“Ender’s Game,” And The Only Controversy That Matters.


Ender’s Game, the new sci-fi extravaganza that opens today in area theaters, comes pre-loaded with big stars (Harrison Ford! Ben Kingsley!), solid actors (Viola Davis! Asa Butterfield, a.k.a. the kid from Hugo!), and a pedigree of crowd-pleasing success (a source novel that’s been a best-seller for almost 30 years). It also, however, comes with more than a smidge of controversy … which, sadly, is all anyone seems to want to talk about.

As New York magazine helpfully breaks down hereEnder’s Game — the story of a futuristic Earth whose militaristic society must rely on a super-talented warrior child (Butterfield) to lead our armies against an alien armada — is based on a book by Orson Scott Card, who has in the past used his celebrity to espouse some strident views about homosexuality. A devout Mormon, he thinks it’s a sin, and that efforts to make it illegal are a good thing. In these days of pro-gay-marriage laws sweeping from state to state, that’s an opinion guaranteed to ruffle some feathers. Despite the fact that Card has dialed back his rhetoric in recent years — I’ll leave it to other people to diagnose whether that’s due to a naturally evolving opinion or simply an attempt to salvage book sales — plenty of equally passionate pro-gay-marriage folks would happily see Card shipped off to a galaxy far, far away.

That’s all well and good: opinions, as they say, are like spleens — everybody’s got one. (Or is that some other body part? I always get that wrong.) Personally, I think Card’s views are prehistoric and should be treated as such. But on opening day of a movie based on his most popular book — a book that, while I haven’t read it, to my knowledge offers no viewpoints on the issue of homosexuality — I kind of wish we could focus on what’s important, such as: how’s Harrison Ford’s hair in the film? And does he wear that silly earring of his in this one?

Whether we’re talking about Card or Mel Gibson, or Woody Allen, or Roman Polanski, my feelings are always the same: the art should be judged on its own merits, not on the basis of how much we like the artist. When a controversial creator is stupid enough to turn one of his projects into a polemic for an inflammatory personal cause, that’s different. But I’m much more interested in whether Ender’s Game is any good than in whether I’d want to have dinner with the guy who wrote Ender’s Game.

Lionsgate didn’t screen the movie in advance for critics in our region, so I can’t say yet whether the film (directed by Gavin Hood, incidentally — Card didn’t even write the screenplay) is worth watching. I’ll find out, and let you know. But if you choose to watch it yourself, try to put aside thoughts of the homophobic goon who wrote the original text back in the ’80s. There are more urgent factors to consider here. Like, the earring.