Lost in Adaptation: Ender’s Game

Can a bad movie be an ok adaptation?

About The Dom

Reviewer of games, TV shows and movies. The Dom also likes to look at film adaptations of books and talk about what got lost transitioning from page to screen.


  1. I loved the book, and thought the movie was pretty good, even if they changed a few things and left out the back story of Ender’s siblings.

    (Also, I checked out the book and the movie from the library, so that lunatic homophobe Card didn’t get a single cent from my pocket)

  2. Weird you didnt mention the shoehorned love story of Ender and Petra

  3. I felt the streamlining really hurt the overall feel of things, the whole command school section is supposed to be about Ender fighting so many sim-battles that he gets driven to the brink of his own endurance and starts alienating the people he cares about, to the point that none of them see him as a friend anymore, he’s The Commander.

  4. I still can’t reconcile in my mind the central message of the book, that othering is bad and that one should strive to understand others as a way to avoid destructive conflicts, which are in the end just a waste and a tragedy, that no one not even an alien lifeform is so alien that you can disregard their life with OCS real life bigotry.

    Can’t OCS see that rejecting others life decisions and imposing your own life goals and priorities on them is the same as othering other cultures and ethnicities?
    In many ways the fact that OCS wrote Enders game makes me even angrier at him. He should know better!

    Sorry for bringing up the controversy on the comments for video that avoid it, but OSC is a fallen hero to me. I used to respect him before I found out about his opinions about gay people and his opinions about procreation. (In hindsight there where warning sings about the latter subject in Ender’s game already) I greatly enjoyed this video and also found your video discussing OSC bigotry very well presented.

    • I also can’t rectify my views on the book and Card’s real life opinions.

      I find it analogous to finding out John Lennon’s “Imagine” was ghost written by Joseph McCarthy and George Lincoln Rockwell.

    • Ender’s Game was written as a repudiation of militarized culture/letting a military get out of control, but ends up a repudiation of the blind, almost communist state he creates to make that militarized culture/etc out of control.

      The POLITICIANS set policy on how to fight the war, but never even consider trying to communicate, even when they DID figure out that the Formics were massminds controlled by a Queen.

      Oh, and the book was set in the fledgling days of the internet, so Card thought it would be more tightly controlled and used for reasoned debate.

      I can’t read Ender’s Game anymore. I hate the blind characters who destroy a child, and I hate the world that Card set up to make his message book possible.

      • Eh. I can’t really blame them for not trying to hard to communicate after the formancs killed 10,000 people. It would be like trying to send a letter to Al qaeda in 2001. Public opinion would never allow it.

        TBH I also had no issue with the “if its us or them lets making fucking sure its THEM” philosophy the humans came up with afterwards as its probably very realistic.

        It’s actually amazing to me that Card managed to predict how important the internet was going to be AND how eventually EVERYONE was going to have daily access to it but so SENSATIONALLY overestimated the influence one person could have on it. I intentionally left that bit as a simple visual gag to stop myself from talking about it for hours.

  5. Really solid review, and a very good job focusing mostly on the adaptation part of it. This movie really cut out what made the book memorable sadly, most of the real depth was lost and while I can’t get mad at it like some adaptations I almost completely forgot about it.
    (I look forward to the I, Robot review holy heck is that a terrible “adaptation” of the book)

  6. Huh…I had heard the reason they weren’t trained til adulthood was to have soldiers that didn’t think the way most adults did. They could come up with ideas and strategies the enemy would have a hard time predicting. Sounds pretty cool to me, but I guess that’s not true?

    • Not The Dom in disguise

      No you’re right, that was one of the key reasons they gave for it. But tis rubarb!! You can’t just hand the keys to a battleship to a 8 year old just because he has fresh eyes on a problem. Theres just so much stuff experianced commanders would do almost automatically that a kid wouldnt have a clue about no matter how brainy he is.

  7. I always why there are only a few that could see the incest undertones between Ender and Valentine, hell, they were so strong that they were in the movie and in the comic book adaptation of the books, it was clear as a day.

    But it seems that fans are so blinded by the Mary Sue Ender and how awsome he is, that are incapable of see it, hell, I even suspect that the even the autor realize what he had written so that why he changed the plot in the last book.

    • I believe Card is quoted responding to the thoughts of incest with, “Because god forbid siblings express love for each other.”

      Just because two characters are close, doesn’t mean they want to fuck.

      • It’s because we live in a culture that can no longer distinguish between genuine affection and sexual attraction anymore, so much so that they can’t even imagine there being the former without the latter.

        • Funny thing that, because most people known the difference between a heathly sibling relationship and INCEST, the problem that would be always people that would give excuse for the writer, and the writer wouldnt plainly admit that he made a mistake, or write something that would go agianst his ideology.

          For example, Stephanie Meyer, the Queens of the Mary Sue, she had written books about pedophilia and incest, and the fans of her give every excuse imaginable to not admit that the are incest undertones in it, and the autor give excuses that brainless and blindless fans follow to the letter, even that the author did that to hide her plain racism agianst native americans, and her foundamentalist religious dogma.

          • There is a bad pedo vibe with Jacob and Renesme, but I don’t remember any incest. The vampires aren’t actually related to one another. They live together in a sort of communal situation, and only pretend to be a normal human family. They’re actually just a clan. And, in real life, people in the same clan do often intermarry.

            There are enough problems with Meyer’s work that you don’t really need to go searching for stuff like that. Heck, I’m not even sure you need to concern yourself with racism towards American Indians–though at least there’s more evidence for that than incest.

      • Which is hilarious considering that Card did a re-write of Hamlet where the king “turned” most of the male cast gay by molesting them as boys, then tricked Hamlet into killing his uncle so he would go to Hell and be molested by his father for eternity. I don’t know which is stupider: that Card thinks that molesting kids makes then gay, or his claim that he “improved” one of Shakespeare’s greatest works.

        And no, I am not making this up. Go check out the insanity for yourself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamlet%27s_Father

  8. the hive mind stuff is a cool concept, the rest seems bad. good video though

  9. Great review, I feel like you addressed a lot in a good amount of time. I remember my dad making me read this when I was only 10 (even though I don’t remember much of the actual events aside from the main plot), I enjoyed it despite my complaints that it was too long. The movie did way better than I was expecting!

  10. Well done, sir! I watched both videos, and found both insightful, and well paced! You do a great job of balancing relevant comedy with content. I would say you are reviewer that uses comedy to illustrate his points, or at least that is what I have seen of you so far. Doug Walker’s character, the Nostalgia Critic by contrast is comedian who reviews media. (I didn’t want infer Doug doesn’t do serious reviews, but usually not as the Critic.) Keep up the good work! I look forward to your next video!

  11. Wow… I’d neither seen the movie nor read the book (nor do I want to), but MAN does the whole story come across as boot-to-the-face preachy. Yuck!

  12. Guess I was right in skipping Ender’s Game when it came out.

  13. Something I forgot to mention – I actually enjoyed the little mini-review of Ender’s Game you linked to. That’s not because the “Lost in Adaptation” video was bad, but more so because I honestly think you’re very good at doing opinion pieces and analysis. Lost in Adaptation is fine, but is also mostly academic. Seeing you speak about the whole concept openly was outright entertaining, and I look forward to seeing you do that more.

    From your videos here on Channel Awesome, I honestly like your Homeworld review the best. I’d love to see your take on other titles in a similar style.

  14. I never read the book but saw the movie, and just felt as though it was the same as most young adult adaptations: some kid in a dystopian society finds out that he is special, and therefore, the CHOSEN one who must lead all others to a new way. I didn’t like it.

    Then again, I know that the book is well regarded by many, so I don’t want to assume anything about it.

    Either way, I like the idea of your series, and this was a well made video.

    • That’s not quite how it goes in the book. He’s only the “chosen one” because he was genetically manipulated in the womb to BE the “chosen one”, and his brother ad sister were failed permutations of that experiment.

      Then he was beaten, molded, shaped, and manipulated by everyone he ever knew and loved into being a military commander savvy enough to win the war, but naive enough to think he could trust the people who had recruited a 6 year old into the army.

      Then of course the irony is that he’s briefly regarded as a hero, until he publishes the true story under a pseudonym and is remembered as Super Space Hitler even thousands of years later. He didn’t really lead anyone into a new way (under his own name, in any case, even though a sort of cult sprang up around his pseudonym), that was his psychotic older brother Peter that led humanity into the golden age.

      It’s a very interesting book, character-wise. And is partly the reason the Halo series even exists (the Spartan program is based off both the actual Spartans and Ender’s Game’s Battle School, and Master Chief’s backstory is HEAVILY based on Ender’s. The canon tie-in novel reads a lot like Ender’s Game with a mor emuscular 6 year old until about halfway through).

  15. Yeah I don’t think the book has aged all that well… not entirely the book’s fault since the tropes it used were fairly fresh at the time and are only now getting tired out, but it still doesn’t make for as engaging an experience to wander into it at this point if you have no prior history with it.

    Plus the writer really is the mayor of Douchetown.

  16. I couldn’t watch the movie to completion. It got too silly for me and felt like a waste of time. I think I gave up at the part where Ender and a girl practice the zero-g shooting game. It’s a shame as that ending sounds vaguely interesting.

  17. never read the book but did really enjoy the film. was kind of funny watching this before Divergent, seeing how blatantly that film ripped this film/book off.

    • “Main character is Speshul and must save the woild” is a massively common theme in young adult/kids books.

      It makes the few books that have ORDINARY kids being extraordinary that much more special.

  18. You know, this video actually made me glad a lot of elements got dropped from the movie…a lot of the original story is really quite stupid and beggars belief.

  19. Lost in Adaptation has become my new favorite video series on the site.

  20. Excellent. Looking forward to more of these.

  21. Hooray! More of The Dom! Can…can we get MORE of this series? Pretty please? Also, you’re one of my favorite new talents on the site. Keep ’em coming!

  22. Temporally Displaced

    Loved the book. It’s still one of my favorites. When I watched the movie I got the same feeling I do as when I watch one of those anime that follows the manga really, really closely (i.e. Dragonball, Kare Kano, Hellsing Ultimate). It followed things so closely I felt like there was no suspense and no surprises. I probably would have enjoyed it a lot if I hadn’t read the book.

    I’m honestly baffled at how anyone could let the fact that an author disagrees with them about politics affect their enjoyment of a work of fiction. That’s just silly. What’s next, should I stop watching movies based on Shakespeare because he supported a monarchy instead of democracy?

    Besides, Orson Scott Card has been back in my good graces politically since he wrote those articles about immigrant rights. The compassion and enlightenment he shows on that topic more than makes up for any negative views he might have about gay rights.

    • Knowledge of the author can taint your perception of his work. It happens, no matter if you want it or not, though in some cases you can still bring yourself to enjoy something despite having such issues. In this case a problem is that the author not only has certain controversial stances, but that they also play a role in the fiction he wrote. Like Dom pointed out, you will see some of his personal beliefs as big messages throughout the books. Having views you don’t agree with showed into your face in form of fiction can detract from the enjoyment, especially if the views are not there to offer simply a different perspective, but to actively push the author’s agenda.

      I would refrain from making up any comparisons between the rights of different groups (like they have a different measure of being worthy causes) and what makes up for one wrong. You can applaud him looking out for immigrants without putting gay rights down in the process.

    • And Hitler’s love for animals totally made up for his hatred of Jews… Can I keep pushing senior citzens in front of oncoming cars if I put in a few more hours at the local soup kitchen? Can I speak out against women’s rights as long as I’m nice to my mom (and only beat my wife on days that start with the letter “t”)?

      See? It’s that easy! Only on the internet, folks. Only on the internet!

      Seriously, you’re “baffled” that people dislike the works of an author that are clearly coloured (or tainted if you will) by his belief in a hateful, inhumane ideology – all while he’s playing around with some very questionable imagery and themes in regards to young children and adolescents in them? Really?

      You know what baffles me? That in the year 2015 there a still people like you left who think it’s totally okay to play favourites with minorities who are discriminated against instead of accepting Human Rights for what they are, indivisible and interdependent. You seem to have some kind of pretty messed-up “minority rights math” going on in your head. That’s deplorable. No, scratch that! No need to be polite, I find that absolutely disgusting!

      (Just by the way, we don’t know nearly enough about Shakespeare as a private person to say with any sufficient level of certainty that he supported or opposed the political system he was born into. Entire years of his life are missing in his biography.)

      • Comparing someone you don’t like to Hitler: Always a reasonable and totally justified response! Frankly I think a worldview that black-and-white is considered a kind of insanity. There are good things about Card and bad things about Card. The bad is, well, bad, but, as far as I’m aware, he’s not a violent individual nor does he advocate for the extermination of anyone. As long as his opinions are just opinions, they’re irrelevant in the long run.

        (Walt Disney and H.P. Lovecraft were both raging anti-Semites. Lovecraft mellowed out later in life. Which one is more beloved today?)

        And separating a writer from his works is actually pretty important. It’s called “Death of the Author”. You have to be able to interpret something separately from what its creator believed. If you can’t, then, well, I don’t know what you’ve been reading your whole life because most authors will have some viewpoints you disagree with. Meanwhile, every work has something worth taking away from it, even if it’s just in your own personal interpretation.

  23. So does anyone else think this movie was kinda depressing? The dull tones and stale presentation, mentally & emotionally tortured characters, and general sense of unrelenting despair through-out the whole thing. The whole damn movie was like one of those cold, rainy days that just wouldn’t quit. I was so relieved in theaters when it was over. Even the ending had to suck. We went through that j0ourney with the characters, only to end on a “blehh!” note.

  24. OMG or Oh my God the online trolls want and will take over the world according to this movie.

  25. What is the world coming too? seriously, anyway Ender’s Game is okay as a movie and a book I never read.

    • I agree with all three statements. The only difference is I see what the world is coming to. Remember the old saying: “The more things change the more they stay the same.” As long as there are people that want to rule – the country, the world, the universe – and as long as there are people that will hate others for no reason other than “because they’re different”, the world will always stay the same. Only the times change, people will always stay the same. (There are more examples, those are just the first I thought of.)

      Anyway Dom, nice videos. My only issue is that you talk a bit fast for my listening preference. No big deal I guess.

  26. The fact that Ender didn’t have psychological issues was one of the biggest issues I had with the movie. In the book, he committed genocide in his final exam to prove that he shouldn’t be the commander of the forces as he is slowly being ground down by the pressures up for the deed that he committed.

  27. Hi Dom
    I really like your “Lost in Adaptations” series.
    I htink it doesn’t get the love it deserves, and I think it would get more people checking it out if you had preview art. I could draw you some if you like.

    Check out my Deviantart and if you like it you could send me a note there and we’d talk.

    It’s just a thought. I really like this show is all and I want to show my appreciation 🙂

  28. ManWithGoodTaste

    This is merely a guess by someone who never read or watched this thing, but what if… the decision to recruit children had SOMETHING to do with them being easier to mold than adults? There is a reason child soldiers exist; it’s not a good reason, but a working one.

    Also, a very interesting alien concept. A hive mind? Reminds me of the Drej from Titan AE, only given more elaboration.

  29. Gotta love in the spin off books Bean turned out to be smarter then every other person on the planet. Being genetically altered at birth. He put a lot more value in experienced solders and was able to figure out the game was real before it was over, but kept it to himself, only giving a kind speech to the dying solders in the last battle while ender sent them to there deaths. Also after Ender went off into space all the battle school students where captured and used as pawns in the war’s on earth.

  30. Youtube took the video down! Ugh I wanted to see this one too. This is one of the movies I outright REFUSED to watch due to knowing it’s movie could in no way measure up to the book.

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