How do you turn a fictional masterpiece into a movie that both fans will rave about and those who have never heard of the book will enjoy? There may not be an answer to that question that works in every situation. For this movie adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s award-winning novel, which was originally published in 1977 as a novella and expanded in 1985, the answer was to condense the story into a much shorter period of time.

Fans may be disappointed that they cannot watch the main character grow into his role, but newcomers to the story are going to be able to connect with a character that is the correct age to portray the gist of the story. In the novel, Ender begins at age 6 and is only a mere 11 almost 12 when the climax of the story takes place. That’s a lot of time to cover in a movie and requires a lot of actors to cover the age jumps. The producers of the movie chose to condense the main events into a period of time comprising months rather than years. It may be a shock to the fans of the novel, but somehow they made it work.

Ender’s Game is a complex story, even more complex if you discuss the full story told in the novel, but there are some terrific themes encompassed in both media versions from bullying and group psychology to the price of both victory and defeat and the justification for war.

Ender’s Game does contain violence, both in the forms of grand battles and one-on-one fights which lead to brutal outcomes. Sensitive children would be advised to avoid this movie, but the relatively clean content, general themes, and the main events of the movie could lead to good family discussions. For a more in-depth review from a family appropriateness point of view, please read the review at

While Ender’s Game has been billed as a young adult movie, the novel has reached a couple generations of readers over 30 years of circulation, and the story is complex enough to not be all that appealing to a younger audience. Don’t be fooled by the young cast. This is not a teen flick. The acting and direction were superb, and any movie containing a performance by Harrison Ford is worth seeing. Asa Butterfield did a remarkable job portraying the genius tempered by conscience who is Andrew (Ender) Wiggin.

The soundtrack, composed by Steve Jablonsky, is both eerie and meditative, pacing the movie a bit slower than the action sequences would suggest.

One fascinating aspect about the age of the novel is that Orson Scott Card seems to have predicted laser tag, tablet computers (electronic desks), and the internet as a political forum (before there was an internet).  Even though it is over 20 years old, the novel Ender’s Game still feels fresh and relevant.

***Spoilers beyond this point***

The novel, and by adaptation the movie, has a complex ending with a bit of a surprise element. If you have not read the book or seen the movie, I strongly encourage you to stop here and go no further until you have seen or read the ending for yourself. This is one ending I have no desire to spoil for anyone.

Avoiding distractions

Ender is removed from his family to go to battle school (voluntarily). He gets no letters from home and no communication with anyone he loves. The teachers at the battle school even manage to isolate him from the other children by setting him up as a rival. In the movie, they introduce a bit of a romantic element between Ender and Petra that does not exist in the book. I understand why they did it, but it doesn’t seem appropriate to me.

This isolation so that Ender can concentrate on becoming who he is destined to be reminds me of the admonition of Jesus to his followers:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26-27

Paul also encourages Christians not to marry as then many of their efforts are thus rightfully diverted to their spouses and families instead of God (1 Corinthians 7:1-9).

Love your enemies

In Ender’s Game (both the movie and the book), there are a couple instances where Ender faces down a bully and has to fight for his own survival. While I don’t condone allowing yourself to be a victim, at the same time, I must point out how Jesus commanded us to handle such situations:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

‘You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:39-44)

Ender also “loves his enemies” in a very interesting way. When speaking of his strange gift for completely destroying his enemies, he tells Valentine:

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him enough to defeat him, then in that very moment, I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.” (p. 238)

“The way we win matters”

The shocking end of Ender’s Game is the revelation that while the teens thought they were playing simulations of battles with a man programming the enemy, freeing them to make choices that they would not make with real troops, they were actually fighting a real war with real ships crewed by real men with an actual enemy that was fighting for survival. Ender is shocked to discover that not only had he killed real men when he abandoned his carriers and dreadnaughts to concentrate on his objectives, but that he had committed genocide and wiped out the Formics at their own home world. Appalled at the cost in real life, Ender replies to Graff’s insistence that only their victory mattered, that “the way we win matters.”

This raises the question, does the end really justify the means?  Ender thinks not. Thankfully, Orson Scott Card wrote in a release for Ender’s guilt. The Formic queens saw him coming and saw their fate and prepared for their death by leaving a cocooned queen with all the genetic material to reseed their race for Ender to find. They knew that Ender was the only human who loved them enough to bring them back after their destruction.

What are your thoughts about the appropriateness of Christians going to war? Do the ends justify the means? The Israelites fought many battles at God’s command, destroying cities and nations, killing men, women, and children. God is holy and just, and his judgment is terrible, but this is the Old Testament. How does this pertain to the Christian’s walk with the Lord.  Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

OSC and the LGBT boycott

Orson Scott Card is a Mormon, which means that he has taken some conservative views in public forums that have gotten him in trouble with the LGBT community. Because of his pubic stand on homosexuality, some of the LGBT community have called for a boycott against the movie.

Contrary to the assertions of the LGBT community, the Christian stand against homosexuality is not one of fear or hate. We simply stand on the Word of God, which firmly places such lifestyles in the category of sexual sin. We neither hate or fear those lost in sin, but rather wish, hope, pray that those enslaved to such sin would find the grace and mercy of God through repentance and the blood of Christ Jesus. There, but for the grace of God, goes each and every one of us, for we are all sinners (Romans 3:23). We all struggle with some sinful desire that keeps us from perfect communion with God (Hebrews 12:1). We wish no one harm, nor do we have the hope or the power to damn anyone to an eternity in Hell (that’s in God’s hand and between each sinner and Him). Rather, we love as God has loved the world (John 3:16), and love does not mean unconditional acceptance of sin, but rather a sincere desire to see those lost to that sin washed clean, sanctified, and justified in Christ.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Did you see that?

In season 6, episode 5 of Castle, there is a conversation between Richard Castle and his daughter about her moving in with her boyfriend. Castle is opposed but has no moral ground to stand on when trying to convince her.

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

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What did you think of Ender's Game? We would like to know, even if just your reactions to the trailer or the topics we shared in this episode. Or what general critical-thinking and entertainment thoughts or questions do you have? Would you like to suggest a movie or TV show for us to give a Christian movie review with critical thinking?

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About the Author
I’m an avid reader and movie lover. There’s not much I like better than reading a book and then seeing the movie version, or watching a movie and then reading the novelization. I have a degree in English literature, which means that at some point in my life I actually received grades for discussing and writing essays about literature. Can’t get much better than that, right? Well, it can. Who needs to pull apart the deep inner workings of dusty old classics when there’s such wonderful fodder in the mass media that people watch (and read) everyday? Above all, I believe that I can’t do much better in this life than in pointing my friends toward a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Everything makes perfect sense when viewed from a Christian worldview. Even when the intent of the writer was something entirely different, everything can point to our Creator God. He is the foundation for every logical thought, the judge of all evil, and the author of all beauty.

3 comments on Ender’s Game (2013) – AYJW039

  1. Gabe says:

    Amen brother, may God Bless you for your hard work, for He sees what no one else does =)

  2. Jim says:

    My introduction to Orson Scott Card was the book “The Lost Boys” which had a lot of Mormon apologetic material, so I never had any desire to read anything else including Ender’s Game. When the movie came out I read that there was no discernible Mormon theology in either the movie or the book, so I knew I could watch it without annoyance and I actually really enjoyed it and was glad to have seen it. I’m glad you brought up the controversy over OSC’s views on traditional marriage. I haven’t heard other Christian/pop-culture podcasts address it. It’s unfortunate that we Christians who hold to a Biblical world view often allow Mormons to carry the torch for traditional morality while hanging back in ambiguous silence, and I do wish there were a lot more talented, imaginative evangelicals bringing reliable theology and coherent spirituality to bear on the realm of speculative fiction.

    1. Eve says:

      Thanks for your comments, Jim. I’ve read “The Lost Boys” as well and have recommended it to people as a good way to get a taste for what Mormonism is like. I’ve also read the short story that it was based on. OSC is a very good author, but I tend to avoid his fantasy because it does get a bit “preachy,” but I LOVE his science fiction. I’ve been reading it for years. He’s about the only mainstream sci fi writer that has any respect at all for those of faith. Putting aside the things I disagree with him about when reading his books is a lot easier then with books by Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke.

      I think Mormons enjoy being “misunderstood” which is why certain brave souls in their ranks are more than willing to publicly take unpopular social and political stands. I agree with you that Christians need to be less worried about what people think or say about them and more willing to take public stands with the proper humility and love. 1 Peter 3:15.

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