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Ender's Hunger Games

By Bert Ehrmann

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Fort Wayne Reader

2013-10-31


Over the last decade young-adult books turned to movies have become one of the most popular franchises at the cineplex. The Harry Potter and Twilight films have both earned something like a staggering 3.5 billion + at the box office alone, so it's not much of a surprise that others have jumped onto the YA book turned movie bandwagon.

Unfortunately, most of these newer movies, other than The Hunger Games out last year, haven't been nearly as successful. In fact, all three of the YA movies out earlier this year — The Host, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters — were all critical and financial flops at the box office.

So, surely the producers of the remaining two YA movies left to be released this year have to be a little worried about the prospects for their movies? Especially since these two movies are scheduled to be released less than a month from each other.

The one movie I have the most concern about at the box office this fall is Ender's Game, out now. To be honest, Ender's Game isn't technically a YA book. It was originally a sci-fi short story turned novel not originally meant for kids. However, the Ender's Game movie has all the hallmarks of a YA book to movie.

In Ender's Game, sometime in the past an alien species dubbed the "Buggers" have invaded the Earth and were nearly successful at wiping out mankind before genius commander Mamazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley) was able to defeat that alien army.

To avoid a repeat at the attempted extinction, the governments of the Earth have allied together and search for the best and brightest of military minds, no matter how young. Flash forward a few decades and Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is a pre-teen genius who's picked by the military forces of the Earth to receive this advanced military training at "Battle School." There, Ender must come to terms with being the best of the best and showing everyone else up, while at the same time learning how to lead others in playing at a simulated war against the Buggers.

Which, in today's marketplace sure sounds like a hit to me. Except I don't get the feeling that the movie's been marketed very well and it doesn't seem like the audience is excited about this one as they are other YA movies. Worst of all, the producers of the movie have been fighting a wave of negative publicity because of comments the author of the book made about gay marriage a few years back. (Spoiler alert — he's against it.)

So, not only do the producers of Ender's Game have to deal with louts like me wondering if the movie's going to be any good or not but they're also dealing with the threat of picketers at movie theaters as well.

Speaking of revolts, the movie I have the least concern about at the box office this fall is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, out November 22.

The second of four movies (the last Hunger Games book is going to be split into two films), this time Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are pulled back into another Hunger Games as a clause in the rules means that on the 75th holding of the games previous winners can be forced back into the arena and fight. It's a way for President Snow (Donald Sutherland) to remind the populous that no one is safe, not even previous victors, and that he is in total control.
Except that Katniss' defiance of the President in the first story has sparked a growing revolt that if the President can't control might mean the doom of his regime,

The first The Hunger Games made something like $400 million at the box office and I have no doubt that the second one will go on to make much more.

Regardless of the controversy surrounding the movie, the Ender's Game novel, though a bit dated nearly 30 years after its initial release, is still pretty darn good. While Catching Fire is a good book, The Hunger Games series of novels are a series of diminishing returns. The first one is brilliant, the second good and the third a bit of a slog.
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