Why I Drink (Besides the 49ers)
Ender’s Game is one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written. Any overly bright ten year old who reads this novel basically feels like they’re reading a story written just for them. It gets the way that children think and act more than any novel I have ever read. And that makes the story even more horrifying even while being uplifting: a civilization mining its brightest children for a fighting chance to survive. It’s got the same gut punch feeling of Children of Earth with the added thoughtfulness of prose to buoy the philosophy. It’s the sort of novel where the smartest eight year olds in the world are set up to wage war against each other, justified by the simple expedient of survival:
“My job is to produce the best soldiers in the world. In the whole history of the world. We need a Napoleon. An Alexander. Except that Napoleon lost in the end, and Alexander flamed out and died young. We need a Julius Caesar, except that he made himself dictator, and died for it. My job is to produce such a creature, and all the men and women he’ll need to help him.
Nowhere in that does it say I have to make friends with children.”
The genius of the novel is the realization that the only true weapon is empathy. The only way to know an enemy so well as to utterly defeat him is to love him. The only way to win the perfect loyalty of an army is to love them. But such a man could never be the stone cold killer needed to wage a war. And so the trick is leveled, the sort of twist that Shyamalan only wishes he could pull off.
Orson Scott Card has resisted all attempts thus far to adapt Ender’s Game into a movie, quoted once insisting that he would not allow the film to be made unless it was right, “a film where the human relationships are absolutely essential—an honest presentation of the story.” Hollywood hasn’t given up, despite twenty years of false starts on the project. And so naturally, you’d turn over a script written by the author of the novel to be rewritten by the idiot who directed X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
I don’t think Hollywood quite knows who they’re fucking with here. Everybody knows who Spiderman is. If you fuck up Spiderman’s story and make him an emo douchebag, the teenagers are still going to turn out in droves to see whatever CGI shit you throw in front of a camera. A movie like Ender’s Game has essentially no appeal to anyone outside the geeks who’ve already read the novel. And if you fuck up this story, the opening day ticket receipts aren’t going to make back the cost of the bottled water from the set.