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Gee Whillickers

Ender's Game cast finalized

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Okay, science fiction fans, get ready for Battle School. The cast for the Ender's Game movie adaptation has been finalized, with the addition of Harrison Ford as Colonel Graff and Abigail Breslin as Valentine Wiggin.

I desperately hope they don't eff this up, there's so many ways they could do so.

I still can't believe a book by a homophobic bigot can be so good. Like many, I tend to think he's seriously closeted. It would explain so much about that book, and others.

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I just started reading the book a few days ago -- I've had it for years, but put off reading it. Great so far.

The kid (Asa Butterfield) is a tremendous young actor, a find on the order of Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter. I agree Orson Scott Card is a homophobic butthead -- a die hard Mormon who has zero tolerance for gay people. I'm torn, because I've enjoyed Card's books about writing, and I think he's very skilled at what he does.

I compare this to liking the artist's work, but not the artist as a person. I have this same problem with Axl Rose of Guns 'n' Roses -- he made good music years ago, but he's a rotten human being.

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That reminds me to pick the book back up and read it. I got bogged down in the middle and stopped, then saw more of Orson Scott Card's views and didn't go back to finish. Now, I'd have to start back from the beginning.

Yes, I noted several places where Ender seemed to understand a lot of what it's like to be a gay kid, and a few places where, hmm, there is arguably homosexual subtext.

I like Ender as a hero or protagonist from what I read.

I think it really is a case of liking OSC's work but not his personal views.

By the way, a few months ago, OSC had a stroke and is going through recovery, very difficult for him. One of the things he's having trouble with is typing. Major bummer for anyone who makes a living by writing. Despite his views, I don't wish the guy any ill.

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Harrison Ford as Graff sounds good. I really hope they do this right. This is the director that brought us X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which worries me.

Man, I love that book. I'm currently reading it aloud to my after school tutoring group. And I agree with Pecman - Card's books on writing (Characters and Viewpoint, How to Write Sci-Fi and Fantasy) are great. Card's a jackass, but that doesn't make his work (well, SOME of his work) any less beautiful. I think it's possible to admire the art and not the artist.

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I just finished reading Ender's Game and jumped to Ender's Shadow, which essentially tells the exact same story from another character's point of view (this time, Bean, the streetwise kid who manages to get into Ender's squad). I highly recommend this book -- it fills in a lot of gaps and describes the "battle school" in much more detail than the original book.

I agree 100% with what EleCivil says above: Card is a rotten egg personally, and yet he does terrific work as a writer. I described the story as "a combination of Starship Troopers and Harry Potter," which I think comes pretty close to explaining what Ender's Game is all about. But I think it's going to be very difficult to capture it all on film, because quite a bit of the story is the psychological tension between Ender, the teachers, the other students, and the threat of alien destruction.

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Not that I care what they do with Card's junk- you can expect Hollyweird to screw it up. They don't understand that scifi is a serious genre and market it to children. Their adaptations from novels are usually bad- scifi novels are even worse.

Imagine writing a weekly series about a horrific nuclear apocalypse which nearly wipes out humanity and the survivors are relentlessly hunted by killer robots bent on causing their extinction. Then marketing that show to kids? Pardon me but Jesus Christ what were those people smoking!? That's exactly what Battlestar Galactica 1978 attempted to do.

A few production companies have gotten it right but most of them have gotten it not just wrong but horribly wrong. Do I even have to mention Battlefield Earth? :icon_puke_r:

What's worse are TV production companies that take on sci-fi themes. There have been dozens of these but only ONE has ever completed a planned story arc*. The rest were canceled as their writers used and reused cliches that never worked or worse used the trinity of death: a smart dog, stupid robot or a cute kid. BSG78 was there by the fourth episode.

I thought that Heinlein would rise from the grave and eat the brains of Paul Verhoven and Tri-Stars executives for that they did to Starship Troopers.

I'm just glad that they haven't discovered and raped Citizen of the Galaxy.

_______________________

* - Babylon 5 by Michael Straczynski.

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The only thing vaguely in common with the Starship Troopers movie and Heinlein's book is the title.

It's true for the most part, Hollywood does have an awfully hard time with decent SF book-to-movie adapations. However, there are some exceptions, especially if you include fantasy into the mix. Still, I tend to think this is going to end up an adventure movie about a boy-hero, instead of a psychological thriller about the conflicting motivations of driven people.

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One of the biggest changes of the movie is that in the novel, Ender himself is maybe 6 or 7 years old; the actor playing him in the film, Asa Butterfield (who recently played the title character in Hugo), is 14. I suspect they'll try to say he's 11 or 12 and just fake it, but I think this is a necessary change, because dramatically it's hard for audiences to buy into the idea of a militaristic defense school composed mostly of pre-adolescent kids. (I had the same problem with George Lucas arbitrarily making Anakin Skywalker 8 years old in Episode 1 of Star Wars; I think it would've worked much better if he had been 12 or 13. No way can I believe an 8-year-old can fly a landspeeder, pilot a spaceship, and build a robot like C3P0 from scratch; 12 or 13... maybe.

I agree with Gee above that many, many great SF novels have been ruined by Hollywood (like I, Robot, not so long ago). But there's always the handful that have been done well. 2001 wasn't bad -- though, arguably, it was a script before it was a novel -- and there are other exceptions. Jurassic Park and Andromeda Strain would be two more, but note that in the former case, the novelist was also one of the producers. So it can happen; it's just rare.

I'm positive Ender's Game was sold as an idea for a potential blockbuster series, on the order of Harry Potter or the upcoming [similarly-titled] Hunger Games (another all-teenage production). The studios are desperate for a concept that can keep rolling out new movies every year or two with the same cast, and make money on the order of Potter and the Bond movies. But the temptation for producers and studio execs to go in and change things is often too great, and they wind up making changes that cripple the novelist's original idea.

Small sidenote: I saw the Dreamworks cartoon How to Train Your Dragon last year, and I thought it was good -- but not great. One big thing bothered me -- I didn't like the [spoiler alert] ending where the lead character loses his foot in an accident with the dragon. It didn't ring true to me, and was one odd element in an otherwise OK story. Later on I found out this had been added by the producers, totally changing the novel's original story. This kind of tampering happens all the time, and it ruins a lot of stories that start off good. Sadly, there's a lotta p!ssing in the punchbowl in Hollywood...

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OK, I'm going to have to dust off the ebook copy of Ender's Game and read it. I really did like the half I read, though some things bogged me down, much as some of Heinlein's work has as an adult. Yet the discussion of social and political themes is part of what moves people, even if we don't like to think so.

Yes, Ender starts out a very young boy. It's a story of a very unique boy going through a very different form of a military school education from essentially kindergarten through adulthood. It's also the story of a very intelligent and individualistic boy seeing the strangeness around him and instead of toeing the line like they want, he chooses his own direction, adamantly, and excels.

Hmm, and to an extent, it's also about a boy who has trouble with relationships who learns about social and possibly sexual relationships. (I got definite hints of the latter as subtext, but I don't know if there's anything overt there.

Yes, it's difficult to think of a 6 to 8 year old being able to pilot, build, etc., as Pecman said. Except -- a very, very few kids are such geniuses (and sometimes polymath geniuses) that they might could do so. Maybe. Yes, there would much more likely be a development period up to that 12 to 13 year old range, before they truly show what genius level things they can do. There's basic intelligence, but there's also physical maturing and emotional and social maturing that need to take place to catch up with a remarkable basic intellect. -- And -- That doesn't preclude that a genius 12/13 year old would also still be prone to some real blunders, funny or serious.

Which is to say, yes, I really hope taking the story from book form to filmed movie script will work out well instead of a disaster. Harrison Ford can handle most any role. I recognize Asa Butterfield's name, but not what he's been in. I do think the audience who've never read the book will react better to a borderline teenage character doing all this than to a kindergartener doing the same. -- As it is, a big segment of the public seems determined to belittle any young teen with actual talent as though he or she is, "What, you're like 12? You sound like a girl." (How many celebrity kids and simply talented kids have I heard that one used on?)

The thing is, the story is very much about a pervasive culture with its own ends, and how it affects individuals and masses of people. That's a very different kind of story than, "boy-hero in action-adventure movie with lots of things going boom and ray guns." (How Hollywood tends to view science fiction.)

Oh, and -- Citizen of the Galaxy by Heinlein and Iron Cage by Andre Norton were two of my favorite boy-hero books as a young teen, and yes, had some influence on me realizing, hey, I like guys.

Long-time science fiction and fantasy fan here. They're my favorite genres.

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One of the significant issues with having a protagonist so young, in a story with a character that requires such a wide emotional range, is finding an young actor that can do it convincingly. Most younger actors just couldn't pull this off. By the time a person hits 14 years old, and have had a wee taste of heartache, joy, fear, righteous anger, etc, they can pull it off far better. It makes sense they're using a 14 year old, and yeah, probably they'll have him play an Ender of 12 or so, that makes sense.

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Guest Dabeagle

I have to admit I've never read his books. Ever since I'd heard how hard he works against us I liken giving my money to him to be the same as handing it to whatever Republican presidential candidate is currently running. I'd no sooner buy his book or see his movie than shop Wal Mart.

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I can understand that Dabeagle. That's why he's such a paradox. If you were to only read his books, (aside from a few later notable exceptions) having never heard of him otherwise, you would likely be convinced he is very liberal and almost certainly gay. The themes run constant through his work.

That's why so many believe he's seriously closeted.

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Yes, Ender starts out a very young boy. It's a story of a very unique boy going through a very different form of a military school education from essentially kindergarten through adulthood. It's also the story of a very intelligent and individualistic boy seeing the strangeness around him and instead of toeing the line like they want, he chooses his own direction, adamantly, and excels.

Yes! Something I love about the story is the way it handles the subject of gifted children. The way Ender, his siblings, and his Battle School classmates (especially in the Shadow books) are looked at by their parents, the state, their teachers, and each other all rings very true.

(SPOILERS AHEAD)

One of the most difficult things to remember when dealing with gifted children is that they are intellectually able to understand concepts that they are not emotionally ready to handle - teachers of gifted children are trained to watch for signs of depression, suicide, stress, and mental breakdowns. Ender's "voice" in this story is spot-on - he knows how he's looked at, how he's treated, and what people are expecting of him. He knows that he's being abused by the system in a very deliberate, calculated way to achieve certain results, but he also knows that he's in no position to stop it. Concepts like moral relativity, duty, and the use of people as tools by the state are within his understanding, but when faced with the enormity of the situation, he still feels helpless to change his position in the world. He knows that the world is counting on him, and the stress of trying to live up to it breaks him quite thoroughly.

For a lot of gifted students, this sort of feeling is familiar - they're often told "You're too smart to __________," or "I'd expect better from you, because you're _______." They're told by the world that they were given a gift (that they never asked for), and now owe the world something in return. Or even worse, the feeling that they are not being asked, but simply being used by teachers, parents, or "the system" in general.

The basic story of Ender's Game - a genius gets recruited by the military, trained/brainwashed, and turned into a weapon - could be told using teenage or adult characters just as easily, but by using children, Card really addresses the mental stress of being labeled a prodigy at a young age. I think he's at his best when writing along this theme - Ender's Shadow and the Shadow sequels continue along that line more so than the rest of the Ender series, and I think they're stronger for it. (Although in the Shadow books, the realism is lessened quite a bit, because Card writes the main character as a superhero-level genius rather than just a gifted child - Ender is as smart as the adults around him, while Bean is smarter than anyone in the history of humanity. The classmates from Battle School get much more development, though, and the way they are treated by the governments post-war plays along the theme of being simultaneously used as a tool, feared as a weapon, and counted upon as a savior.)

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I have to admit I've never read his books. Ever since I'd heard how hard he works against us I liken giving my money to him to be the same as handing it to whatever Republican presidential candidate is currently running.

Not that I would condone such a thing, but... let's just say if you do a Google search on "Ender's Game" + PDF, you will find the books out there. At no charge. They're also on quite a few eBook newsgroups.

Although in the Shadow books, the realism is lessened quite a bit, because Card writes the main character as a superhero-level genius rather than just a gifted child - Ender is as smart as the adults around him, while Bean is smarter than anyone in the history of humanity.

I'm not sure I'd go quite that far. Bear in mind that we quickly learn that Bean is a genetic mutant, bred specifically to have extremely heightened intelligence and awareness -- at the expense of certain physical and health problems (which I won't reveal). I think Ender is smarter than all of the kids around him, but not all the adults; Bean is smarter than anybody on the ship, but not necessarily everybody whoever lived. Ender has to learn over time how to become a leader, and gains respect just by demonstrating his abilities. And Bean eventually understands the need for friendship, companionship, respect, and affection -- all issues he doesn't quite grasp in the beginning of the story. Emotionally, both Ender and Bean have the same limitations as any children their age, and this is among the weaknesses they have to overcome.

The most interesting part of Ender's Shadow is how Bean has to manipulate both fellow students and adults into doing what he knows will work. And he's very, very frustrated that very few people will listen to him directly, because he's the youngest and smallest kid in the entire school. Bean is constantly playing a game of "mental chess" with the people who run the school, and I think on some level, they're afraid of him. It's gotta be daunting to have a 7 or 8-year-old kid who has the mental abilities, memory, and strategy of a 40-year-old adult.

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