Fans of Orson Scott Card’s seminal sci-fi novel Ender’s Game had just about abandoned holding our collective breath for a film adaptation when casting and directing news started falling into place. The first and arguably most important piece of information was revealed a few weeks ago when we learned that Gavin Hood would be directing the film and writing the screenplay. This is Gavin Hood of X-Men Origins: Wolverine infamy, an utterly incoherent and somewhat tedious mess of a film, so the news came as something of a hindrance to my anticipation.
On the other hand, Hood also wrote and directed Tsotsi, which was quite good—moving, articulate, tightly paced. On the other other hand, Hood wrote and directed Rendition, which I did not see because I heard very little in its praise. And back on the first hand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the only other science fiction film Hood has tackled, and he tackled it poorly. But back on the second hand, Tsotsi, centering on an amoral youth who finds himself in a surprising position of authority, could be more indicative of the thematic style Hood intends to take with Ender’s Game, a tone I think would be beneficial to the film.
All of this other hand waffling is simply to say that I don’t know how to feel about this film. I have been a fan of Card’s Ender’s Game and its sequels for many years, and I have always looked forward to a competent film adaptation of the story. The book has an inherently cinematic and contemporary tone, with its epic battles, political themes and structural emphasis on video games. I want to see this movie so badly, but I badly fear that it will be all wrong. The novel would be so easy to dumb down and flatten out: simply remove Ender’s moral ambiguity, Peter and Valentine’s political machinations, and the frightening partisan implications of the Battle School, and you have a tidy little sci-fi flick with great video game tie-in potential and no substance whatsoever. And that’s not even the worst case scenario, which would be a boring sci-fi flick with shoddy action sequences and inane dialogue.
But this week we fans of the novel got a great piece of news: Hugo star Asa Butterfield has been confirmed to star as Andrew “Ender” Wiggin. Look at this kid:
Great, right? He looks intelligent, profound, steely. He looks as if right now he’s pondering the ethical implications of his latest tactical maneuver. Butterfield’s already proven he’s a strong actor in Hugo, as Mordred in the 2008 Merlin TV series which I may have watched (shut up), and in The Wolfman. I like this kid quite a bit, and the casting of Ender is something that has always stumped me. He's crucial and difficult to cast in a very specific way, and it seems as if Hood and Co. have gotten it right.
The same Variety article mentions that Harrison Ford is in the running to play Graff, but it’s the sort of vague rumor on which it’s pointless to ruminate. But what the hell—he’d be wonderful in the role.
How do you guys feel about this adaptation? Who should play Valentine, Peter, Bean and Alai?