Finding the crossroads between YA literature and science fiction is tricky because you have to find a way of equating the problems of growing up with the problems of the future of humanity without falling into irreverence. In 1985, Orson Scott Card published Ender's Game and managed to marry the hopes and fears of the young protagonist, Ender Wiggin, with that of the entire human race in a powerful debut novel.
The novel takes place in the distant future in which Earth is preparing for a third invasion of an insectoid alien race called the Formics. To prepare for the incoming war, Earth has established a military training program for young teenagers who show potential in tactical warfare. Ender Wiggin is selected as the finest of the academy and is initiated in a gauntlet of strategic war games that he thinks are simulations but are actual space battles.
The seminal novel was adapted for the big screen and released in 2013. Despite having a stellar cast in the promising young Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley, Variety labelled the film the biggest flop of the year.
Check out the trailer below:
The Ender series includes some of the most important Sci-Fi stories in recent memory and has a huge cult following that would love to see a second attempt at bringing the story to the silver screen. We're going to take a look at the Ender's story and discuss whether or not this incredible journey deserves a sequel.
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Was The Film Adaptation A Bust Or Merely A Misstep?
- Director: Gavin Hood
- Starring: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley, Abigail Breslin
- Budget: $115 million
- Domestic box office: $61,737,191
- Rotten Tomatoes score: 60%
Director Gavin Hood had already polished off a couple of blockbuster successes with X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Rendition and with the incredible cast to work with, it seemed like he was en route for another victory. However, even though the film captured the exquisite vision of interstellar travel and the powerful space battles of the novel, it unfortunately fumbled when it came to the complexities of the nuanced story.
Gavin Hood spoke to the Guardian about the struggles of adapting the story to a PG-13 audience but despite these changes, roughly 54% of the audience for the opening weekend was over 25. This sci-fi epic was predicted to spawn a franchise that would overshadow The Hunger Games, yet they failed to reach their target audience. Perhaps the film was too oriented towards children and not teenagers. Furthermore, Orson Scott Card's homophobic comments in the run up to the release attracted a boycott from many Gay rights organizations which severely hurt the premiere weekend.
It seems like the film had everything going for it but success just wasn't on the cards, and even though the franchise lost momentum, it didn't lose support from fans of the novel. The story of the series was so epic, it was begging to be brought to life in glorious IMAX.
Why Leave Ender's Story Unfinished?
Orson Scott Card penned 26 novels and comics that built a history and a universe around the young Wiggin. At the end of Ender's Game, the young general thinks he's destroyed the insectoid alien race in a simulation, only to realize he has wiped them out for real. To atone, the teenager rescues the Queen of the formics and dedicates the rest of his life traveling the universe looking for a suitable planet for her to restart her race.
- Speaker for the Dead is the sequel that follows Ender as he discovers a new race — the pequeninos.
- In the follow-up, Xenocide, Commander Wiggen discovers a planet where the humans, the formics and the pequeninos can live in harmony.
- Children of the Mind depicts Ender handing over his life's work to the superior A.I. Jane.
As Wiggin changed, so too did the author, Card, who went from charming YA author to cantankerous, right-wing pundit over the course of the series. After becoming an extremely conservative and controversial figure, the studios have become more hesitant to work with him. It seems as though the feeling is mutual as the misanthropic author has expressed his contempt for the idea of adapting Speaker for the Dead:
"It consists of talking heads, interrupted by moments of excruciating and unwatchable violence. Now, I admit, there's plenty of unwatchable violence in film, but never attached to my name. Speaker for the Dead, I don't want it to be filmed. I can't imagine it being filmed."
Time To Hit The Restart Button?
Despite Card's reluctance to share his work, true cinema fans know that nothing is truly unfilmable — they said the same thing about Blade Runner! — and Gavin Hood is still eager to work on a sequel. During production of Ender's Game, the South African director was keen to work on Ender's Shadow (a complimentary novel in Card's series) simultaneously but restrictions in the budget wouldn't allow it. Lionsgate studio even talked about creating a wholly original story surrounding Wiggin, thus avoiding attaching themselves to the tempestuous Card.
We're still confident that Ender's story could be as powerful if not more powerful than The Hunger Games. The producers need to focus on a teenage audience and be careful not to dumb the story down. There is enough material out there and there are plenty of people who are ready to continue playing the game.