Ender's Game

I won’t go into full-on Ender’s Game spoilers here above the fold, but many have wondered whether or not the film would earn a sequel, and if so how the story would work out. See, the film Ender’s Game retains the basic ending of the original novel by Orson Scott Card, and that leads into a more complex and stranger sequel called Speaker for the Dead.

Trouble is, that novel takes place many years after Ender’s Game. The actors from this season’s film wouldn’t be able to make the jump without extensive reworking of the story.

But Card is penning another story, called Fleet School, which is planned as the first of a set of new books that will act as direct chronological sequels to Ender’s Game. Given the way things work, we’re more likely to see an adaptation of Fleet School than of Speaker for the Dead. More info follows. 

OK, spoiler time. Ender’s Game concludes with Ender Wiggin unwittingly committing near-total genocide against the alien “Buggers,” who once attacked Earth in search of water. He dedicates himself to helping the few surviving aliens find a new home planet after his attack on their native world. Speaker for the Dead picks up thousands of years later, with the particulars of space travel allowing us to catch up with Ender at 35 after he has fled his home, and his reputation as a warrior.

Speaker for the Dead is not a book full of action; it is political, philosophical, and interested in science — it’s hard core sci-fi. Not the best sort of movie sequel material. (The true series of Ender’s sequels is a bit more complicated, with books such as Ender in Exile filling in details between Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead.)

But Card has now formally announced new YA books that will follow the immediate timeline of Ender’s Game, only (thanks to the plotting of Speaker for the Dead) without Ender. Card says of the first book,

It’s about what happens to Battle School after the International Fleet loses its purpose of war. A “fleet school” will form and prepare kids to be “commanders [and] explorers in the colonies that are going to be forming.

So that first book, Fleet School, is likely to be the film sequel, should such a thing come to pass.  Speaking to Hero Complex, Ender’s Game director Gavin Hood said,

It’s a great question, but I think it’s such a difficult one to answer, because the sequel “Speaker for the Dead” takes place 30 years after, so we’re in an interesting place. I think we have to hope that audiences respond to the film… And Orson is apparently writing something that’s more of a direct follow called ["Fleet School"]. Obviously, from the studio’s point of view, they’d almost certainly want to move the characters from this film into the next journey. So it may be that “Speaker for the Dead” is not the sequel now.

But to be perfectly honest, I don’t think we can count our sequels before they hatch. We’ve got a complicated film here. I hope that it does two things. I hope that it gives the audiences the visual excitement that they want from a big movie, but it does have the challenge of asking questions that films of this kind don’t usually ask. And we’ll have to see whether audiences embrace that. Most big popcorn movies are bad guy does something to good guy, good guy gets revenge on bad guy, sets the world right and moves on. And “Ender’s Game” is just not that simple, so it’s an exciting challenge. It’s a little terrifying, and let’s see how audiences respond. I hope they respond well so we can keep doing films that are not just goodies versus baddies.

Making a film based on a new book from Card could come with its own problems. The author has come under heavy fire for his anti-gay comments, and a boycott of the film was launched. That’s despite the fact that, thanks to a deal Card signed years ago, the author is not in a position to make money directly from this first movie. But a film based on a new novel? Different story. And while one might believe that some of Card’s older novels are products of an author who hadn’t fully landed on his current beliefs, a new novel won’t have the same benefit of the doubt.

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