Disclaimer: Orson Scott Card, as many have pointed out, is a homophobic asshat, and many have called for the boycott of Ender’s Game, the film adapation of his 1985 novel. I sympathize; and if the proceeds of this movie went to Exodus International or Westboro Baptist Church, I definitely wouldn’t see it. But the way I figure it, some 90% of everything I consume is associated with a jerk somewhere down the line: religious fundamentalists, privileged white people, folks who display “Love Laugh Live” posters. And some news outlets are saying that Card won’t make any money off the movie anyway. So that’s where I stand. If you prefer to boycott asshats, I support your decision.

I should have known that Ender’s Game was not for me. I love science fiction, but sci fi authors aren’t exactly known for passing the Bechdel test. This little gem reads more like a ’50s teen novel than a book from the ’80s – it’s not only very male, but very, very juvenile. Orson: your pre-teen fantasy about conquering the known universe in front of a team of applauding rocket scientists is very cathartic, and I get that. But it does not make for terribly sophisticated literature.

After a particularly nasty interplanetary war, the government develops a program designed to acclimate young children to fighting in zero gravity and the particular strategic challenges that poses. The brightest and best are chosen, rigorously trained, and monitored 24/7 for signs of tactical brilliance. Colonel Hyrum Graff, who oversees the program, can’t stop talking about young Ender Wiggin, a slight and nervous nine year old in whom he sees latent genius.

Ender’s acumen is first revealed when he is chased by a group of bullies and cornered in a lab. Picking up a nearby object, Ender bludgeons the leader until he can’t move, then slips past the rest of the now-cowed group. By this test, a third of the boys I went to junior high with were geniuses. But the move impresses Graff, who describes it as an act of strategic brilliance, and secures Ender a place in the prestigious Battle School.

This film doesn’t do “show, don’t tell,” so we’re told repeatedly that Wiggin is a prodigy, mostly by Graff to skeptical colleague Major Gwen Anderson. Only once does Ender employ a particularly clever zero-gravity fighting technique. For some reason, training involves weapons with which you can freeze an opponent’s limbs. Wiggin pushes into a spin into the center of a training exercise, arms extended and weapons blazing, and allows himself to become frozen while he sprays opponents with ammunition. His cleverness pisses off his jealous commander, Bonzo Madrid.

A bit later, Ender is promoted again due to the pure brilliance apparently exuding from his pores. When he beats his ex-commander in a training exercise, Madrid resolves to destroy Ender and approaches him in the shower room for a fight. Once again, Ender beats his opponent into a coma. This naturally wins him the accolades of Graff and the rest of the military administration. Clearly, Ender has proven he is ready to lead his own army into the impending war.

The war, like the first one, is against a race of giant ants called the Buggers. Tutored by former war hero Mazer Rackham, Ender learns highly mysterious, classified secrets about the Buggers that provide tactical advantage. Like the fact that they have a queen who controls the colony. Kind of like other ants. Ender gets additional insight from a magical tablet-based video game.

I won’t spoil the ending explicitly. Suffice it to say that Ender proves not only the most brilliant mind of his time, but a paragon of morality and the salvation of future generations, as well. And although this story was trite, overwrought, and even somehow boring, it had some mildly interesting things to say on the ethical quandaries of effective leadership and of war. Still, if you choose to boycott this movie, you won’t have missed much.

Rating: 3 — Mediocre

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The “Shae Hates Movies” Rating System:
4 – Could have been worse
3 — Mediocre
2 — Loathsome
1 – If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out