Should you boycott the Ender's Game movie adaptation? I can't tell you what to do. The book's author, Orson Scott Card, is a hateful homophobe. And while Card likely won't earn any profits off the Ender's Game film, he'll probably make some cash off increased tie-in book sales. But a lot of other, non-homophobic people worked on the movie, too. And the movie itself doesn't bear a message of homophobia. In fact, the parts of the book that could be considered even remotely homophobic have been wiped out of the adaptation. The praying mantis-like aliens who attacked the Earth long ago and who seem to be preparing to attack again are no longer nicknamed "buggers." (Instead, the aliens are called "Formics.") And while on seemingly every other page in the novel you'll find references to farts, turds, kissing butts in an amorous way, and other bizarrely butt-obsessive commentary, not a single one of those many ass-centric comments has made its way into the movie.
Unfortunately, Ender's Game simply isn't good enough for me to urge you to see it no matter what. And it's not bad enough for me to dismiss it out of hand. What we have here is an adaptation that can't quite comprehend the moral grays of its source material, but it's also a movie that's willing to bring up some uncomfortable truths that other CGI-heavy blockbusters refuse to discuss at all.
If you're not familiar with the plot by now, you're simply not paying attention: Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is a brilliant young man who is recruited to the upper echelons of the Earth's defense corps, participating in an increasingly difficult series of combat simulations to prove his readiness to battle the insectoid aliens who attacked us the first time. The book's main characters are all here, though many of them are in highly truncated roles: We have Harrison Ford as Colonel Graff, the man who sees a tactical genius in Wiggin just waiting to burst forth. Wiggin's fellow soldiers Bernard, Dink, Bean, Bonzo and, most notably, Petra (Hailee Steinfeld) all figure into the shaping of Wiggin in one way or another. His siblings, Peter and Valentine, barely make appearances at all. Only a couple of the actors are terrible (Abigail Breslin's Valentine is the biggest stinker) but nobody is especially great, either. Ford's gruff old man routine is beyond threadbare these days, and Butterfield doesn't seem to find either the child or the sociopath inside Wiggin. After the press screening, Anna Minard pointed out that while Ender's Game the book is all about character, and the relationship between the characters, Ender's Game the movie tries to be all about plot.
That's a big mistake.
Whereas the book lingers on Wiggin's punishment, his grinding transformation from an undisciplined young man teetering between compassion and lizard-brain survival to a highly complex moral figure, the movie whizzes through all those steps like someone playing a video game who's eager to get to the boss level. Some of the moral dilemmas are left intact, and those questions of war and genocide are important topics that are rarely examined at the multiplex. But a whole lot of the subtle shading of Wiggin, previously revealed in interior monologues, is left out of the film entirely, and that's like a damn shame.
The special effects in Ender's Game are generally quite good, although the zero gravity sequences bear the unfortunate shame of having to appear on movie screens at a time when the far superior Gravity is still packing them in at theaters. As the scope of the film gets bigger, the effects get bigger and more soulless until it's just an ocean of pixels, splashing around on a huge screen.
So the decision of whether or not to pay money to see Ender's Game is up to you. I saw it at a free screening for press, so the decision was thankfully taken out of my hands. But I can tell you that if I had to make the decision to buy a ticket for the movie while knowing what I know now, I'd give it a pass and maybe catch it on video. But I'm not going to judge people who buy into the movie out of adoration for Card's wonderful book. The work stands separate from the man. And in fact the novel will stand the test of time; I have no doubt that it will still be around long after the world has forgotten about both its cinematic adaptation and its author's hateful babblings.