Orson Scott Card’s classic sci-fi novel Ender’s Game has languished for years in cinema development hell, but this week, news broke that Summit Entertainment had acquired the rights to it and was finally starting the ball rolling on a live-action feature film adaption. The novel will be adapted by Gavin Hood, who brought us X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Card himself will be one of the film’s producers.
It’s interesting to me that after all these years, now is the time that it’s finally starting to get off the ground, mostly because I can’t help but wonder if The Hunger Games has something to do with it. Ender’s Game isn’t strictly a YA novel, but like The Hunger Games, it features kids and teenagers thrown into situations that kids and teenagers should never have to live through. However, the big difference here is what “kids and teenagers” means. In The Hunger Games, the main characters are sixteen and seventeen and the younger ones are no younger than twelve. In Ender’s Game, however, when I say kids, I mean kids: It’s been a while since I’ve read it, but I recall Ender being roughly six. There’s a big difference between six and twelve. This, then, begs the question of whether or not to age them up for the movie. The Mary Sue points out that with Card on board as a producer, he’ll likely stick to his guns on keeping the kids the ages that they are, but logistically speaking, that’s going to be a NIGHTMARE when it comes to actually making the film. Remember that old W. C. Fields saying about never working with children or animals? There’s a reason for that. Beyond the trials and tribulations of wrangling that many small children on set, bear in mind that they all have to be able to, um, act too. And let’s face it: It’s rare to find kids that young who can handle this sort of material.
I understand not wanting to age characters up. I do. It’s important for the impact of the story that they be the ages that they are. But I’m a firm believer that when you adapt a story from one medium to another– in this case, from novel to film– you do have to ADAPT. Make the changes you have to, as long as the choices are always made in the name of suiting the story to the new medium. Take A Game of Thrones, for instance: In the novels, Robb Stark is about fifteen, Bran Stark is seven, Daenerys Targaryen is fourteen… the list goes on. In HBO’s series, however, Robb looks to be in his late teens or early twenties, Bran is now ten, Daenerys is in her late teens or early twenties, and so on down the line. And you know what? I don’t have a problem with it. I’m a die-hard fan of the books, but the fact that everyone’s a little older isn’t bothering me at all. The story still plays.
Card is a notorious eccentric and control freak, so it’s entirely possible– likely, even– that Ender and the gang will remain the ages that they are in his novel. It’s also entirely possible that if they DO stay so young, it will inadvertently sabotage the film. And it’s also entirely possible that I will eat my words: Either they’ll get the okay to age the kids up, or they’ll keep them the ages that they are and it’ll work just fine, or whatever. In any event, I’ll be interested to see what happens as this moves forward.
What do you think, Gentle Readers? How do you predict it will play out?