How the Hollywood formula strangled “Ender’s Game”

How the Hollywood formula strangled “Ender’s Game”

Life is hard when your favorite book seems impossible to turn into a movie, so I was psyched when I heard that Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” was finally hitting the big screen. Now, I think the story should’ve stayed on the pages.


For those who aren’t die-hard fans like myself, “Ender’s Game,” is set in a not-so-distant future when Earth barely survives an attack by an alien race called the buggers. The smartest children, some as young as six go to Battle School to train for an upcoming second war. The plot intensifies as adulthood is forced on the child soldiers. The movie tackled some big themes, but I trusted Asa Butterfield and Hailee Steinfeld would be knockouts as main characters Ender and his friend Petra.


Imagine my disappointment when I saw the Hollywood formula of romance, special effects and repetitive ideas plastered all over the original story. In his review, Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly describes the film as a “lavish, eye-candy adaptation” of the book. After seeing the movie myself, I couldn’t agree more.


I suspect the lack of emotional and character depth is what makes Nashawaty pronounce “Ender’s Game” an “oddly lifeless” and “emotionally unaffecting” movie. Like many beloved novels-turned-movies, the shallow concepts pound into our heads while crucial details are tossed aside.


Why filmmakers feel the need to invent saccharine scenes is beyond me. They certainly didn’t hold back in “Ender’s Game.” We get to enjoy countless scenes with Petra and Ender gazing nose-to-nose instead of witnessing Ender’s internal struggle.


Ender’s isolation as a commander was a key factor in the book, so it was disappointing to see the movie barely scratching the surface of his loneliness. This theme is what makes the original story so unforgettable. The “Ender’s Game” movie would be a masterpiece if it put more effort into digging deeper.


Nashawaty is on point when he describes the movie as a “harmless, slightly clunky story” whose “undercooked plot and unremarkable performances fail to match the visual ambition.”

We receive a watered down version of the plot with little depth. Special effects wrap up the whole thing in a shiny, dumbed down package. It’s time to drop the Hollywood formula and make films to compliment the book instead of change it.