If you’ve been a casual observer of US movie news over the past few years, you may have occasionally read about a science fiction project called Ender’s Game. A movie that’s been in the making, off and on, since 2003, its name keeps bubbling up in the news and then evaporating again. In recent months, though, its production appears to have gathered pace, with a projected release date and cast and crew attached.
So what exactly is Ender’s Game, and should we be excited about it?
Ender’s Game began as a 1977 short story by noted American author Orson Scott Card, which he later extended into a Nebula Award-winning novel in 1985. Set in the distant future where humanity has suffered through two wars against an alien species known as the Formics, the story tells the story of Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin, one of several youngsters trained to fight in an impending third interplanetary conflict.
At the Battle School, Ender and his fellow students play a series of war simulations (the game of the title) in order to prepare for battle. The novel describes Ender’s training, his sometimes violent clashes with other cadets, and Earth’s fight against the insect-like Formics. Although criticised for its violence and amorality, the book was a huge success, spawning a series of additional books from Scott Card and several comic books.
Warner Bros originally began thinking about the possibility of an Ender’s Game movie nine years ago, with an initial script written by Card himself. Screenwriters David Benioff and DB Weiss were brought in to write a new script, which Wolfgang Petersen intended to direct. By 2007, however, Petersen had walked away from the project, and the once promising production appeared to have fallen apart, with Warner’s rights to make an Ender’s Game movie ending a year after.
News emerged two years later, however, that Card still had hopes of bringing an adaptation to the screen. He’d written a new script, and a new production team had been assembled.
The project’s fortunes really stepped up a notch last year, when it emerged that Tsotsi writer and director Gavin Hood would be helming the adaptation (he most recent cinema release he directed was X-Men Origins: Wolverine), and had also reworked Card’s script. A surprisingly star-laden cast has been assembled, too, including Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, True Grit’s Hayley Steinfeld, and Hugo’s Asa Butterfield as protagonist Ender Wiggin.
On Friday, it was announced that The Help’s Viola Davis would be joining the cast, playing a psychologist who assists the development of the cadets’ futuristic war games. With Kingsley providing his dramatic heft as war veteran Mazer Rackham and Ford as Colonel Hyram Graff, the adaptation is definitely on the right track in terms of acting talent.
And with the producers willing to pay for stars of this calibre, it seems logical to conclude that the film will have an equally stellar budget to match. James Cameron’s effects house, Digital Domain, has been signed up to create the movie’s numerous alien insects and battles.
If successful, Ender’s Game has the kind of multimedia crossover potential that Hollywood loves – there’s a rich history of books and comics to fall back on, as well as the potential for sequels and videogame tie-ins. Card’s series doesn’t have the heft of, say, Lord Of The Rings behind it, but it does have a devoted following of readers and fans and – more importantly – an epic, occasionally quite dark story that could make for a superb big-screen experience.
So with Hollywood repeatedly returning to the creative stream of late, with sci-fi properties like Total Recall adapted for a second time, it’s encouraging to see some fresh premises being turned into mainstream movies. Exactly how Gavin Hood’s approached the material remains to be seen, but with a current release date pencilled in for March 2013, we’ll no doubt be seeing lots more from Ender’s Game over the next few months.