Ender’s Mindfuck

On Sunday night (actually, very early Monday morning), I watched two films: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and Ender’s Game.

I have never read either novel, so this was something of an interesting experiment for me. For your potential entertainment, I reproduce below my comments as I watched Ender’s Game. (City of Bones is here.)

First conclusion of this film: British voices saying ridiculous things are much easier to listen to than American ones. Except for Harrison Ford.

Vicious bullying as a testing tool. And then big brother’s a sociopath.

What a cold-blooded set of monsters these are, although Harrison Ford has aged very well.

Simulated zero-G! Possibly worth ignoring the cold-blooded monsters to watch zero-G.

Those look like exceedingly uncomfortable beds. And exceedingly terrible food. And very few female people who aren’t authority figures. That’s not disturbing at all.

HI LET’S SUBJECT OUR SO-CALLED HERO TO YET ANOTHER VICIOUS BULLY. Because this is how you make good tactical geniuses, right? Or any kind of useful military officer? Teach them they can rely on other people only as a source of pain, suffering, and impossible demands.

Film, you are not training officers. Or geniuses. Because if this is officer training, you have the world’s most fucking dysfunctional military. Officially. You’re making sociopaths. Sociopaths do not make good fighting leaders. Nor do they follow orders well. And all your failed sociopaths are going to have to go somewhere afterwards: you’re going to break them, teach them these habits, and send them back to civvy-street?

Oh, hello. There’s an Only Girl. And she has long hair. If this is even fake military training (especially with zero-G), why doesn’t everyone have buzzcuts?

Oh, look. People are fucking with our so-called hero’s head.

And now he’s been put in charge of people. Hi, twelve-year-old! Film, can’t you fake pretending to be a military training school better than this? I don’t care how much of a genius the twelve-year-old is, there’s a reason twelve-year-old monarchs tended to have regents. People do not take twelve-year-olds seriously.

Hi, shower fight scene. And dead boy. Or very badly damaged boy.

All right, film. You realise this does not make sense? If Earth can maintain a forward command post close to the alien home world for twenty-seven years, Earth is not losing any war. So Earth is not actually looking for a magic bullet to save the human race. So why is Ender SO important? BECAUSE REASONS.

No logic here.

No, really. Why do you need Ender and hundreds of trained-from-childhood sociopaths if you’re not losing? It seems as though traditional ways of making officers and soldiers should work just as well. Wouldn’t you want your “geniuses” directed into xenopsychology and xenobiology so you had a better chance of doing intelligence analysis and threat assessment on your alien enemy? Empathy, rather than sociopathy?

If you can maintain a forward operating base for twenty-seven years without it being attacked and retaken, you’re winning. You might not be winning fast enough that your economy back home hasn’t buckled under the strain, but with an impossible-to-understand enemy who killed millions, you could probably manage a centrally controlled economy with strong rationing with few of the usual political costs. And you wouldn’t need a single military genius. You’d need lots and lots of just good enough junior officers gaining the right kind of experience in the right places. And you’d put your geniuses into xenobiology and xenopsychology, and try to understand the aliens from their behaviour.


You’d assign the geniuses alongside the military officers, but you wouldn’t risk losing them to training accidents. Victory in war doesn’t necessarily require genius, after all. Just material superiority and the intelligence sufficient to use it to advantage.

Maybe it’s more obviously illogical in the film because in a film you’re not in anyone’s head. But fucking hell, if this parallels the book, Orson Scott Card really rigged ALL the cards to get the game he wanted – and it’s not even a subtle rigging.

Oh, for crying out loud, people. It’s space. You can stand off from a planet and bombard it from space at leisure. With Big Fucking Rocks. Asteroid impacts lead to extinction-level events.

So why are Earth’s leaders worried if they’re close enough to the alien planet to a) be able to attack it and b) be able to monitor it? And why haven’t they been bombarding it with Big Fucking Rocks for the last twenty years?

No. Instead they have a DEATH STAR.



Right, so, this training, simulations alleged, is actually for real. STUPID. Command decisions put in the hands of children who think it’s all a sim. Good lord, Earth really must have overwhelming material superiority. If the kids don’t know it’s for real, they’re not going to be as careful about their resources as they otherwise might. I don’t care how much of a tactical genius anyone is, logistics and supply are equally vital. Tactics is the smallest part of war.

And the adult command team is there to watch. Not to command, oh, a SECOND FLEET? Stupid.

And no one’s bothering to break it to the kid gently that it’s all been real. HAVE PSYCHOLOGISTS ON HAND PEOPLE. At best you could have a bad case of shock. I mean, however these kinds feel about the genocide of inexplicable aliens, they still ought to be seriously bothered by the fact their commanders lied to and manipulated them.

Ah, now they come WITH SEDATIVES. Seriously, genius kid is the only one who needs them?

Oh, someone is communicating telepathically with special genius. I MUST GO. And the other kid runs after him without putting her oxygen on first. What do they teach these people in military training this future? Stupid future is clearly full of intellectual degenerates. Brainless sociopaths.

So, why is Ender the special telepath as well as being special sociopath genius? He’s just all around special. BECAUSE REASONS.

Tactically skilled but fundamentally stupid.

And why did his commanders let him go, in the end? Would you let a genius who you’ve broken loose on an unsuspecting universe? Someone could turn him against you, like you turned him against your enemy. It wouldn’t even be hard. He doesn’t seem to like you very much.

The people who made this film appear to have run out of give-a-shit for any sort of logic in this denouement.


*everybody involved with the film gives up*

*Harrison Ford gives up*

*Ender steals a shuttle and heads off into the big empty with no one asking him how come he’s carrying an alien egg in his duffel*

*roll credits*

Verdict: Pretty, but remarkably full of stupid, illogical, ethical bankruptcy, and unsubtle narrative rigging.

City of White People

On Sunday night (actually, very early Monday morning), I watched two films: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and Ender’s Game.

I have never read either novel, so this was something of an interesting experiment for me. For your potential entertainment, I reproduce below my comments as I watched The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.

Hey, it’s New York. Why is it always New York?

Ooo, fancy title symbol. Not overblown enough, guys. You should’ve done a SMASH CUT.

Well, there’s one good actor here. Pity it’s not the stars. Hi, Lena Headey! You look like an interesting parent! I bet you’re SIR NOT APPEARING IN THIS FILM, because you’re too interesting and awesome for it.

Teenagers being teenage and possibly having mental breakdowns. Where is tension? Tension is not here.

Oo, unexplained fight scene! Ominous warning phone call! Lena Headey yay!

Damn. I was right. Sir Not Appearing In This Film from this point on.

Possibly-having-mental-breakdown teenage daughter really is TSTL, isn’t she? Why, why, are you running home when your mother told you to stay away? TSTL.

But you’re the star, so obviously you don’t get killed.

Oh, icky transforming demon dog. Fine, blow up your goddamn kitchen. Like that won’t leave burn scars …Icky, gooey, re-coalescing exploded demon dog.

Very blond weird-looking black-clad boy plays saviour. With a British accent. Blond guy is at least polite, maybe he’ll grow into those cheekbones. Other guy – glasses-boy – looks like Xander with a better face.

So blond guy is Buffy. Buffy/Hermione. That sort of makes sense: he looks like a cross between the pair, if they were boys. I bet you have ANGSTY BACKSTORY, blond boy. You look like the type.

Oh, what a great load of nonsense this is so far. GIANT SECRET MANSION INNA GRAVEYARD. Yes, film, we get the point, it’s like Hogwarts crossed with the X-Men. Except with more skull decoration. Is there an Alan Rickman here? That’s all we need to make this complete.

*peers about hopefully *

No Alan Rickman. No Patrick Stewart either. So sad.

…Are all the people in New York white? I’ve passed through New York. It did not seem quite so full of white people.

Special brain-talking creepy people, too? Ooookay, film.

Hmm. At least blond boy has a sense of humour behind the angst. Girl seems to have very little personality beyond ARGH RUN OOPS WHAT OO PRETTY BOY. But blond boy has something.

In fact, we may have two good actors here! Lena Headey and blond boy. Blond boy is doing a hell of a job with some truly terrible material. Terrible material and the worst case of gel-hair I’ve seen in any film ever. At least when it’s not supposed to be gel-hair.

Hello, people dressing up for a goth party. I guess all the wizards of New York are into the goth scene.

And we have two New Yorkers with dialogue who aren’t Caucasian! Wheee! (Both of them are magicians. Whee?) Also, what is it with eyes? Magic people and magic eyes.

Fight scene! Fight scene with vampires! …Well, that’s interesting choreography, I guess.

Falling-down clinch between blond boy and plucky-but-personality-free girl! We have achieved UST BINGO! (I claim my prize.)

Oh, looky, it’s vampire bitesies. Will this go anywhere other than making glasses-boy look interestingly pale and ill?

And blondie’s a pianist. He is really working very well with absolutely crap material.

Hey, it’s a Stargate! I wonder if that’s a Chekov’s gun.

Oh, look, glasses-boy (not glasses anymore!) is sad and jealous. I know she has no personality, but don’t you think the kid has enough to deal with without you dumping your unrequited feelings on her, sad boy?

Fight scene? Fight scene! Dead black person.

Girl does nothing but run around and get into trouble. And then fall into people’s arms.

Stupid kid takes no precautions. Hand over your bargaining chip, my little friend! Of course you’re going to be betrayed. HI VADER-DADDY.

“I am your father, Luke.” This wasn’t kind of already obvious?

STARGATE! Oh, well. Girl’s still alive, then. And Mum’s beardy friend is a werewolf.


It’s a missing brother. Hi, blondie. You guys are related. Vader-daddy says so. “I am your father, Luke. Come to the Dark Side and we can rule the galaxy.” DEMONS.

And Lena Headey has been lying in Hogwarts all this while.

Bored now. Oh, wait. A werewolf motorbike gang.

…This is a really disjointed film. I mean, I don’t know what I was expecting, but this is really a bunch of set-pieces stuck together with used duct-tape.


That was a good set piece. Girl DID SOMETHING. But why didn’t sword-girl smash the demons while they were all frozen? This seems like poor tactical thinking.

Logic plays no part in this.

Luke vs. Vader. Fight, fight, fight. You know, Vader-dad does not look old enough to be the father of teens. Not unless he started illegally young.

Well, that’s interesting choreography, I suppose. But how come nobody’s lost any of their perfect teeth yet?

That’s one way to deal with having a shitty-ass father, I suppose. Explode the library. And now it’s snowing inside.

Verdict: mildly entertaining, if you skip most of the parts that aren’t fight scenes and don’t expect any of it to make sense.