Ender’s Game: Rooting for a Psychopath? (Spoiler Alert)
I had multiple issues with Ender’s Game, but I’m going to talk about just one: the twist. It makes little sense that Ender, having been presented as super smart and distrustful of Harrison Ford throughout the movie, does not suspect something’s up when he and his squad destroy the planet in what they think is nothing more than a simulation exercise for graduation.
This weakness could have been resolved if Harrison Ford said something like this in reply to Ender’s, “You tricked me.” “That’s bullshit, Wiggin, and you know it. You’re too smart not to have suspected the truth. We needed someone who would go all the way, and only a psychopath could go all the way. We chose you because you repeatedly showed signs of being a psychopath. That’s what we wanted, and that’s what you gave us. Deep down inside, you knew that. You wanted to destroy the planet. You wanted permission to kill a species. And that’s what you did. So don’t give me that bullshit about being tricked.”
Of course, I doubt the filmmakers intended us to see Ender as a psychopath, but it’s unavoidable and if that’s the impression, then the best thing is to embrace it. Perhaps the main problem is the setup. An alien invasion sets everything in motion, but we never see any real fighting or real aliens until the end. The would be second invasion functions more as a MacGuffin, but it’s a MacGuffin gone wrong because what happens to the aliens cannot be avoided. I get the impression that the story could have been better told had something with lower stakes than an alien invasion and the fate of the entire planet been chosen because the story that ends up being told would seem to be best setup with preliminaries closer to Starship Trooper (that is, a story about fighting aliens mano a mano, up close and personal) than a story about kids in a military academy.