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SDCC ’13: ENDER’S GAME Press Conference

Orson Scott Card’s seminal 1985 military sci-fi novel Ender’s Game concerns a futuristic Earth society traumatized by its narrow victories over alien insect hordes (the “buggers”). To guard against subsequent invasions, humanity breeds soldiers, sending the best of the best to Battle School, an off-world proving ground where super-intelligent elementary schoolers square off in competitive wargames.

Summit Entertainment and Lionsgate are banking on that premise to develop into the next big sci-fi franchise, judging by the caliber of talent they’ve arranged for the upcoming film adaptation of Ender’s Game (the trailer helpfully points out that 80% of the cast has either won or been nominated for an Oscar) – not to mention the lavish fan experience they’ve set up right across the street from the San Diego Convention Center.

We attended the SDCC press conference for Ender’s Game, featuring cast members Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, and Hailee Steinfeld, producer Roberto Orci, and director Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine). Here are 5 important/intriguing things we learned about the film.

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5. Colonel Graff is nothing like Han Solo
Ford humorously rebuffed a suggestion that his Ender’s Game character is anything like the iconic scoundrel he played in Star Wars. Graff, he said, has “much more responsibility” and struggles with moral issues in his role as an adult forging children into the machinery of war.

4. Ender’s Game is a lot like Tsotsi…in space
Hood – who directed the Academy Award-winning film Tsotsi (Best Foreign Language Film, 2005) – was drawn to the project because it dealt with a similar theme of a troubled kid struggling with moral dilemmas and fighting against his own nature. Still, he relished the chance to “play with big visuals” and all the other perks a major studio budget brings.

3. This film gets physical
While much of Ender’s Game is necessarily CGI-driven, production designers Sean Haworth and Ben Procter created a good number of fully-constructed sets and props to help the actors imagine a tangible environment. The young actors also lived the dream of millions of children (and some adults) and completed a stint at Space Camp to give them an idea of what it would be like to maneuver in the null-gravity Battle Room.

2. Ender’s Game reflects many present anxieties regarding war and military technology
Ford called the story “prescient” in the way it deals with the ability of military commanders to do the business of warfare from afar via remotely-controlled drones or other technologically-advanced weaponry. Questioning that detachment is what gives the story its emotional depth, along with what Butterfield described as the protagonist’s duality of temperament, navigating both his competitive ruthlessness and his compassionate humanism.

1. The adapters don’t share all the views of the creator
It’s impossible to talk about Ender’s Game without acknowledging Card’s well-publicized statements against marriage equality and his position on the board of the National Organization for Marriage. The topic was posed to Ford, of all people, who noted that Ender’s Game has value in its message about the ethics of war and peace, and that Card’s personal philosophy about gay rights are not relevant to this story. (And threatened boycotts aside, the negative attention given to viewpoints like Card’s only reinforce that he and his like-minded friends are “losing” this particular battle.)

Ender’s Game releases in theaters and IMAX on November 1.

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The Author

Eric Ambler

Eric Ambler

Eric Ambler is a film critic and correspondent for Screen Invasion, as well as the founder of Ambler Amblog (http://ambleramblog.blogspot.com/). His parents named him after a Welsh spy novelist they found in a reference book. Someday he will get around to watching all the VHS tapes he bought at Goodwill.