Ender’s Game is a 1985 military science fiction novel by American author Orson Scott Card. The novel was made into a movie with the same name in 2013. Written and directed by Gavin Hood, the film stars Asa Butterfield as Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, an unusually gifted child who is sent to an advanced military academy in outer space to prepare for a future alien invasion. The supporting cast includes Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, and Viola Davis, with Abigail Breslin and Ben Kingsley.
The movie is set in the future, 50 years after a battle with an alien race called the Formics, or “buggers.” In anticipation of another invasion, the military believes their only hope is taking children to Battle School in space and training them to battle these formidable creatures.
Ender’s final game, in terms of war, is his last battle against the buggers. The only thing more impressive than the visual spectacle of this battle is the originality of the tactics involved. Ender looks at it as a game, and naturally, he does what anyone would do when confronted by impossible odds, he cheats in it, and the cheating is what allows him to win the war.
Under the impression that he’s playing a grueling simulation, Ender and his team sacrifice everything to achieve their objective: the destruction of an enemy species of insects. They use every ship at their disposal to destroy their enemy and win the “simulation”. Only to discover it wasn’t a simulation at all. They really just wiped out an entire species.
The Verve interviewed director Gavin Hood (Tsotsi, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), since the novel is considered cerebral in a lot of ways, is that representative of the final film?
I mean, it’s in the book, so as we were saying before, no one ever had the technology to kind of quite do this right yet, and so we didn’t want to shy away from the spectacle of it. In a way, the spectacle is what makes it a unique property. Audiences have seen everything, and to actually have kind of a giant movie that is actually something you can talk about afterward, and that actually makes you think, and that, that it’s… You have protagonists out there having a great time, and doing things we’d all want to do like float in that room, but they’re doing it for a potentially more adult purpose, and in preparation, potentially, for conflict and for leadership and for growing up.
And to have that in one movie is, I think, part of the appeal. And so both sides of it should be celebrated. Both its cerebralness and its spectacle. I like that it didn’t talk down to kids.
The simulation ends, and Ender believes the test is over. The commanders restart the video screens, showing that the destruction of the Formic homeworld was real, and Ender had been controlling the real fleet. Despite Graff’s assurance that he is a hero, Ender is horrified and outraged at the annihilation of an entire race.