For those not in the know, “Ender’s Game” is a 1985 science fiction novel by Orson Scott Card that has, over the last few decades, grown pretty mightily in acclaim. Despite not being all that old, science fiction fans often rank it right up there with the classics of the genre. So it’s kind of weird that it’s taken so long to get a film version off the ground. Nevertheless, with X-Men Origins: Wolverine director Gavin Hood set to helm and Hugo’s Asa Butterfield set to star, it’s finally here. And now that the tough picks are out of the way, it’s time to start filling out the rest of the cast.
The bulk of this novel concerns its gifted young protagonist Ender and his experiences attending a government school for elite soldiers. You see, we’re in an intergalactic war with a relentless species of aliens that we call Buggers, and it’s getting down to the wire when it comes to the existence of the human race. The fate of our species is resting pretty firmly on the shoulders of young Ender (Butterfield), but how is he supposed to grow up as the ultimate military commander when he can barely even make it through basic things like anti-gravity training, learning to shoot, and dealing with school bullies? One way is by becoming friends with Petra Arkanian, a tough young girl who takes Ender under her wing and drags him through those first through semesters of warrior school kicking and screaming.
Ender is a complex, hyper intelligent character that was probably pretty hard to cast. But Petra, with her balls out toughness, provides an equal challenge. Where on Earth is Gavin Hood going to find a young actress with enough grit to pull off this role without looking ridiculous? Well, according to Variety, he’s looking to the Coen Brothers’ last big hit True Grit, and the breakout young starlet that they put on the map by casting as the new Mattie Ross, Hailee Steinfeld. In True Grit, Steinfeld showed that she has no problem projecting a toughness and competence well beyond her years, so she should be the perfect choice for bringing Petra to life. As far as casting goes, Ender’s Game looks like it’s making all the right moves.
How good this project will be as an end product is still in question, however. After True Grit hit so hard at the box office and Steinfeld’s performance from it was so widely praised, she appeared ready to take the Hollywood world by storm. At this point we still haven’t seen a follow-up from her yet. I like that she’s going to get another chance to impress by getting material as meaty and important as the Ender’s Game adaptation, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about this film being under the direction of someone as unproven as Gavin Hood. Was he to blame for the mess that was X-Men: Origins, or does he have hidden talents that are going to come out when paired with better material and a more supportive work environment?
Hopefully it’s the latter, because he’s got the future of a couple promising young talents in his hands; and the expectations of legions of rabid science fiction fans looking to tear him apart.