All in all, I’m actually quite surprised with how well the adaption of the Ender’s Game novel to the big screen went. There were changes made – but for the most part, they really did make sense. A fairly significant amount of material was dropped, but for the most part it wasn’t really story-critical and mostly served to reduce the amount of character development given to side characters.
(Note that if you haven’t read the novels or seen the movie, the following will contain spoilers; but honestly, who hasn’t read Ender’s Game by now?)
There was one particular thing that caught my attention, however. It in no way detracts from the story told in the movie; it’s something that only makes a difference when you consider the other books in the series – in particular, Speaker for the Dead and the following novels in that storyline.
First of all, you have to remember that the portion of the story where Ender finds the egg of the last Formic queen was tacked on to the end of the novel; it wasn’t really part of the main story. In the novel, it primarily served as a hook to allow expanding the series. In the movie, it’s used to provide a way to redeem Ender’s character.
In the novel version, Ender finds the egg of the Formic queen when exploring a world that Humans had taken from the Formics, and were intending to colonize. This much is the same between both, but in order to reduce the number of settings in the movie, this world and the location of the “Command School” are merged. In the movie, they call it a forward base on a planet relatively close to the Formic homeworld, with a line in the movie stating that it reduces ansible communication delays with the attacking Human fleet. In the original novel, the “Command School” base is located on a planetoid in our own solar system.
There are two key problems here.
- Ansible communications inherently have no delay. Ever. Irrespective of the distance.
- Sending Ender to this forward base in time to command the attacking fleet implies having faster-than-light travel.
Neither of these problems actually cause any issues in the movie itself, thanks to other simplifications made elsewhere in the plot. The only place where these would cause issues is if they decide to continue the story from the other novels as a series of movies.
The lack of faster-than-light methods of transportation is actually a key plot point starting in the Speaker for the Dead novel, where Ender (who goes by Andrew at this point, to stay incognito) has traveled vast numbers of planets looking for a place to establish a new Formic colony. He has to do this on ships that can travel close to – but not over – light speed, and as a result of the effects of relativity, he is hundreds of years into the future, while having aged at a much slower rate. (This method was also used to preserve Mazer Rackham following the first Formic war, so he would be around to train Ender later).
To be honest, I doubt that any of the other novels in the series will be made into movies any time soon; and if they are, they’re certainly not going to be promotable as the sort of blockbuster smash that Ender’s Game appears to be going for. So in the end, it probably doesn’t matter. But this stood out to me as the one change made to the story that actually does have a real effect, if only elsewhere.