Tonights exploration is a compare and contrast between two movies. Mind you both movies stem from books but for the purpose of this discussion we are going to focus specifically on the movies. In part this reasoning is one of the movies is fairly recent (heck both of them are fairly recent) but there is only the one movie from a larger series of books while the other movie is in the process finishing up its last movie based on its series now.
The movies The Hunger Games and Ender’s Game have an underlying commonality, the game. The Hunger Games, directed by Gary Ross, debuted in 2012. Ender’s Game, directed by Gavin Hood, debuted in 2013. Aside from the premise of the game concept and how it is used within the stories, each story also uses the idea of a tribute system to determine the players. The underlying storyline of each movie is the idea of abuse of power and the methods of its use.
In The Hunger Games the idea of the game is used as a placating mechanism for the masses under a totalitarian regime. The game is the government’s way of forcing compliance as well as giving the people the promise of great benefit if their “Tributes” win the game. For Ender’s Game the approach is markedly different. The totalitarian government with a huge military is implied. The children are indoctrinated in special schools to train them for warfare. The children become “tributes” as well because the government dictates what can become of them. In each case the final product is to turn the children into killers.
The difference in each of these games comes from the execution and the need for the games. In The Hunger Games the viewer is shown a world that is devastated. The people suffer the injustice of a corrupt government and its desire to hold its power over the people. When the viewer encounters Ender’s Game, they are shown something else entirely. The people do not suffer, at least not to the level of those in The Hunger Games. Instead the viewer sees a world of prosperity. In this world science has been used to make life better for everyone. This view is more than just a different perspective of the world but a perspective of the game itself. The governmental authority exists to protect the people. The military forces are looking for a battle leader that will take the forces and assault their space faring enemies, destroy the outsiders before their way of life is destroyed.
In both movies the underlying question is raised; can we defeat the enemy without sacrificing our own humanity? In each movie the antagonists are the characters that exist solely as killing machines. These characters have sacrificed everything for the sole purpose of winning. Ender and Katniss are confronted with what they can become and must decide to save themselves. This question for each character is answered in the climax of each film.
For Ender this moment comes when he has destroyed the alien world. The game he thought he had been playing is in truth the reality of a world and species decimated. The adults he thought he could trust had played a game with his soul to do what they could not. The mission had been accomplished but he unwittingly became the cold-blooded killer he never wanted to be. If the story ended here, the viewer would be left with the idea that there is no free will. The world is subject to the whims of those in power. Instead Ender tries to answer the riddle of a game he was playing in the background. He seeks out vestiges of the race he has annihilated.
For Katniss the climax is somewhat different. There are red herring moments leading up to the end that can throw the viewer off from the true battle. The first of these is the moment when the fighter from District 8 has Peeta in a headlock and threatens to kill himself and Peeta. The government controls the game. After this defeat they change the rules and place Peeta and Katniss in a deadlock where one of them has to die. This is the moment when the true game is played. Katniss has the choice to play by their rules or find the option that turns the rules against the powers that be. She takes the second option. She threatens to deny the government its clear winner by eating the poison berry with Peeta. This one small action undermines the entire illusion of the game.
Both movies are good representations of the books they are taken from. What I noticed watching them both is how the stories play out overall. For a direct comparison between the two, it could be argued that the entire series of the Hunger Games is a better fit. The Hunger Games felt partially done in this context. It could be argued that this first movie correlates much better with Ender’s Game up to the point where Ender defeats his first bully in school. In the grander scope this would give the feeling that Ender’s Game could be expanded out to show more of Ender’s world. Of course, that would also give rise to possibility that the story could end up with unnecessary filler. Of course, if they used other parts of the Ender’s Game series we could have further comparisons to draw from.
An observation that comes from both of these movies is the power that science fiction has within our lives. Instead of focusing on what is going on specifically around us, we are given a glimpse of where are actions today could take us. These futures may seem fanciful and maybe even a little far fetched, but at the same time, I would imagine that Nazi Germany might have been far fetched in some opinions. There is so much to learn from not only our past but also from the imaginings of our future.