Fans of Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” have been waiting for decades to see Ender Wiggin on the big screen. The wait is over, and it’s safe to say that director Gavin Hood, actor Asa Butterfield, the support casting and the special effects team all churned out a product that Master Sun Tzu would be proud of.
‘The Art of War’ states:
“So it is said that if you know others and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know others but know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know others and do know know yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” — Master Sun, ‘The Art of War’
Ender Wiggin states:
“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them — I destroy them. I make it impossible for them to ever hurt me again.”
The idea that you should try and fully understand — and even love — your enemy is incredibly profound. The vast majority of people go through life spewing anger and vitriol at their political foes and battlefield opponents without considering the strategic implications that being a slave to hate entails. Instead of understanding enemies as complex spiritual beings worthy of the time and attention it takes to form an empathic connection, most people mentally coat them in a caricature, which makes attacking with blind rage easier. Ender Wiggin, however, is a complex young character who is tasked with saving the human race from an alien species of bug-like creatures — and thankfully (whether intentionally or not), Orson Scott Card imbued him with the characteristics of a master strategist, as spelled out in ‘The Art of War.’
Besides Ender’s desire to know his enemy, he is also a true leader:
“Leadership is a matter of intelligence, trustworthiness, humaneness, courage and sternness.” — Master Sun, ‘The Art of War’
What makes ‘Ender’s Game’ such a fun movie to watch is Asa Butterfield’s performance. Audiences must buy that this kid is a brilliant tactician, who is both compassionate and ruthless when necessary. He had to be vulnerable, but in charge. He had to show weakness that belied his inner strength. In short, he had to give an incredibly nuanced performance — and he pulled it off.
The problem with reviewing ‘Ender’s Game’ is that it’s so rich and layered with social commentary that one doesn’t know where to begin. The use of drones? Preemptive war? Military recruitment of children? Genocide? It’s all there. In some ways, ‘Ender’s Game’ might be too smart for its own good; people who flock to the theater just expecting to see lots of things explode in space will be disappointed. The movie brought in $27 million its opening weekend domestically, but it’s going to have a hard time making up its $110 million budget. Hopefully, word of mouth will give it enough legs to accomplish that goal.
If you’re looking for an intelligent science-fiction movie that was spawned from source material decades ahead of its time, see ‘Ender’s Game.’ If you’re looking for so-stupid-it’s-funny, then find some of the negative reviews of the movie. Some critics are so enraged over Mr. Card’s politics — that have nothing to do with ‘Ender’s Game — that they’re incapable of giving it a fair shake. I guess the whole part about loving your enemies went over their head…
If you go to the movies next weekend and Thor 2 is sold out, don’t head home. Check out ‘Ender’s Game,’ because it’s a fun and thought-provoking movie that is worth the price of admission. You might come for Harrison Ford, but you’ll stay for Asa Butterfield. Kudos to the young guy for a job well done.
Related: Check out Jeremy Jahn’s review.