At noon today, after fans had been chewing on several rather mundane photos of Battle School from Summit for a while now, Yahoo! Movies released the first ever Ender’s Game movie poster. The poster can also be found at the official Ender’s Game Tumblr. What the poster brings that the previous photos didn’t is our first look at the Battle Room. Now, if you haven’t read the book, the Battle Room was written as a large, closed, cubic room with zero gravity in which the students at Battle School played a tactically challenging game very similar to laser
tag. Except, you know, while floating around. The writers evidently thought that was too mundane, making the room spherical and transparent. Even though I feel some remorse over losing another aspect of the book, the final product looks pretty awesome. But if they screw up any scenes within the Room itself, no amount of movie magic can save them from the wrath of the rabid fans.
In the poster you can see some metallic-looking blocks within the room itself. Those obstacles are called “stars,” and have the unique ability to stay anchored in place despite the lack of Gs.
Orson Scott Card never explained that one. These are pretty much exactly as the book described them, minus the Tron-ish light borders.
Next we come to the flash suit that Ender is wearing in the poster. (I’m assuming it’s Ender. It could be Fly Molo. Or Hot Soup. Or Crazy Tom. Anyone from Dragon Army – there’s a dragon insignia on the helmet. But it is called Ender’s Game.) According to the producers at the Ender’s Game Tumblr…
“Christine [the costume designer] built the flash suits from virtually non-existent fabrics designed by our incredible production team. The idea was to take cues from “extreme sports” to inspire our design, using real world practicality as opposed to the heightened reality of superhero spandex and a cape.”
Like the layout of the Battle Room, the actual design of a flash suit is subject to controversy. Their appearance is never described in much detail – as per Card’s style – but we do know that they are made of a stiff material that hampers
movement. The material “freezes” when shot by flash pistols – the weapons that all kids in the Battle Room carry – so that those who are shot cannot move the limb that was hit. I’m not sure how, in the movie, they’ll be able to show the suits stiffening (please, Gavin Hood, please don’t make them puff up like marshmallows), but the suit in its non-shot state looks pretty sleek and not very movement-hampering at all. Plus they have those ridiculous-looking shoulder pads. These, however, are changes I can live with.
One change that may drastically affect the movie is the age of the actors: in the book, Ender is six years old when he enters Battle School. Despite his age, he speaks and acts like an adult. This gap between his outward appearance and the workings of his mind accentuates his intelligence. Asa Butterfield, however, is fifteen years old. I understand the sentiment behind this decision: ratchet up the age of every kid in order to appeal to older audiences. Also, it’s tough for a six-year-old to act smarter than he/she is, whereas a fifteen-year-old can accomplish this with more ease. I’m just worried that Ender won’t seem like such a prodigy because he will appear older. However, if Butterfield can pull it off, and if the script wasn’t written by someone trying to affect a child’s voice, there might not be a problem.
According to Orson Scott Card’s blog, the majority of the zero-G scenes were shot with actors wearing “a mechanism used for training gymnasts – a wheel they wear around their waists that allows them to rotate in space while
suspended from wires…which allows a great deal of apparent freedom of movement in space.” However, the look of movements in zero gravity is different from that of those on Earth (what with inertia dictating your movements instead of the pull of gravity). So, in order to give the actors the feeling of moving around in null-gee, they were sent to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama for a week. According to the Ender’s Game Tumblr, they tried out, among other things, the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU), which, Wikipedia tells us, is “an astronaut propulsion unit which was used by NASA on three Space Shuttle missions in 1984. The MMU allowed the astronauts to perform untethered EVA [extra-vehicular activity] spacewalks at a distance from the shuttle.” MMUs are not in use anymore, as NASA deemed them unsafe and risky. The actors also did some exploration of the “microgravity training chair,” which helped them get more of a sense of what weightlessness feels like.
So, to sum up: we have several departures from the book (how could there not be?) and some very prepared actors. Let’s hope that Gavin Hood can pull the whole thing together so that the big reveal on November 1st satisfies fans and appeals to non-fans alike.