Sci-fi Action. I love the coming of age genre if done well. I even admit that children can sometimes have a special skill or insight because of their youth and lack of experience. And yes, I understand that placing children in the role of heroes has a certain commercial appeal to many people. Sometimes seeing the world through a child’s eyes can be an entertaining and enlightening experience. And yes, again, I know the novel is very popular with youth (which doesn’t surprise me).
But I’m sorry, this movie was laughably ludicrous. I think it is because it is founded on a fundamentally fallacious notion that is very popular in our society: That children contain the wisdom we lack and need. It is about the inappropriate elevation of juvenility. We’re not even talking teens here or college age. If the characters were that old, I might actually not laugh as loud. But in this case, the heroes who save the earth are an army of military leaders under 15 years old.
The beginning of the movie sets the premise that the earth was invaded by some insectoid aliens and the only way to overcome them is to train children to lead the forces because, after all, kids are so good with video games. Ender is the “One,” the promising young cadet that Harrison Ford’s General character believes will lead their forces to victory because he supposedly has a special character quality Ford is looking for: It turns out it’s the ability risk all in order to win. But he has to train him and so most of the movie is about cadet school and preparation for the big battle.
But that is only the beginning of the sheer ridiculous nature of what happens next.
Full Metal Jacket with children this is not.
The problem is that the story is so serious and has such high stakes with an epic status (and epic music) that we expect to see a Mel Gibson or a Liam Neeson handle it as mature adults. Or at least a young up and coming adult star. But a tiny pre-teen cannot hold up that kind of dramatic weight. It just doesn’t work (Maybe in an animated cartoon, where everything is tongue in cheek, but not here). And here’s why: Because pre-teens who have not even entered puberty yet, are simply biologically, spiritually, and morally undeveloped. And we all know that. They do not have the capacity to handle sexuality (though the world of entertainment tries to force that on them). They cannot deliberate big moral stakes because they need to be taught right and wrong because they are basically selfish little creatures. They can’t lead complex battles because true war strategy requires maturity and experience of understanding psychology that no children, no matter how genius, can possibly have. The genius or special skills that a child may have would be raw technical skills like hand eye coordination on a video game or maybe a sharp memory. None of these things hold up against the real world of mature human or sentient interaction. It’s just laughably ludicrous to suggest so. That is why I could not keep a straight face watching it.
Nobody in this movie is believable in their role. Ender is supposed to be some “chosen one” but he is just a scrawny little zero who has cherubic cuteness that I did not believe for one moment hid any kind of strategic genius, let alone the “hardness” of soul or ruthlessness that he was supposed to be exuding. Really? This cute little cuddly kid ruthless? Not for one minute. When he fights two different bullies and beats them up, truly cringe-worthy moments.
Ender is wrestling with the kind of issues that we are all familiar with in hard core military situations like cruel drill sargeants, A ruthless General, bullying competition, and the valor of self sacrifice and complex psychological war strategy. Watching the movie was really like watching children play war (which is outlawed by the public schools BTW). They take it all so serious, but we just watch them and chuckle, “How cute they take themselves so seriously.”
The drill sergeant, bless his heart, was a big lovable black guy trying to sound like he was mean, which made me cringe for the poor sweet man.
The bully, and this one I could NOT believe they did, the BULLY was an officer who was a tiny little rodent guy who was the SMALLEST one on the entire squad. The shots of them face to face made me laugh. Ender, “the oppressed” looking down at the bully, who was almost cut out of the shot he was so dang small. I kept thinking, even Ender, the scrawny little pip, could hurt this guy.
Almost nothing in this movie was believable.
Wait, I take it back. The only thing believable was the existence of little girls in the military. I say this because anyone who knows the reality of the frontlines of war will tell you, women cannot compete in real war scenarios. Our anti-science fascist government women-in-the-military policy notwithstanding, they drag the military down because they are not biologically built for the level of physical stress needed. The standards have to be lowered to accommodate them, which places more lives in jeopardy and gets more soldiers killed. But I guess the Left doesn’t really care about soldiers dying anyway. BUT at this young child age in the movie, boys are so undeveloped that girls really are about their equals in the physical realm. They haven’t developed yet. Okay, so I’m for girls in the child military I guess. If we are going to kill ourselves with politically correct lunacy, we might as well go all the way.
SPOILER ALERT: Now, on to the ludicrous themes: The whole movie is a subversive attempt to undermine the strong military superiority of America. It builds up this scenario that the aliens are large insects in order to get us to really cheer for Ender to become the hero and kill them all. They swarm like bugs. Get us to perceive them as “the Other,” in order to show us our bigotry at the end when Ender realizes he is guilty of committing genocide against the aliens.
We are supposed to realize that the insects are actually sentient beings who were only trying to communicate with us and build their own army to protect themselves. And we in our fear strike out to kill them all pre-emptively in order to protect ourselves because we believe they are going to kill us all. “It’s us or them,” as the General says. Because the insects invaded earth once and were repelled, they are now going after them to kill them at their home planet so that they can not just stop the war, but “stop all future wars.” (Of course, the first invasion of the insects is discovered later to just be all one big misunderstanding. Oooookay.)
Hmmmm. What political connection do you suppose they are trying make with that analogy in our world of Islamic “swarms” where America is the only one holding back the explosion of worldwide Islamic imperialism? Like maybe Iran, right? Yeah, right. Except Iranians are not like insects. They are simply an evil nation led by an evil leader that is building nuclear warheads in order to wantonly kill Jews and anyone they don’t like, just like Hitler, AND they have said so themselves. History proves they will do it. This is obviously the analogy they are trying to make. But the comparison doesn’t even begin to work.
And that is also the fundamental flaw of the analogy of this film. It denies the image of God in man, it denies human exceptionalism and likens human beings as no more valuable than any other animal. As if a colony of insects is as important as a colony of human beings. It is the evil and insanity of animal rights activists. Insects are NOT sentient beings. They’re not even similar to sharks, tigers or other predators whose nature is to kill and eat. This storyteller took just about the worst possible analogy you could make for his point. It actually disproved his own point.
They will say, “How do we know there aren’t creatures out there that are sentient just like us but are insectoid?” (This is “moral equivalency” foolishness) And these same idiots call Christians stupid, as believing in fairy tales and superstition? To liken insects to humanity is anti-scientific sophomoric moral nonsense, and reminds me of the evil stupidity of animal rights activists who try to protect cockroaches instead of human beings.
To posit that a human / insect comparison is an analogy to racism or colonialism in our world is laughably preposterous. Should we also stop the genocide of viruses and bacteria because we are arrogantly considering human beings as superior life forms? In fact, if there is no human exceptionalism then you can’t even criticize humans for “genocide” as if that is wrong because that is the act of placing a SUPERIOR MORAL status on humans that they do not have. Nature does what it does, and if we are simply the same as all animals, then you cannot damn us for doing what we do by nature, which includes genocide.
Another failed analogy that doesn’t only fail rationally. It fails morally and existentially because not for one moment watching this movie do I think that anyone will believe that those insects re the moral equivalent of human beings. We know humans are exceptional, and that is why we have a basis for knowing racism and so-called imperialism is wrong while still knowing that humans are exceptional to other animals. Because we are created in the image of God. Without God, all you have is survival, and things like genocide are not wrong.
There is one little statement in the film about the insect population that they are pursuing our planet for our water because, “like us, their population rate is unsustainable.” REALLY? These filmmakers really believe this Overpopulation Lie at the very moment that statistics show that almost all the developed nations have population rates that are in fact dying out? We are not replenishing our populations fast enough to sustain our life. The EXACT opposite of the Left Wing overpopulation fascists who want to kill more people so we aren’t such a burden to the goddess Mother Earth. Sheesh. The lunacy does not end.
So there’s a young child soldier who is a Muslim that says an obvious Muslim saying to Ender, “Salaam Alykum,” which means peace be upon you. Again, Really? A positive Muslim character but not a single positive Christian character? This is another irony of the film’s bigotry. The closest analogy to the colonizing insects in the movie is precisely imperialist Islam, the most ruthless colonialist swarm of all history. They actually and truly are trying to take over the world and would like to impose Sharia or Islamic Law on everyone. Right now, Islamists are killing thousands around the world in the name of Allah because they believe that infidels should die. But the positive religious character is a Muslim, not a Christian? Ironically, if Muslims had their way in America, the Hollywood filmmakers who made this film would be the first to die along with the gays. While we Christians would be hiding the victims in our cellars and basements like Anne Frank. But no, the positive religious character in this movie is a member of that imperialist colonizing religion Islam.
The big thematic point that Ender says is “When I understand my enemy well enough to defeat him, at that moment, I love him.” I have wrestled with this very theme myself in a movie I wrote To End All Wars (Netflix and Amazon), so I am not adverse to the issue. But this is a moral issue that requires a nuance of thinking, and understanding between rules of combat and rules of captivity. It cannot be reduced to the childish politics of leftist anti-exceptionalism.
Ender’s Game cannot even begin to come close to being a worthy depiction of that epic moral question because it so completely gets all its analogies wrong and sets up an absurdly unbelievable premise of wise children saving the world, and utterly fails in its far left wing identity politics mixed in with a dose of child supremacy and insect rights.
Please, End the Game, Now!