The sci-fi action thriller Ender’s Game opened this weekend with cult sci-fi fans raving about the adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s 1985 novel. The book Ender’s Game, which has been a classic among science fiction literature despite only its 30 year existence, can now be seen with stunning visual effects, and the production value expected of such a grand tale.
Ender’s Game involves the training of children via computer simulations to lead the charge in Earth’s war against combative aliens. The foes from the planet Formic, last invaded Earth over 50 years ago, and are back for revenge. The earth is run by a quasi-autocratic military dictatorship, allowing for such an expansive and invasive military program to be implemented in children. Harrison Ford plays Colonel Graff, who sees one child in particular, “Ender”, played by Asa Butterfield, as the Earth’s only hope to lead the planet to victory against the Formic “Buggers” (as they are called in the book).
The military training program involves jabbing monitors in the children’s necks which allows for authorities like Colonel Graff to survey each child warriors emotions and actions. Through Ender’s unique abilities, Colonel Graff finds potential in the child, sending him to outer space battle school where Ender’s Game takes off with action packed drama.
Ender’s Game is in some ways a reflection of Spartan culture, with pure brutality valued as an asset while compassion and empathy seen as weakness. Ender exemplifies this warrior-like culture when he is sent to battle school, where he ruthlessly beats a bully within inches of his life. The mentality of pulverizing his victim to prevent a future threat does him well in catching the attention of the military dictatorship of Earth, who need a kick-ass take no names style warrior for their battle. Mind you- the boy is only 12 years old at the time of the violent beat down, bringing an added sense of wrongness while you watch the boy mercilessly beat down the bully.
I think what is really interesting about Ender’s Game is the parallel we can draw between the video game simulation of outer space battles with the disconnect of our own country and military with war. With the increasing use of unmanned drones and predator choppers, we are increasingly making our wars less humanized, more methodical, and in many cases much messier. While this technology has helped keep many soldiers out of harms way, the cost is a country so disconnected and desensitized about war, that casualties on the news are just another figure- almost as mundane and lifeless as the weather forecast.
The movie Ender’s Game encapsulates this phenomena, showing a future which is not so far off, especially if the trend between centralization of power and technological adaptations of war continues. Sure, it might be a few million years before we are fighting off insect like aliens like the ones in Ender’s Game, but that doesn’t mean that the wars in the future won’t be any less other-worldly.