Ender’s Game promises to be one of the most scrutinized films of the upcoming fall season. Not only is it a big-budget sci-fi tentpole, there’s the added element of “what the hell is Orson Scott Card going to say next” to take into account. Summit is attempting to put all of the superfluous stuff behind them and focus on the actual movie by taking to the biggest stage of the summer, San Diego Comic-Con. Our big sister site Cinema Blend was on hand for Summit’s Ender’s Game panel (don’t older siblings always get to do the coolest stuff?), and there certainly is a great deal to talk about.
The whole shebang started off with the introductions by panel host Chris Hardwick of Nerdist. Roberto Orci, director Gavin Hood, Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, and Hailee Steinfeld, were all in attendance. Right out of the gate they premiered and exclusive video full of aliens, spaceships, explosions, and characters debating whether Ender is truly great, and the future hope of humanity as some believe, or if he’s just a frightened kid who isn’t ready for the pressure. The description sounds pretty damn impressive, especially the ships and action.
After that the cast delved into various elements of the film and production. Steinfeld mentioned all of the training they endured, including going to Space Camp in Alabama, which makes the kid in me insanely jealous. Ford talked about the complicated moral issues inherent in the story, including war, manipulation of the young, and how this part of his character is what drew him to play Colonel Graff in the film. Hood chimed in on this point, talking about how Ender’s Game isn’t simply a black and white, good versus evil story, that these are multi-faceted characters wrestle with defining these terms for themselves.
No matter how hard they tried, you knew they weren’t going to escape the controversy of Card’s at-this-point infamous stance on homosexuality and gay marriage. In this instance, they didn’t get beyond the first question without someone bringing it up.
Orci fielded this one, and used the stage to talk about how the film is much more than just Card, and how whole team wants to use the controversy to help support the lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgendered community in any way they can. (Summit’s parent company Lionsgate announced that they would hold a special premiere of Ender’s Game to benefit LBGT causes.) It sounds like he hopes the controversy will help spark debate on the issue, and advance gay rights. He also brought up the point that, despite the jackass who wrote it (my words, not his), some of the biggest themes at play in the novel are tolerance, compassion, and empathy.
Following this there was some talk of other ideas in the film, and translating the story, both plot wise and thematically, from page to screen.
Most of the panel seems like fairly standard promotional stuff. I’m sure it was fun, but not being there, I can’t say for sure. But there is one tidbit that could offer previously unknown insight into the adaptation. In the video the subject comes up what to do with Ender (Butterfield) if there’s nothing left of him at the end of the day, if his body is completely destroyed. The implication is that Ender might not make it through this alive. Or at least he’ll be in imminent danger. There is also a scene of Ender and a group of soldiers shooting at an alien craft through ice.
Here is why I find this so interesting, actually putting the boy in harm’s way is a significant departure from the book. In the novel, aside from potential beatings at Battle School, Ender is never particularly in any physical danger or involved in honest to god combat. Even when he does command actual ships, he thinks it’s part of a training exercise. Placing him squarely in the action is a big choice. We’ll have to wait until November 1 to see how this decision impacts the larger story, but it does sound like it will play well onscreen.