Everyone has the recurring childhood daydream that one day someone might show up and tell you that you're extraordinary and destined for great things.In books this might involve some fantastical, fictional location where only the most gifted and special children get to go to achieve said greatness. For Harry Potter, it was Hogwarts. For Ender Wiggin, it's a space-set orbiting Battle School where other kids are preparing to fight a war against an alien race called the Formics. As an avid reader and a child at heart, both fictional locations are high on my list of imaginary worlds I would love to visit in real life-- and, in the case of Battle School, I actually got to go there.
Well, getting to walk through pieces of the Ender's Game movie set is probably the closest I'll ever get to fulfilling that dream, which admittedly, does not go all the way back to my childhood, but about a decade ago when I first read Orson Scott Card's novel. Getting to meet the cast -- which included a rather surreal encounter with Harrison Ford -- speak with the director, and hear the stunt coordinator discuss the challenges of planning and executing the zero gravity scenes was all icing on that very geeky cake.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves here. For those who haven't read Orson Scott Card's book, Ender's Game is set in the future in an era that has seen one major war with the Formics and is anticipating another. The story follows Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a boy who's selected to attend an orbiting Battle School where other children are training for the coming war. Harrison Ford plays the role of Graff, the colonel who's observing Ender at the Battle School in the hopes that Ender is the one they've been waiting for to lead their army against the Formics.
As much as I'd like to say that my trip to the Ender's Game set began with an International Fleet sponsored launch into space where I was brought aboard the mentioned Battle School and suited up for a tumble through the Zero G Battle Room, it was actually more of a jet flight south last year, courtesy of Summit, to New Orleans where the film was in production. Joined by other members of the press, we were transported to the set and ushered into a conference room, where a tasty continental breakfast was waiting for us. As tempting as the coffee and pastries were, my attention was instantly drawn to the walls, which were all papered with storyboards of the film, revealing black-and-white sketches of many familiar moments from the book, almost as though Ender's Game had been turned into one big not-yet-colored-in comic book.
Now, it needs to be said that this was Spring of 2012. The most we'd seen from the movie by that point were a few vague set photos, so this was our first real look at what they were trying to do for the film. One string of images showed the altercation Ender gets into with another launchie. Another showed Ender in class, learning about Mazer Rackham's battle. And a much more disturbing set of images showed Ender's mind game. If you recall, in the book, the children have the option to play a fantasy mind game on their tablets, which allows them to exercise their logic and decision-making skills as they attempt to overcome whatever challenge and obstacles are presented. The game gives the authorities another way to get into the minds of these kids, analyze their leadership abilities and examine their psyche based on the choices they make with each challenge. Ender becomes determined to get through the game during his time in Battle School, often revisiting it throughout the story.
Part of the game Ender plays throughout the story involves besting a giant. In the storyboards we saw on the walls, there was one set of images that showed Ender as a mouse burrowing himself into the eye of the giant. Even as a sketched illustration, it's a dark and jarring image. So, I can only imagine how they'll make that look for the film, assuming it makes it into the film. Producer Linda McDonough did mention that the fantasy "mind game" would be a part of the movie, though she specified that the altercation between Ender and the other launchie on the shuttle would not. So not everything we saw on the walls was destined to make it to screen, but it was still fascinating to view the storyboards and see how they put some of the book's memorable scenes to image.