously Harrison Ford (as Graff) and Ben Kingsley (as Rackham) are serious stars. But they clearly made a decision to depart from the book a little bit by picking older kids for the children’s parts. In the book, Ender is selected for the Battle School at age 6. Asa Butterfield may be able to pass for younger than his actual age (16), but at 5’10” he’s not going to pass for a kindergartener. And that’s fine: adjusting the story to have older kids makes sense to get more experienced actors. Especially given the violence of the book: Ender kills his first opponent before he even leaves earth when he’s still just 6.
Another major change I noticed has to do with the first war. In the novels, Rackham’s brilliant final defense happens around Saturn, but in the trailer the battles are clearly being fought in Earth’s atmosphere with what look like current-generation fighter jets. So the story has been ratcheted back to be much closer to our timeline (although the actual events of the book happen 70 years after the first war, so we’ve got spaceships by then). I’m not sure what to make of that change. I don’t have anything against it, but I don’t see what is gained either.
As for the rest: the production looks stunning (of course) and so far I’m a huge fan of the sets and costumes. It’s got a really beautiful blend of sort of gritty, hard-sf (check out the muted colors on Ender’s Salamander Army uniform) and then a ton of glossy, bright futurism as well. I love the fusion, and so far I’m very excited by that glimpse into the tone of the movies. The Battleroom looks fantastic!
But it’s definitely too early to be confident. They’re going to have to make major departures from the book to fit this all into one book. After all: it spans several years of Ender’s childhood and several very distinct phases of storytelling, a lot of which involve Ender in almost total isolation. There’s also the fundamental problem that Ender directs the human fleet from a hollowed-out asteroid in our solar system, so none of the space-combat is first-person. It looks like they are getting around that by having Ender use some kind of virtual-reality technology to control the fleet, and that could be a really great way to make more of the narrative visual.
So, like I said, cautious optimistic. There are definitely hurdles to overcome, but the early signs are all mostly positive.
Six months to go…