This is a repost of “Whose Game’s Now?” which I posted in March. For some reason that particular post was getting inundated with spam comments, so I’m deleting and reposting. Enjoy it if you didn’t read it then!
The following isn’t my usual fare, but it’s a Sunday and it’s raining, so here we go.
So there’s this futuristic society. The society’s very survival is dependent on children being selected and trained to do vicious battle with one another. Our protagonist is one of these children, forced to volunteer for in order to defend their sister. Our hero isn’t aggressive or mean spirited like the biggest of the children, but is nevertheless willing to go to brutal lengths to survive. Under the tutelage of a mentor thought to be long past his prime, our hero is targeted from the beginning by a possibly deranged older boy. The rules of the game are constantly changing to nefarious ends of the game-makers and our intrepid hero must resort to unconventional tactics to survive.
I was one of one of the millions of people that saw The Hunger Games this weekend, and the above is a fairly accurate description of both the movie and the book. That said, it’s also a really accurate description of the book Ender’s Game.
For those that have not read or seen either:
[The Hunger Games] is written in the voice of sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives in a post-apocalyptic world in the country of Panem where the countries of North America once existed. The Capitol, a highly advanced metropolis, holds absolute power over the rest of the nation. The Hunger Games are an annual event in which one boy and one girl aged 12 to 18 from each of the 12 districts surrounding the Capitol are selected by lottery to compete in a televised battle in which only one person can survive. (thanks Wikipedia!)
Set in Earth’s future, the novel presents an imperiled humankind who have barely survived two conflicts with the Formics (an insectoid alien species normally called “Buggers” by most of the population)…In preparation for an anticipated third invasion, an international fleet maintains a school to find and train future fleet commanders. The world’s most talented children, including the novel’s protagonist, Ender Wiggin, are taken at a very young age to a training center known as the Battle School. There, teachers train them in the arts of war through increasingly difficult games including ones undertaken in zero gravity in the Battle Room where Ender’s tactical genius is revealed. (Wikipedia)
(Some more spoiler-ey similarities have been moved to the end of the article)
I note the similiarity because The Hunger Games is poised to make an absolutely stupid amount of money for Lionsgate – and Ender’s Game being developed by the same studio for a 2013 release. Both movies have a child-star from an Oscar nominated film (THG’s Jennifer Lawrence and EG’s Asa Butterfield for Winter’s Bone and Hugo, respectively). Both movies have to deal with the portrayal of graphic violence between young children. Both movies have an extremely solid supporting cast (Donal Sutherland, Woody Harrelson and Stanley Tucci for THG, Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley for EG).
Much has been written about the publicity campaign for The Hunger Games, and given it’s success, I would expect that they will try and build the same buzz for Ender’s Game - slated for a March 15 release next year. With that said, here are take-it-to-the bank predictions for what you can expect out of the build-up to Ender’s Game next year:
- There will be a website where you can sign up for the different Battle School armies
- There will be mini-controversies over an old article arguing that Ender’s Game is pro-Hitler, and over Orson Scott Card’s political leanings (specifically his outspoken opposition to gay marriage)
- There will be well placed coverage of Ender’s Game long-standing place on the Marine Corps’ book list
- There will be comparisons (like this one) to The Hunger Games, mostly focused on the portrayal of childen and violence (there’s less in Ender’s Game, but it’s equally difficult to show)
- “The enemy’s gate is down” will be used as a tagline (That’s not so much a prediction as a suggestion; Lionsgate, if you’re reading this, go make that happen – it would be bad ass)
- There will be some sort of viral marketing campaign aimed around “The Third Invasion” or “The International Fleet” or “Dragon Army” or some such thing.
The biggest difference by far (from a movie-making standpoint) between the two will be the absence of a love story – because of the character’s age, there is essentially zero room for a romantic interest in Ender’s Game. The Hunger Games definitely cultivates a Team-Peeta/Team-Gale vibe, though The Hunger Games treats the subject a hell of a lot more intelligently than Twilight. I would not expect Ender’s Game to have added much of a love story (much less a love-triangle) – the story doesn’t demand it, and part of the reason that Ender’s Game has taken so long to make is that Orson Scott Card absolutely refused to green light a movie that included a love interest.
In that sense, Ender’s Game will be something of a natural experiment for the relative importance of a romantic sub-plot in this particular genre. The two movies will be released within a weekend of each other, they are being produced by the same company and have similar star-power in the case. I will be curious to see how the two box-office stats stack up - Ender’s Game success may hold the key to a future where movies are not required by Hollywood law to include a love-triangle as a subplot.
(Spoilers for both to follow)
Some of the similarities are downright weird - both books contain a somewhat out-of-place sequence where dog-like creatures with the faces of dead children attack the hero, and both series have a character saved from the brink of starvation by a loaf of bread left on the ground*. The endings are extremely similar thematically; in both, the hero attempts a suicidal gesture, aimed at thwarting the game masters – they win, but at the cost of an uncertain and dangerous future.