so, i’ve been thinking on this for a long while. i’ve had a long series of discussions with various people about the ender’s game movie and the notion that ‘it’s a different medium’ explains most of its flaws.
i’ve always argued back from the position that that does not excuse anything. much like there are many ways you can word a story, some of which are more successful than the other, there are many ways to construct a visual story. there is no ‘make this visually appealing’ button; making a movie adaptation of a book means having to understand the story you’re adapting and translating it to appropriate imagery. in that, you can put emphasis on different things and use different styles, some of which more appropriate than others.
(have some tl;dr on opening scenes to psychological stories and analysis)
Not only do I adore your analysis of the Ender’s Game opening, I also have so many “preach it” moments in your own opening. “It’s a different medium” should be a beginning, not an end, of discussion.
I particularly love that you point out the opening (and a lot of other scenes) do not fulfil enough roles. In a film adaptation especially, every scene and shot must fulfil multiple roles, making those thousand words that a picture is supposed to be. By relying on voiceover to just get the book in there, and having the skeleton of events in place, the moviemakers think they have gotten the book out there.
But they simply haven’t. They’ve gotten, as OSC said, the action story version - but Ender’s Game is not an action story. Tragically, everyone involved in the film said they wanted to make it about things, to capture the moral themes of the book - and maybe that was part of the problem. They got those themes in there by having really obvious dialogue. Instead of showing Ender’s reactions, and better still getting us feel his sense that there was really only one thing to do at the end - destroy the Formic world - all we get is “The shame of this genocide blah blah blah.”
Scenes had to be there that got Ender’s isolation, his actual brilliance (and I love how you focus on the acting in the gesture towards Stilson as actually getting close to what makes Ender special), his hunger for both victory and love - instead, we get scenes which do one of those things. When you’re compressing, you need scenes that do all of them.
Instead, we get the really hilarious moment of “You’ll be in charge of all the fleets!” Which made me laugh and want to cry at the same time.
And not for the right reasons.