Gavin Hood’s adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s classic sci-fi novel Ender’s Game hit Blu-ray and DVD yesterday, arriving with a decent collection of bonus features and extras. Whether or not you were a fan of the movie, there is some damn impressive special effects work going on. More so than even the massive battle scenes, the most memorable pieces are the scenes in the anti-gravity room. One of the behind the scenes features on the home release looks at how the filmmakers accomplished these feats and digs into all the work that went into the execution.
For fans of the book, these zero gravity scenes were one of the things they most anticipated, but also one of the things they were most worried about getting screwed up. During his time at Battle School, an orbiting military academy, Ender and his fellow recruits engage in numerous zero g combat simulations. They’re weightless for extended periods of time, often for entire long scenes, and if the effects don’t work, the scenes don’t work. This video, which originally appeared on Collider, illustrates exactly how Hood and company went about staging and filming these fantastic sequences. You can see how incredibly challenging they were to create, but also how much fun there were.
In order to pull off these elaborate, almost balletic action sequences, Hood employed a mix of wire work, green screen, and specially designed apparatuses created just for Ender’s Game. Stunt coordinator Garrett Warren developed an elaborate rig deemed the Lollipop that allowed him to and his team to maneuver the actors almost like marionettes. It’s crazy to watch them bob up and down, spinning and rotating freely in any direction, controlled by multiple crewmembers at the same time.
As it turns out, pretending that there’s no gravity while you’re still attached to wires in an environment that is still subject to its laws, is rather difficult. How do you prepare to mimic a sensation that you’ve never experienced and sell it to an audience? That’s a hell of a trick. Warren and the members of the cast, most of whom are quite young, worked with performers from the Cirque du Soleil in order learn how to properly control their bodies. The actors learned how to position themselves and hold those poses as if it were an effortless feat.
While it was far from perfect, Ender’s Game is decent. It doesn’t get quite as in depth with the larger themes of the book, and thought the emotional connections are a little bit light, it isn’t bad. The film sticks closer to the story of the book than I expected, and I wound up enjoying the finished product. Lionsgate hoped they had another hit young adult franchise to go along with The Hunger Games, and their upcoming Divergent, but Ender totally tanked at the box office amidst tepid reviews and public backlash over Card’s well-documented homophobia. So we probably won’t be seeing any sequels.