Wednesday, July 20, 2011

'Ender's Game' - Script Review

Post based on the script "Ender's Game" by D.B. Weiss, 2005.

The Verdict: The well-written script features flat characters mulling through a boring, aim-less movie, that seems to be war-mongering cold-war propaganda!

What's it about?
Sometime in the future, a young boy is recruited by the Space Force to lead the fight against insectoid aggressor.

Plot Summary:
On the first page young Ender has to take a test and seems to fail it. Back at home with his sister, psycho-brother and widowed mother he is suprised by the leader of the Internation Force, Rackham, himself, saying Ender had the highest score ever in this test and he is accepted into Battle School. Due to his high score he is singled out and has to join the unit of Madrid, who tries his best to make Ender's life miserable. Meanwhile, Ender's sister Valentine joins a secret project, proping and testing the larvae of a Formic Queen (it is never explained why they have it). Ender strives at Battle School, soon he wins every game and gets to lead his own unit. Soon Rackham reveals that Ender has to lead the army against the Formics. It is one of his sub-commanders that finds out, that Earth doesn't have to defend itself against an attack of the Formics, but rather Earth started an pre-emptive strike against their homeworld. But he is ordered not to tell that to Ender - and so he doesn't! Ender sacrificies most of the Earth fleet but manages to kill every Formic, except the Formic Queen lying in Valentine's laboratory. On the last page Ender lauches off into space to find a suitable new homeworld for the Formic Queen.

No Aim: A huge complaint is visible in the logline: Ender desperately wants to join the Space Force and does so on page 13. After that he plays just along. He trains and fights when other people tell him to train and fight. He kills a whole species when he is told to kill a whole species. But he has no motivation, no goal for the remainder of the script, leaving the viewer bored and uninvolved.
No Character Arc: Ender - or any other character - makes a change for the better in this script. After the shocking revelation of their genocide, Ender and his commanders do not change or reow. The script doesn't seem to be interested in the dramatic conflict the story poses for the protagonists. On the last page Ender starts a space mission to search for a new world for the Queen. But that Ender is the same Ender from the first page. Not for a single moment anyone of them has to struggle with the heavy burden of genocide.
No Obstacles: The point of a story is to see a hero overcoming the obstacles to reach his goal. As said before, the script of Ender's Game features no goal for the hero. Likewike the obstacles are nearly non-present. I re-read it: He doesn't lose one game he plays. Everything he does, he does perfectly. Yes, it takes him 2 pages to learn the art of the Zero-Gravity Battle, but after that no one stops him. Throughout the script Karpov is described as a genius, as the idol of almost anyone. Even he just resign after he lost one Battle Simulation against Ender.
Only the bullying is ever-present. It starts on the second page, when Ender is beaten by his older brother and in Battle School Madrid continues to harass Ender. But this has nothing to do with Ender's genius. It it not on the same plane and as such it is no obstacle Ender has to overcome as he is already genius.
Pointless B-Stories: In theory, the B-Story, starting at the beginning of the second act, should come together with the main plot before the finale and provide the protagonists with the means to overcome any obstacle laid in his way. The first and most prominent B-Story involving Valentine and her discovery of the Formics Queen serves no purpose at all in the story. It feels like a cheap ploy to redeem the characters in the end, after everything they did. Which leads me to:
War Propaganda: To be honest, I have no insight into the ethical discussion of Ender's Game. So reading the script, I despised the ethics, I loathed the presented morals. The world view is so degenerated, so corrupt, that an genocide is easily justified and not one character struggles with the events for very long.
The script is not concerned with questions of blind obedience or of military tyranny. Ender is their puppet and seems to like it that way.
The way in which a deadly war is equalized with a game is sickening! It removes any moral doubt over the actions by placing the intention to "win the game" above everything. The loss of 100,000s of people has no weight in this script, their sacrifice means nothing as it was necessary to win.

The Project:
In 2003 Wolfgang Petersen (Troy, Das Boot) was interested in adapting Enders' Game, bringing in screenwriters David Benioff (25th Hour, Troy) and D.B. Weiss (Game of Thrones). After he left, Orson Scott Card adapted his own novel and brought in Gavin Hood (Tsotsi, X-Men Wolverine), but nothing came of it.
At the beginning of 2011 it was reported that Orci & Kurtzman (of Lost & Star Trek fame) had started prepping this project. Shortly after Summit Entertainment picked up the Ender's Game movie. (References: Wiki)

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  1. Is this the script they're going with currently? Seriously? No way. No freaking way, I will refuse to see this movie even though I've been waiting so long for a movie adaption of my favorite book if this is indeed how they chose to massacre the brilliant story into an un-recognizable form.

  2. Agreed with Justine on this. The entire book, which is my favorite by far, is based on a single, unique and gifted child who has been singled out his entire life. This movie should portray that, and not his "lack of motivation." If this is how the movie will be shown, I will have lost all respect for anyone involved in this movie. I can't believe OSC would allow a production company to desecrate a great story!!!!!

  3. @Justine, thanks for your comment. No this is an old script by D.B. Weiss from 2005. Orson Scott Card left that project and started to write his own movie adaptation. Perhaps I should emphasize that in my blog post.
    @Anonymous: I heard so many good things about Ender's Game, that I was speechless when I read this script. I will just have to read the novel...

  4. Well the original critique admits hes not familiar with the book - scripts are hard to read without attaching your own impressions to them - I think if they get REAl actors good actors not disney kids then the movie could still be greater than the script..

  5. Ummm. If you haven't read the book you shouldn't be reviewing the script. You have no basis to go off of without it.

  6. Hi Anonymous:
    I kindly disagree with you. Like you said, I reviewed the script and this an independent form of art and as such it has to stand on it's own. Many people who will watch the movie, won't have read the book.
    Also, I am sure many people have opinions on a lot of movies to which they haven't read the book it is based on.

    You have to understand that I do not critize the book, but this version of the script...

  7. There were a number of horrible scripts for "Ender's Game" being developed at that time. The film (should it get made--here's hoping it will) will have nothing to do with any of them!

  8. @boothby171:
    Do you have and/or read some of the other versions? Do they differ much from this script?

    Here's hoping Hollywood delivers a kick-ass Science-Fiction movie!

  9. First of all... WHAT IN THE NAME of all that is good were these morons thinking when they wrote this script. I really hope OSC uses only his - will be more altruistic to the book, I'm sure. I read this book when it first came out and have loved it since (am reading it again for the 20th time right now). I just cannot understand how they can stray from the obvious; like say... Widowed mother (since the book clearly states the father was alive and involved in Ender's life. Also, "Formic?!!!!!" What the... they were called BUGGERS for heaven's sake! These script writers need to be fired from their profession and made to await their special place in hell, reserved just for child molesters and people who talk in theaters. <\end rant>

  10. Hi InHisService,
    thank your for reading my Blog!
    Yes, the new Ender's Game movie will be based upon a totally new and revised script. So, there's hope left, that it will not dissapoint all the fans of the book!

  11. Ender's Game was always a story about a hero who has a goal but is unaware of it. His hidden goal is the great reveal of the story. His immediate goal is just survival, I think he has to kill a kid at the end. Does that come through in the script? And have you read the latest version?