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Author Topic: Ender's Game Trilogy
Survivor
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Someone mentioned the status of the Ender's Game movie this morning...well, the lack of status. And I had an idea. Why not make it a trilogy?

Ender's Game is a difficult movie to make because of a number of factors. One major problem is that there is simply too much plot critical material to fit into two (or even three) hours of screen time. Another is getting kids to play the main roles. And of course you have the question of audience. Is this a movie about a little kid, or a pre-teen, and you have all that military footage competing with the battleschool fights for screen-time.

But if you look at the structure of the book, one of it's greatest liabilities is that it covers nearly six years, with particular emphasis on three distinct time periods in Ender's life. Which suggests an obvious (if well-worn) solution to the problem.

First you have the period beginning with Ender's recruitment and initial training in Battle School. I think that it would begin well with the dialog between Graff and Anderson (or whoever, it doesn't really say) over footage of Ender as a child. Shots of his brother and sister, the family together, hints of tension. Then we follow the book pretty closely up till Ender's acceptance into Dink's jeesh as a soldier in his own right. The story arc is the transition of a young child to an experienced soldier/officer-in-training. He leaves his home, which is his home, despite being less than ideal, and ends up finding a new "home" and family in Dink's jeesh.

This brings us to a major temporal transition in the novel, the three year period during which Ender rises through the ranks to the brink of being granted command of his own army. If we wanted to use the device from the first movie, we could watch a visual montage of Ender's career as an increasingly respected officer moving towards command. Another conversation between Graff and Anderson narrates the decision to make Ender a commander. The passage taken from the book could be slightly modified to included information provided through Ender's POV, but it wouldn't be critical. The movie could follow the intense action of the next month, and that would be a complete movie in and of itself. But it builds to the climax when Ender kills Bonzo and wins another stacked battle, then graduates with an assignment directly to Command School.

The third movie opens on Earth, as Graff drives Val to the secluded rural house where Ender is recuperating from the trauma of Battle School. The dialog betwen Graff and Val explains the situation. Visuals of woods and fields in sunlight provide the background, with a young girl and an old man representing Humanity's debate over how far they'll go to save themselves. The action begins with Val's successful persuasion, Ender leaves Earth again for Command school. Again we follow the events of the book closely, the revelation of Mazer and his victory, the battles and Ender's nightmares. But we end the movie with Ender and Val, on the skin of a nearly complete starship far from Earth. There they have the conversation where Val reveals that Ender is never going home, because he's a danger to humanity. That is her judgement of him, but it is also her judgement that if Ender can't go back, then she'll go with him.

The narrative sections of the book, split up thus, are still part of a unified narrative. But each movie is different in theme and tone (as well as featuring Ender at different ages). The first movie isn't as overtly violent. Even the fight with Stilson, though we eventually (meaning not in this movie) find out that it was fatal, is a fight between little kids. The background conflict with the aliens is left in the background, Peter is a bully, if rather more frightening than most. Ender is homesick, looking for a place where he can fit in.

In the second movie, the intensity of the battles far outpaces anything in the first, and the violence is more overt and serious, culminating in a brutal fight in a shower. It's also when we find out (in the end) that Stilson died too, and the adults have been hiding that from Ender. The pacing is dramatically more focused, a few weeks of training leading up to intense battles that begin to happen twice a day, with a final battle against insurmountable odds (interestingly enough, the battle in which Ender gains respect not only as a genius but a soldier is also against insurmountable odds, when Rose de Nose throws him Ender alone against the enemy army). It happens in the context of his recent fight for his life against a murderous foe backed by a gang. The ending is much darker (traditional for the second installment in a trilogy), but it is still a clear ending. Ender has passed through the crucible of Battle School.

The third movie sees another jump in content and theme. We're no longer talking about the struggle of a child for acceptance or the battle of a soldier to meet his potential, we're talking about humanity's struggle for survival as a species. And Ender begins to study the real battles of the first and second invasions without any editing (of course, even the edited versions are too horrific to be shown in the second movie). We're talking really R rated material, visuals of fleets and command centers being torn apart in battle, IF marines blasting their way into alien installations, taking terrible casualties. The alien's initial attempt to establish a ground base in China, with hundreds of millions of casualties. The initial contact, with it's grimly precise and insectile destruction of a human crew. And Ender's own descent towards insanity. Not a kid's movie at all. In the end, a poignant betrayal motivated by love. Ender isn't going home. The final solution he employs was not just a gambit in a simulation, it was the total extinction of an entire race. As cleanly as the MD Device renders the destruction of individual ships and even entire fleets, its boiling extinction of an entire populated planet is a raw image of terrible magnitude.

Perhaps it would be better to end with the discovery of the Hive Queen and Ender's dedication to the cause of undoing the Xenocide. But I think that Ender's travels, beginning with his first voyage from Earth, all belong to a different schema from Command School. If the movies were to keep going, a movie about Ender's travels would be more cohesive if it starts with his first journey.

Anyway, what do you think? Am I just stretching my hand out to steady the Ark?


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Robert Nowall
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They're making a movie of it? Awesome!

I think we'd all be lucky if a brief slice of all of it gets made...and if any of what's in them survives onto film. (No, I haven't read them---didn't care much for the original first part. But I could be wrong about it.)


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ChrisOwens
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I don't know. I couldn't see that working between three movies.
The arc of the book ends in the right place, anything else would feel artifical to me. And your forgetting too, the movie evidently will merge much of Ender's Shadow into it--you didn't even mention Bean.

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Pyre Dynasty
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Forget hollywood, lets go film them ourselves. That's a beautifull outline (although it could use a spoiler alert) and that would be an ideal situation. I wonder where Bean would fit into this, I think he should be an important part of this.
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wetwilly
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I definitely wouldn't mind seeing the trilogy. It would probably be harder to sell a whole trilogy to Hollywood than a single movie, but I do like the trilogy idea. It would also allow plenty of room for the "Ender's Shadow" parts.
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Ray
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The idea isn't bad, but it would never go through. What you're focused on is including all the content that the book has, and frankly, I've rarely been impressed with movies that do that. The only feasible way to include all the content without losing the spirit of the story, is by doing a television miniseries, and that would be a whole new animal to tackle.

The other hurdle is the Buggers. They aren't going to be active antagonists at all in the first two installations. Sure, they're the reason that the kids are going to Battle School, but they're not affecting any of the events inside the place.

Think of other trilogies or series, like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Matrix, and the original Star Wars trilogy. In LOTR, Sauron is always an active presence in their affairs, even though he's not doing the fighting himself. He's the one that sends his minions after the fellowship, brought Saruman to his side, and engineered the attack on Gondor. Every adventure Harry Potter is in, Voldemort was the one pulling the strings, or at least his minions were. The Matrix films always have two dominant antagonists--Smith and the machines--who are constantly attacking the free humans. And Darth Vader is always the focus in every conflict as far as Star Wars goes.

In your proposal, though, the Buggers aren't forcing any events until the last movie. Ender isn't gaining acceptance in Battle School because of what the Buggers do. The Buggers aren't forcing Bonzo to hate Ender. And if they do take a role in those things, well, the plan for keeping all the content falls apart anyways.

The first two installments would have great drama, but there's going to be one persistent question asked by those who haven't read the book: Why is any of this happening?

Beyond that, three Ender's Game movies limits the opportunities of getting any of the sequels filmed. People are going to ask, Aren't there enough Ender shows? And since all those have the same filming problems that Ender's Game has, if they try the same tactic, that'll be too many movies. All but the diehard fans will be oversaturated with the series.


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Survivor
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Well, I'm not sure that the Buggers are supposed to be active antagonists. After all, Ender only learns that he has been actually fighting the Buggers after destroying their planet, and he feels betrayed by Mazer. Mazer (along with all Ender's other teachers) is the active antagonist. It might be a more palatable sell to Hollywood, making the Formics (as we now call them) the active antagonists. But I think at least part of Card's allergic reaction to the term "antagonist" is because he doesn't like such a narrow formula. The question that we're encouraged to ask at the end of the book is "why did any of this have to happen?" All along we thought we knew the answer, but in the end it turns out we were wrong.

The content problem is more a matter of what can be cut. Ender's Game is very sparse in it's descriptive elements. The book covers six years of Ender's life along with the world-shaping schemes of Val and Peter. It introduces an interstellar conflict fought with relativistic ships, the first battles taking place over a hundred years in the past.

Many books have pages devoted to describing things that can easily be summed up with a single visual shot taking a few seconds of screen time. Ender's Game doesn't have that kind of easily reduced description in any quantity. Most books also have a lot of filler scenes which can easily be cut (though of course some fans will cry over it). Where are you going to cut scenes from Ender's Game and not lose something vital to the narrative?

I think that the project is doable as a single movie, if they begin the movie after Battle School and cut all the Ender's Shadow threads. The question of how to handle Ender's relationship with his lieutenants is still a tricky issue, but you'll have a coherent narrative arc.

As for saturation...I don't buy into that idea. If the movies are good, people will want more of them. If there's only one and it sucks, people won't want another. The only way market saturation can occur is if you keep trying to film the same movie, that's why it takes at a generation between remakes. But there is no saturation point for sequels, unless the sequels are crappy. In truth, most times a strong movie series will do far better than a strong single movie, because you avoid saturation. You can only watch a single movie so many times before you feel like you've seen it.

Going in the opposite direction, I don't think that doing a single movie will somehow be easier because we'll be adding the [/i]Ender's Shadow[/i] content. Sure, we're only talking about adding a few actual scenes and extending the amount of coverage of a particular character. But nothing about adding Bean into the mix makes it easier to film the story as a single movie.


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pooka
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It sounds like a good idea to me, though I am conflicted over what I would like to see done with the Ender's Shadow material. I think the teachers are kind of the Villains of EG, where ES has Achilles.

I'm trying to imagine reading EG after ES, as I've heard some people have. That would be so weird, especially with Bean making the roster. I just don't see the ending of ES working with EG.


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Ray
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Without the Formics present, though, Battle School lacks purpose. You could go around and make the teachers the manipulators through the whole thing, and we'll understand the reasons why. But who wants to watch two movies where one kid gets manipulated for no apparent cause at the end of either film? The reasons won't make sense until the last movie when the big surprise shows, but I don't think audiences will be patient enough to make it to that point. There needs to be something more.

On the other hand, this trilogy idea works even better for combining Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow than a single movie does. The first movie would be about Ender and gaining his new home. The second would then start with Bean and his entering into Battle School, which is about the time when Ender becomes a Battle School legend. A lot of their storylines intersect at that point, so there won't be a problem with differing POV's. It's also a good place to show the demise of both Bonzo and Achilles. The last would have everything you suggested.

Personally, though, for doing it all in one movie, I think they're making correct changes, like truncating the timeframe from six years to two, and making it clear to the audience that Ender is really battling the Buggers, even if he doesn't know it. After all, the fans already know how the story goes, so it's not like the ending is a surprise at all.


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pooka
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The mystery of the artificial intelligence manipulating the game could be played up, I think. Ender has a lot of nightmares about the buggers, when does that start?

I'm not sure which movie this should be a focus in. I have never gotten a definitive answer that Bean's father designed the game, but that would be interesting in the second game.


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sojoyful
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The Buggers are never the antagonists. They are the McGuffin. So they *must* be there from beginning to end (at least by mention), because they are the reason the adults have recruited Ender in the first place.

[This message has been edited by sojoyful (edited August 30, 2006).]


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pooka
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"Buggers MacGuffin" That has a nice ring to it.
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Survivor
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The Buggers are present from that first conversation between Graff and Anderson. But part of the point of the entire book (and the scene between Peter and Ender drives this point home), the Buggers aren't Ender's real enemy. Fear of the Buggers is the motive of those who manipulate Ender.

Having Bean be the focus at the beginning of the second movie is an interesting idea. Since Bean assigns himself to Ender's army right out of his launch, and he's spent the entire time in Battle School prior to that obsessing over Ender, it could be a good way to go. If you titled the first movie Ender's Game, you could go with Ender's Shadow for the name of the second movie and Ender's War for the last.

Ender's nightmares start in Command School, after his first (actual) battle against the Buggers


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franc li
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I was watching the feature on the LOtR:FOtR script yesterday, and how Miramax tried to get them to do one film, and they felt they needed two, but then New Line asked them to make it three.

But I think it might be good to call the last film something other than Ender's War since the ending sort of counts on the game illusion. Of course, there's about 1,000 posts, many with multiple suggestions, for an Ender title over at the OSC discussion board.


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Ray
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Actually, Ender's War is a good title for the last installment. Surprise endings only work once. The fans who'd be watching this film already know how it ends, and the rest already assume that Ender is going to go against the Buggers eventually. Besides, if in the third film, both Ender and Bean are central characters, Bean already knows ahead of time that it's all real. Instead of a surprise ending, you'll get an emotionally churning one, and we get to see Ender conquer them unknowingly, while the audience knows the game.

My initial problem with the trilogy wasn't with the second and third, it was the first. Having Ender find his new family in Battle School isn't bad, but there's no "wow" factor in it. The teacher manipulation isn't painstakingly obvious there. This is why I think the Mind Game should have a central focus in the first installment. It's set up by the teachers to gauge the students' mentality, and once Ender beats the game, it's a visual image that he's finally at peace. That, I think, makes a better climax than his being accepted into Dink's crew. That feels more like denouement to me.


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Survivor
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Maybe. But that happens later, chronologically speaking. And in the book it serves as a prelude to the next phase of his training, rather than a closure.
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franc li
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It would also have the first movie ending with Valentine writing to him, the second movie ending with him going to see Valentine, and the third movie ending with Valentine joining him to go off to the colonies. Would that be bad or good?
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Ray
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This is the cool thing about adaptations: the story is adapted, not retold. If you want to retell a story on film, you make a mini-series.

My reasons for suggesting having the Mind Game be the focus in the first installment is that very little happens in that time other than small games to be accepted. That, and a difference in tone between the first two installments. The first is about Ender's internal battles. The second is about his external conflicts, and if you add Bean, you add his external conflicts too. The second one, the heroes are up against Bonzo and Achilles. The climactic conflicts become a matter of life-and-death. The Mind Game doesn't fit in that kind of action, at least where Ender is concerned.

Besides, if you're calling the first one Ender's Game, you might as well have a game be the focus of it.

[This message has been edited by Ray (edited September 19, 2006).]


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sojoyful
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How the Mind Game is dealt with will directly affect the last scene where Ender finds the Hive Queen. If those two things are split up across movies, this will become an issue.

[This message has been edited by sojoyful (edited September 19, 2006).]


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Ray
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Not really. All you'd have to do is revert to a flashback of some of the landscapes from the first installment, and compare them to what Ender is seeing now. People who've been watching the whole trilogy aren't going to miss anything. Take Lord of the Rings, for example. Boromir's horn gets split in the first film and doesn't show up again until the third, but no continuity is lost, because they show a brief clip for those who may have forgotten--I'm referring to the original, theatrical versions, of course.

And I'm not saying eliminate the Mind Game from the second installment. There's still the moment where Bean plays it, and that episode fits well with his life-and-death struggle. The Mind Game doesn't disappear, it just gains new meaning with each new film. First, it helps Ender battle his demons, then it makes Bean face his, and then Ender realizes that it's a springboard for his new life quest.


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dreadlord
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what if you were to end "Enders War" (for now) with Enders conversation with Peter?

Anyway, how are you going to put in Beans involvement on Earth? put them on the Condor for one scene? I like the idea of the Mind Game being the antagonist, since later on (spoiler!) it helps deal with Enders pension.
maybe you could have a little "other series" where it describes what happens on earth AFTER the bugger/formic war is over? that was very important to me.


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franc li
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Well, it's interesting that the mind game existed before the Queens created the bridge to Ender that became Jane. The reason the mind game was of use is that it created a united story for a large number of people (every child who had been in battle school since... when?) There is a quote somewhere in the series about humans being lonely creatures who could not dream one another's dreams. But with the mind game is as close as they could come to that.

On my last re-read of Ender's Shadow, sadly, I realized there was not any hint of Bean's father writing the mind game, since he programmed software for the... um, something other than the IF. But it is an interesting question, how old is the mind game? I'll put it to the geeks in disc OSC.


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