Category Archives: Movies

Kylo Ren and Darth Vader (Not a Review)

This is not a review of The Force Awakens.  This is a discussion of Jacen Ben Solo’s arc.  Specifically, comparing it to the arc of Anakin Skywalker.  I don’t claim to have any kind of canonical authority, just an opinion with lots of facts to back it up.  Let’s start with the punk whiner baby first.

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I never really bought the Anakin to Vader transformation.  Don’t get me wrong, this kid had Dark Side all over him.  However, as far as character transformations go, Darth Vader was nothing like Anakin.  Anakin Skywalker was a whiny man-child with raging hormones.  He was angry pretty much all of the time.  His murders were crimes of passion.  His decisions were rash, bold, and improvised.  His major sin was Wrath, followed closely by Envy and Greed.

The taking of Tantive IV (by Jerry Vanderstelt)

Darth Vader may have been a servant of the dark side, but he always struck me as cold.  Darth Vader’s presence was chilling and inhuman.  He seemed to know your thoughts before you thought them.  He killed swiftly and brutally, punishing his opponents relentlessly.  He killed all who got in his way, even if it was his own subordinates giving a show of incompetence – he would dispatch them quickly, with the turnover for his second-in-command subordinate rank in any mission notoriously high.  Darth Vader did not yell in anger.  He did not cry out in rage.  Well, not after that first time.

That was the major problem.  Anakin Skywalker was supposedly seduced.  He was supposedly a victim.  Darth Vader is nobody’s victim.  If you look at Darth Vader, his character is completely different from Anakin’s in more ways than just which side he’s on.  When did Anakin become so cunning?  Using the torture of Han and Leia to lure his son via the Force so that he could ambush his son and freeze him in carbonite (The Empire Strikes Back)?  That’s not an Anakin plan.  That’s a Vader plan.

In fact, it’s a bit ironic that the Jedi Order promotes a lack of passion and serenity, because it almost seems like Anakin attains this by becoming what Obi-Wan called “more machine now than a man.”  As Vader, he feels no love, has no possessions, and feels no jealousy… or at least that’s the vibe that he gives.  For someone whose power flared the most in times of passion, Anakin lost everything that made him turn in the first place… and not just literally.

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… oops.

Would Vader, the villain of IV, V, and VI lose himself and kill his entire reason for turning to the Dark Side in the first place?  No way.  That’s some Anakin tomfoolery.  Vader is cool and calculating.  Vader does not look like someone who was just turned to the Dark Side.  Vader is a master of the Dark Side.

How does Vader find this mastery?  Could it be that some promises were kept between him and Sidious the Liar Who Transparently Offers You What You Want at That Exact Moment?  I read the Darth Vader book that supposedly takes place right after Revenge of the Sith in search of this answer, but to no avail.  Yes, it showed a bit of the Darth Vader Learning Curve, but nothing about how he went from the screaming, hormonal, unwieldy, potent, explosive rage monkey of unspeakable and often uncontrollable power to the icy, relentless presence of Darth Vader.  I’m pretty sure I saw Luke hit this guy twice with his lightsaber and he kept on coming.  Han Solo shot him, but he simply absorbed the energy of the blaster bolts into his hands.  (As Corran Horn would later learn to do to a greater extent.  Read I, Jedi for more info… you know, after you read the rest of the Jedi Academy books.)

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Enter Darth Caedus Kylo Ren.  Unlike Vader, this character is extremely angry.  All the time.  He is also conflicted, as if traumatized by the recent stress of turning his back on all that he was taught as a child.  The Dark Side is a big, powerful thing that he has just joined as an older person.  Not trusting its volatile nature save when needed in moments of sheer destruction, Ben Solo uses his lightsaber more than his Force abilities, which are fierce indeed, showing us some feats never used before.

Ben knows his grandfather was full of the same rage… yet Vader was obviously on point with his powers, never showing his emotions.  Never letting them consume him.  Ben is adamant about finishing Vader’s work.  He has vowed to learn from Vader’s mistakes too, as evidenced by the handguards on his saber that would easily prevent the wielder from getting his hand severed.  You know, like in every single movie so far.

(UPDATE 5/2/2016: I know that the official explanation is that the quillons of the saber is formed from  raw power vented out the sides from the primary central blade.  Whatever you say, what do I know?  I’m only an expert in the LEGENDS of Star Wars, not the CANON.)

Ben Solo looks a lot like his grandfather in terms of style choices.  In fact, for those of us who just watched RotS, the resemblence is uncanny.  He has shown himself to be powerful and extremely angry as well.  Immediately we think of Anakin in his “prime.”

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Look at this beast.  In his prime, Anakin was uniquely gifted with powers of an unprecedented magnitude, even if they were not extremely diverse in variety as Ben Solo’s abilities.  He was a superb duelist, with Temple training and Jedi experience built in to his combat repertoire.  Anakin Skywalker, Hero of the Jedi.

But we know that Ben Solo is no Anakin.  He is not dogmatically sure that what he is doing is right.  He has no Padme to blind him.  We have no idea what Snoke used to get him… all we know is that for some reason, he identifies with Darth Vader on a near obsessive level.  Why?  Have they both experienced love?  Is he wondering how Vader could turn, and become so powerful as to master the Dark Side without any kind of doubt, such that he could kill his mentor – which perhaps Ben attempts to mirror in his father’s murder for the same kind of catharsis?

Well, for one thing, we know that Anakin’s story is not one of the best-preserved pieces of history in the Star Wars Universe.  Nobody seems to recognize Vader as Anakin… ever.  So really all the knowledge Ben logically has at this point is that Anakin became Vader in the pursuit of power… and according to Vader’s reputation, Ben has to assume that he got what he wanted.

Ben will never be Vader.  This has to eat him.  Maybe he’ll try cyborging himself one day in an attempt to try.  He wants to be Vader, but this is shown especially in the way he is only human.  He is injured twice by Finn, defeated by Rey, and let’s not forget shot in the side by Chewie’s bowcaster.  He can’t keep on coming like Vader can.  Not yet.

I think that when Ben finally finds out enough, and does enough, such that he can truly understand his grandfather, he will also find himself in a position more than ever to understand why Vader came back to the light.  I think Ben’s last moments will be those of redemption, even as we hit Episode VIII, where it’s – as Kevin Hart would put it – about to go down.

Finn’s Star Wars Adventure – Review

So I know this review is considered “late” by movie standards, but the rule seems to exempt Star Wars movies, as I know there are people still writing their personal reviews of A New Hope… so I feel that my thoughts are still worth recording and presenting.

I’m split like Two-Face about this movie.

On the one hand, this movie does a lot of things right to the Star Wars franchise.  The prequels’ hugest mistake was that it moved Star Wars away from being an adventure movie series.  Nobody was experiencing new things, everyone was an expert and engaging in political negotiations and such.

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Episode IV: A princess fleeing Darth Vader with plans to destroy the Death Star?  Adventure!  Excitement!

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Episode I: Jedi sent to mediate the taxation of trade routes, which are in dispute.  They are called on to settle things between a Trade Federation and a planet you just introduced with a monarchy ruled by a 14-year-old girl who has so much makeup that she is instantly alienated from the audience until halfway through the movie?  Did you even make it past the words “taxation of trade routes” in that sentence before your eyes went half-lidded?

The Force Awakens follows a girl with an unknown past who has only really stayed on one planet, and a stormtrooper who has only known an upbringing with the Empire – both people who have experienced very little of the rest of the galaxy.  These characters go through new things with the audience and can react like the audience, instead of like smug little experts (old Han Solo…).

So now we’re back on an adventure!  There are plenty of similarities between A New Hope and this one.

  • Dark villain introduced in first few minutes and kills someone.
  • Big bad guy ship opens movie.
  • Droid given secret information and then abandoned on a desert planet.
  • Stormtrooper rescues prisoner from the bowels of enemy territory.
  • Lightsaber duel at climax.
  • Superweapon threatening Rebel Base in seconds before exploding.

We got to see some new things.

  • We got to see a pedestrian (non-Jedi) use a lightsaber.
  • We got to see a “inferior saber.”
  • We got to see troopers actually shoot people.
  • Blah blah blah minority blah blah woman main characters.

We also got to see a villain at a crucial point in his character development.

I really enjoyed Finn’s character, and how he has all the experience the Resistance needs, but other than that nothing else that would make him “street-smart.”  Finn freaks out during all the times that I would freak out.

Poe Dameron was interesting.  He was a cocky, arrogant, male character thrust into the role of a damsel in distress.

Then there’s Kylo Ren.  On one hand, horrible horrible name.  I get that you’re tired of Darth Villain being the dude behind stuff but between “Kylo Ren” and “Supreme Leader Snoke” I’m having a hard time taking anything seriously.

However, I like the character arc that he immediately represents.  Instead of showing us a cold, transformed villain (seen it) we have a villain at the very start of his transformation.

So yes, fun movie.  I predicted most of the story, but that’s okay!  True to form, they know we really wanted to see Old Luke’s power, so they slapped in a flashback so we could see Mark Hamill’s name and get excited and then just made him part of the cliffhanger.  Now they’re challenged with doing the ESB of the new trilogy…

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“Good Luck.”

Then there’s the part that infuriates me: in one deft move Disney has destroyed the EU and relegated those stories to “Star Wars Legends.”

Wow, way to relegate decades of acquired knowledge and emotional investment.  Knowing their futures and their place in a larger extended universe is part of what gave the movies replayability.  Now every character is gone?  No Jacen Solo becoming Darth Caedus?  No death of Chewbacca wracking young Anakin Solo with guilt?  No Thrawn?  No Mara Jade Skywalker?  No Lowbacca, Jedi Wookiee?  No Jaina?  No Zekk, no Kyp Duron?  No Tenel Ka, losing her arm in a lightsaber accident?

… Oh well.  It was only my childhood.

Rob De Niro, Here to Class Up Your Light Drama – Review

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Anne Hathaway is the character with an arc, but Robert De Niro steals viewer interest, as usual.

The Intern may be forgettable as a light drama with very little actual drama, but one has to also keep in mind that there is a reason for certain genres to exist. Even if you are catering to a specific genre or audience, however, it is important for movies to have that layered feel; that feeling that there is a world beyond the screen, and that the characters are living their lives offscreen while you’re watching different ones.  This movie is not for those who text while watching a movie – which is rude anyway.  This movie is for those that actually watch movies and need a break from having to strain their brains (such as in the Fantastic Four remake, where the viewer is constantly having to go “okay, NOW what just happened and why?”).

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Ben (De Niro) talks about the merits of tucking in your shirt.

This movie is a feel-good drama starring a kind, cheerful old man named Ben Whittaker (De Niro).  He keeps busy, eventually taking an internship to shake up his life.  Ben is a living example of what old people could do if they were still willing to adapt to new things.  His can-do attitude and initiative make him stand out to the founder of the company, Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway) and become fast friends.

The message that this movie seems to send is that some things in life are timeless, completely immune to the changing dynamics of modern internet business.  I only wish students believed me when I told them that it doesn’t matter what they know or what they study – as long as no matter what they do, they do it with maximum enthusiasm and a commitment to work hard, they’ll get a good recommendation out of any employer.

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There’s nobody to hate in this movie.  Not a bad thing, but some may find it… unsporting.

Interesting characters are flawed characters.  Which is why if you watch a lot of movies, you might get exhausted from seeing all the nasty, unsavory people movies have to offer.  This movie is a nice break from that, as there’s nobody really to hate in this whole thing.  It’s not a movie to watch by yourself, though.  Watch it with your significant other, then return it to RedBox the next morning, whistling.

Rather than hold to a consistent narrative, it seems more like the creators of this movie thought “How can I just make people feel good about the world for like 2 hours?”  The feel-good drama is not a hugely populated genre.  In fact, in college I might have ridiculed such a thing.  However, in a world where Donald Trump might become President, it’s not the most unwelcome thing in my life.

I give this movie a mathemagical score of 7 out of 10.  Single people, I’d tell you to watch the latest Hunger Games, but that movie was awful.  Don’t.  You’re better off just playing a video game and going to bed.

Fantastic Flop – Review (Spoilers)

Well, well, well, Fox, I gotta say, you’re being pretty gutsy here.  On one hand, you need to cling onto all the Marvel properties you own, because those things are definitely cash cows.  On the other hand, the last time you touched this property, you had this:

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The script for this movie was about half as impressive as this promotional picture.

While I suspect that this movie was more of a way to retain the rights of the Intellectual Property (a la the unnecessary Spider-Man remakes), I still at the very least expected a cash grab of action scenes, posturing, and scientific genius-ing to munch popcorn to.  In fact, the very beginning of the movie was quite promising!

A Promising Beginning

We began with a young Reed Richards befriending an abused yet good-natured boy, Ben Grimm, and then watching as Reed blossoms into a genius with the support of the only one to believe in him – his best friend.

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Miles Teller and Jamie Bell play the young Reed and Ben, respectively.

The young Reed (Miles Teller) is likeable and believable – as is his foil, Ben, played by Jamie Bell, who is talented (though I have yet to see him in a good movie).  However, when half the movie passes and nobody has powers yet, you begin to see what the movie is doing; it’s making a mountain out of a molehill.  You’re telling me this whole movie is going to take place before these people even become a team?  Are you kidding me?  How interesting do you think these characters are?  You do know that you’re not making a Wolverine movie, right?

I’m getting ahead of myself.  But that’s because I’m trying to match the pace of this movie.  I mentioned in my essay about Ender’s Game that movies couldn’t match a book’s ability to slow down time.  I hereby stand corrected.  This movie can slow down time.  This movie made me feel one thousand years old by the time it was over.  One way that it does this is because the whole movie covers their rather simple and rudimentary origin story, which makes it so that it feels like the movie is just getting started even hours into the film.  They might as well have had opening credits run through the entire film.  When the title showed at the end, I don’t know what they wanted me to do… applaud?  Please.  I was trying to figure out whether it was part of an excruciatingly long intro segment, and – more importantly – whether or not I’d have the opportunity to shave my castaway beard before writing this review.

The Villain

The villain is Doom (Toby Kebbel).  Is this a diabolical Doom, known for his long-term schemes and his masterful skills of deception, matched only by genius and raw power?  Nope! Meet Young Zombie Doom!  He looks like a ripoff of the superior Karl Ruprecht Kroenen from the Hellboy series!

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On the left, an awesome warrior, more machine than man, a fearsome asset to Nazis and the occult alike.  On the right, Dr. Doom 2015.  Possibly Mr. Doom, considering I didn’t actually see a degree framed anywhere.

You do know that you already made Doom a villain in the last two farces you made, right?!

How can this happen?  Don’t worry, it gets even better!  You know how Doom doesn’t care about the death of innocent lives, making it so no matter where the final fight takes place, if there are humans, there are high stakes?  Well, the final fight takes place in an alternate dimension.  The movie tells us that the Earth is getting sucked in, and that the whole planet is threatened… but you’re a movie!  Show me, don’t tell me!

Miscellaneous Notes

One Dark Film

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This is one dark film.  I mean, yes, there’s people exploding into blood, but I meant literally dark.  If you’re not watching this in a dark room, you’re going to be squinting trying to figure out what’s going on behind your screen glare

That Thang Thang

If you were attracted by the CG version of the Thing, you still shouldn’t bother.  Years later, and the best they can do is this?

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We all feel the same way about this, Grimm, no worries.

Worse, rather than cash in on some Hulk-like action shots to fuel that hypothetical mental comparison, almost all of the Thing’s action scenes are shot from a weird helicopter-like shot.  You couldn’t feel more distant from the action then if you were half-blind, sitting in the nosebleed seats of a ping-pong match between two mice.

Confusion

Making these characters younger wasn’t some kind of magical portal to our wallets, Fox.  Even children are confused by watching this movie, I’m sure.  One second the government is running experiments on these people, the next second they’re respecting their rights and giving them a secret building to do all their work in – work that they retain the rights to.  Sue Storm is adopted… or possibly part black.  Details are hazy.  Doom’s plan involves him living on Zero – with no food or water yet somehow alive without explanation, then going to Earth so he can go back to Zero and then suck Earth up into Zero so that he’ll be alone and the ruler of nobody.

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So… mathemagically, I’m going to give this disaster a 2 out of 10.  That’s 20%, which roughly matches the amount of this movie that was entertaining.

 

“N-Naruto…-” Get Real.

All heroes have their admirers.  Naruto is of course constantly after Sakura, as she is the heroine that he hangs out with constantly – plus he knows that she’s in love with his rival, Sasuke, which only makes her more attractive to Naruto as a challenge to overcome.  As Naruto’s arc develops, so too does Naruto himself develop in maturity.  His relationship with Sakura also develops too.

So naturally, this means that Naruto eventually winds up with Hinata.

… Wait, what?  Is this some kind of joke? How does a writer as brilliant as Kishimoto – the man who wrote Naruto’s inspiring speeches, developed lovable ensemble characters like Shikamaru and Choji, and cultivated long-standing relationships such as Naruto’s bond with Kurama – know absolutely nothing about writing a proper romance?  Hinata is the worst choice of character for our hero, and there are plenty of reasons why.

A Bad Example

Hinata is an awful role model for girls.  Her entire existence – spanning decades if we’re going to consider her little scarf debacle in the last movie to be canon – has been about Naruto’s approval.  She’s the heir of a wealthy clan, born with a biological advantage (the Byakugan), and apparently a very capable ninja and a master of the Hyuga clan’s signature Gentle Fist style.

I guess you can’t have too many skills in one basket, because she also seems to have some kind of crippling personality disorder.  She never speaks up for herself, never goes for what she wants, and has very stalker-like tendencies when it comes to our hero.  She even deals in creepy stalker absolutes; “I want to stand by your side – forever!” she rehearses at one point.  WHOA.  Forever, girl?  How about you go out for noodles first, then see whether you even like the same things, because I can’t think of someone more different from our hero than you.

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Her dialogue is literally “N-Naruto…!” whenever he does something to vaguely acknowledge her – positively or negatively.  She wilts and blossoms at his syllables.  What this teaches is that girls should be meek little flowers that wait until the object of their affection’s whims lean in their direction.  

Some may say that Naruto is an anime series, not a fable, and that it has no responsibility to teach anything.  If that’s true, why create such an inspirational character as Naruto?  He’s a brat that stays fixated on one goal – stubbornly refusing to be shaken from the morals he grew up with, even when it seems that all above him are ready to do so.  He wins not only the approval but the admiration of his teachers and peers alike because of this.  When it’s time for him to decide his Ninja Way, it’s that he’ll never give up on something once he’s decided to do it.  Naruto is not the best ninja there.  He isn’t the most powerful or the most experienced.  He’s not the first person they call for  an emergency.  He isn’t Goku, the all-powerful hero.  He’s a flawed child with a personality to be infectiously good despite his rough manners, boisterous personality, and tactless rhetoric.  Why go to the trouble to create such a role model for kids – such that they realize they don’t have to be perfect in order to be good people – if you’re going to not teach lessons through what he does?

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Naruto gains the lifelong respect of former adversaries – like Gaara – due to his persistence and strength of character.

Below His Character

While there are plenty of reasons to admire Naruto for the many things he has done for his village and the world – as well as for his winning optimism and eagerness to be the best shinobi his village has ever seen – there are not many reasons for Naruto to see anything to admire in Hinata.  When watching the movie The Last: Naruto the Movie, it became apparent that the biggest factor for Naruto’s reciprocation of her affections was… it was a sure thing.

Ew.  What a seedy way to portray the character that worked so hard to win my respect.  The excuse commonly given for Naruto’s ignorance of Hinata’s love is that he “hasn’t had anyone to express it to him before.”  First of all, lies!  Second of all, he expresses his own affection for Sakura constantly, such that he would definitely understand if Hinata were to talk to him like a human being instead of stuttering his name all the time.

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Naruto: “Wow, Hinata, you sure did a good job eating all that ramen.”

Hinata: [shocked that she was noticed at all] “N-Naruto…!”

Naruto: “I’ll bet that’s how you bulk up to get so strong!”

Hinata: [shocked at being complimented] “N-naruto…”

Naruto: “Well, I’m going to go talk to people that actually talk back.”

Hinata: [sad that their interaction is over] “Naruto…” [Her eyes swell with tears, partly with happiness at the overall tone of their conversation, partly because of the welling of emotion that she feels for him.]

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What is there to admire?!  All of the paragons of awesomeness that Naruto worships are people with real skills, real admirable traits!  He appreciates Kakashi for what he learned about being there for your comrades.  He learns some really neat skills from Jiraiya.  He respects Might Guy for the way he bolsters Lee’s confidence.  He admires Sakura for being a strong person.  He admires Sasuke’s drive to achieve one goal, with the possibility that this might have even been the inspiration for his ninja way.  Sure, Hinata is powerful, and Naruto can respect that, but she shows no initiative in using it.  It might as well have been a secret!  Naruto starts using sickening language like “I’ve been in love with you.”  Do you know what “been” means, kid?  It means that it was an ongoing thing.  You expressed no such thing in the past – not to the audience, not to your own internal monologues, and certainly not to anybody else.

The disappointment I feel in such a poorly written relationship for such a well-written series AND main character is tantamount to what would happen if Luke Skywalker had been killed by Jar Jar Binks seconds before entering Jabba’s Palace.  It’s like if Goku’s death to defeat Raditz had been his exit from the series.  It’s like if the Clone Wars replaced the EU’s Mandalorian warrior race with a race of peace-loving… wait, that one was real.

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One of the saddest retcons in Star Wars history.

Anyway, Naruto’s sudden decision to reciprocate in such a way (“I’ve always loved you, Hinata!”) cheapens Naruto as a character and worse, advocates behavior like this.  Better that he stay single than do this.  There’s no risk here.  There’s no character that puts their feelings on the line for the other – Hinata never even has to admit how she feels.  Naruto ends up reading her mind (via magic water and of course in true Naruto and Naruto Shippuden style: a series of flashbacks), so he knows it’s a sure thing.  There’s no risk at all for him to express his affection, and worse, because it’s the first time he’s ever expressed this affection, it looks manufactured.

Things Matter

This is why even fillers should be vetted carefully by those familiar with the main storyline.  These Hinata fillers are the reason why Hinata is getting such a nasty portrayal.  They’re still canon!  Character development always matters!  Handle your characters with care, or else you might just cheapen the character you worked so hard to create.

Why Ender’s Film Could Never Work

Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game didn’t need to be made into a movie, one could argue.  It was one of those books with a jillion sequels, but you only really remember the first one (unless you’re me).  I read this book as a child and marveled at how such a book could be published in 1985.

In this book, there are laptops in every school.  Children posing as adults on the Internet.  At the center of it all was a six-year-old boy who had to be dangerous enough to be powerful, but gentle enough to not want power.  I read this book as the oldest of four siblings, and the first scene with Peter was one of the scariest things I could imagine.

From Chapter 2:

“Lie flat, bugger. We’re gonna vivisect you, bugger. At long last we’ve got one of you alive, and we’re going to see how you work.”

“Peter, stop it,” Ender said.

“Peter, stop it. Very good. So you buggers can guess our names. You can make yourselves sound like pathetic, cute little children so we’ll love you and be nice to you. But it doesn’t work. I can see you for what you really are. They meant you to be human, little Third, but you’re really a bugger, and now it shows.”

He lifted his foot, took a step, and then knelt on Ender, his knee pressing into Ender’s belly just below the breastbone. He put more and more of his weight on Ender. It became hard to breathe.

“I could kill you like this,” Peter whispered. “Just press and press until you’re dead. And I could say that I didn’t know it would hurt you, that we were just playing, and they’d believe me, and everything would be fine. And you’d be dead. Everything would be fine.”

Ender could not speak; the breath was being forced from his lungs. Peter might mean it. Probably didn’t mean it, but then he might.

“I do mean it,” Peter said. “Whatever you think. I mean it. They only authorized you because I was so promising. But I didn’t pan out. You did better. They think you’re better. But I don’t want a better little brother, Ender. I don’t want a Third.”

“I’ll tell,” Valentine said.

“No one would believe you.”

“They’d believe me.”

“Then you’re dead, too, sweet little sister.”

This scene made me feel for Ender, quickly and uncontrollably.  It was the first time I was subjected to the abrupt method of OSC’s characterization; when you meet an OSC character, you form an opinion right away.  There is no “getting-to-know-you” period.  Or rather, there is, but it doesn’t matter because you’ve already decided what you think about him.  From that moment on, Peter was my enemy, and Ender Wiggin was my friend, Val his savior.  This is the moment that made the rest of the story have meaning – not the Battle Room, not the inventions of a fascinating future, but really the only thing that has a chance of pulling anyone into science fiction that doesn’t want to have to be subjected to whole universes of learning curves to read a simple book – a human story.  Ender was a six-year-old, his sister was 8, and his brother was 10.  Then the brother had an arc; he apologized to Ender, which scared Ender even more – because either his brother secretly loved him and had no self-control, or he was still at it – still manipulating him.

This essay isn’t about whether Ender’s Game was a good movie – at least compared to the book.  There are countless sources out there that will tell you it failed in that respect.  I argue that this cannot be made into a movie, no more than you can make a movie out of a book like The Things They Carried.

No Control of Time

A book gets into the mind in a way a movie never can – and this pains me, because I love movies so much.  Ender’s Game is no longer even close to the best thing I’ve read anymore.  But it’s proof that a book can have something that a movie can’t.  In the movie, the scene with Peter lasts seconds.  There is no time for anything but fear.  There is no moment to consider Peter’s character.  Peter’s apology is also gone, but I don’t blame them.  If it had been there it would have confused viewers to death!  Movies are supposed to be clear about their characters, or at least let you have something concrete to hate; to have a moment of cruelty then sympathy in the span of a few minutes in a movie isn’t something a movie viewer will trust.

No Trust

This is something that is hard even for books to do.  Ender’s Game is trying very hard to tell a story without being interrupted.  My wife hates this book, and frankly I can see why.  While I may see here an allegory for the human race’s need to communicate with itself and how mankind’s hope resides in the adaptability and kindness of its children for the future, she sees something that her heart and mind will not let her get past: images of children hurting and even killing each other, being mentally manipulated to do so by adults who supposedly are saving the world.  When I read this book as a child, I gave it my trust, letting my walls drop to take in the story.  An older reader with developed morals – like my wife – sees the cruelty and slaps it from her presence.

Compare it to a conversation.  “This government is like Hitler’s” someone might say to begin. (Granted, if he was slightly socially unaware…)

There are two responses that I believe are the most likely.  There’s the very understandable “You’re crazy, get out of my face.” that we learn to protect ourselves.  It ends the conversation.  Then there’s the “Really?  I think you’re wrong, but tell me why.”  My wife’s conversation with this book ends the first way – because some people don’t want to be convinced that this cruelty can be part of entertainment – and why should she?  “I’m going to enjoy this book about a six-year-old being abused into saving the world?”  It’s a small wonder that many adults hearing of this story for the first time balk at its premise.

If a book couldn’t gain trust, how could a movie possibly do so when it assumes the trust is already there?  It has no chance.  In possible anticipation of this, the movie changed the ages to be about 6 years older.

Nice, now you have Space Harry Potter.

Behind the Events

When OSC speaks of the creation in the definitive edition of Ender’s Game, he mentions it as something he wrote simply to set things up for Speaker for the Dead.  I often wonder if that would have made the movie more palatable as well; what if they had made a movie called Speaker for the Dead and then after the movie marketed a prequel about the main character’s childhood?  It worked for Star Wars.  I feel like the movie lacked any kind of answer to the question of “Why?”  Why are we seeing Ender’s story?  Why do we see so little of the Earth we wanted to save?

Perhaps even a fusion of Ender’s Shadow with Ender’s Game might have made TV as a science fiction drama.  At least then it would have more control of time, more chances to earn trust, and more opportunities to explain origins behind characters and events.  Without these luxuries, a complex series like this is better left on the page.