Ender’s Game

Watched Ender’s Game last night.

It was a solid movie. Not especially great, but not terrible. I’ve seen a few comments from reviewers to the effect that if the movie focused on the Battle Room sequences and on the space battles, excluding the psychological elements and the ethical questions, it could be a great spectacle movie. Or by doing the opposite, and focusing heavily on the psychology and the inner turmoil of the titular character, and the ethical issues, it could be a great dark psychodrama.

As it stands, the movie is compressing too much information into too short a time. There is no progression and no time to show the growth of the characters. There is no time to dwell upon any of the cruelties and assaults perpetrated against Ender. Ender is puppetized, existing only to take the next step and propel the plot. And, what should stand forth as the saving grace, the Battle Room scenes, are pared down to the minimum, and lack the context to understand or care.

The book, flawed morality1 and potential Hitler apologia2 status aside, is a powerful and compelling story. One of the triumphs of the book is how it places you at once within the mind of a child, and also as an observer with an awareness of just how deliberate the cruelties are. The movie fails to capture the internal torment of Ender. It also fails to make the scenes of children at war in the Battle Room thrilling.

The acting is probably the best part of the movie. Hailee Steinfeld and Moisés Arias particularly shine, but everyone is a credit to their role. It’s a shame the movie feels so abbreviated, that so many moments are excised rather than allowing the actors and actresses the time.

Recommended, but keep your expectations low. Reading the book first will make more of the movie comprehensible.


  1. John Kessel’s essay on the subject is a pretty clear explanation. 
  2. Elaine Radford’s essay outlines her thoughts on the matter. 

Star Trek

Watched the J. J. Abrams Star Trek movies. I enjoyed the movies while watching, but when I reflected upon them, I felt unsatisfied and disappointed.

The first one is a reboot into an alternate continuity. Lens flares aside, it is pretty, polished, and stylish. Also awkward and pointless except as fan service. Adding nothing truly new to the existing stories, it is an origin story for the fans who already know the details from watching the tv series and prior movies. Despite how it begins and how it establishes a new timeline for the Star Trek universe to play in, very little of the established story is altered1.

Star Trek Into Darkness manages to be both better and worse. It is gorgeous and colorful and cuts back on the lens flares (a bit). It adds some good actors. But for all of the action in the movie, and despite the stellar performance of Benedict Cumberbatch, there is very little story being told. Cumberbatch is incredible and the sole potential reason to rewatch the movie. But casting him as Khan whitewashes the role2 and shows how lazy the writers were in cribbing from Wrath of Khan and “Space Seed“. The writers failed to tell the background story, relying on the audience to already know who and what Khan is. They didn’t do anything new with the character or the events established in prior work. Who knows what could have been done if the movie did more than shoehorn in poor copies of moments from earlier incarnations of Star Trek?

I am disappointed the promise of a new timeline has become nothing but an excuse to copy what has already been done.

  1. Destruction of Vulcan aside. 
  2. There are a number of posts elsewhere going into great detail about the problems in casting a white guy to play a role originally intended to reflect a person of color.