Follow TV Tropes


Film / Ender's Game

Go To
We have seen the future and it is blue (with bits of orange).

Col. Graff: You'll be the finest commander that we've ever trained.
Ender: So I'm not the first.
Mazer Rackham: No. But you will be the last.

Ender's Game is a film adaptation of Orson Scott Card's most famous book. After years in Development Hell, it was finally green-lit and slated for a November 2013 release. Gavin Hood is both its screenwriter and director, and the film has an All-Star Cast including Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, Viola Davis, and Abigail Breslin.

In the near future, Earth is attacked by a hostile alien species called the Formics, whose invasion kills millions of humans. They were finally repelled, though, when the brilliant pilot Mazer Rackham identified their weakness and crippled their fleet. The Formics lost the war and retreated to their homeworld, preparing another fleet. In the meantime, humanity too began to prepare their own military to ensure another Formic assault would not occur.

Gifted children are recruited in hopes of training them to become admirals for humanity's fleet. They are trained at the orbital station Battle School, overseen by Colonel Hyrum Graff. Graff has his eyes on one boy in particular, Ender Wiggin, who he's certain has the potential to lead their entire fleet. But Ender's training will not be limited to his classes and the school's war games. He's going to be manipulated and tested to his breaking point at all times, to ensure that the human species will survive.

Ender's Game provides examples of:

    open/close all folders 

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: The film adaptation ends with Valentine staying on Earth instead of joining Ender, leaving him to wander the galaxy alone.
  • Adaptational Angst Downgrade: Ender is depicted as much more mentally resilient to everything that happens to him. In particular, his actions at the climax of the movie are just treated as him trying to win the simulation while in the book, he is so beaten down by everything the military school has put him through that he attempts to win the simulation in such a horrifying way, by destroying an entire planet with everyone on it, getting his fleet destroyed in the process, that the school would kick him out for it. Subsequently, he takes the revelation that all of those battles he had participated in weren't simulations but real battles with real lives so badly that he goes completely catatonic in the book, compared to the movie where he is stable enough to deliver a "Reason You Suck" Speech to Graff before being sedated against his will.
  • Adaptation Distillation:
    • Many of the minor battles in Battle School are not shown to save time, but are still implied to have happened.
    • The time between Ender joining Salamander Army and gaining command of Dragon Army is particularly curtailed:
      • No mention is made of his after hours training in the Battle Room with the Launchies; his fight with Bonzo is instead precipitated by the latter ordering him to stop training with Petra.
      • Ender is never traded to Rat Army, instead being pulled directly from Salamander to form Dragon.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Ender is much less aggresively violent in the movie towards those who attack him. Stilson is "just" hospitalized and Bonzo gets accidentally put into a coma when he falls backwards during a fight with Ender and breaks his neck. In the book, Ender deliberately crushed both of their faces in, though he doesn't realize that he actually killed them both until the end of the story.
    • Bernard in the book was merely a bully to Ender, and only cooperated with him when they had the mutual friend Alai. In the film, Bernard and Ender forgive each other and he even becomes part of Dragon Army and Ender's jeesh.
    • Major Anderson in the book often objected to Col. Graff, but was more concerned with preserving the integrity of the Battle Room rules and Battle School society than about Ender's wellbeing. To contrast better with Graff, Anderson in the film has more moral concerns, even quitting after Bonzo is killed (put in a coma in the film), whereas the book Anderson became the new principal of the Battle School.
    • Petra, like the other commanders, was greatly resentful and jealous of Ender in the book due to the Dragon Army's unbeatable winning streak and him easily taking down her own jeesh. The film seamlessly brushes past that and turns her into Ender's Lancer. She also gets an important role in the final battle, as opposed to her controversial Worf Effect treatment in the book.
    • The Formics arguably get this due to there only being one invasion. As Ender states at the end, they were simply looking to start a colony on Earth. After humanity drove them away, they returned to their planet for 50 years without ever attempting to contact Earth. As Ender says, they might have completely given up on Earth, which makes humanity's overt aggression against them seem barbaric when they could have at least studied what they were up to first before committing to genocide. The lack of a second invasion (which consequently brings down humanity's losses against the Formics from millions to "just" thousands) makes humanity's retaliation against the Formics seem more extreme.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication:
    • Timeline problems occur when Graff, just prior to promoting Ender to Dragon Army, looks at a display and sees that the Third Invasion will reach Formic space in a mere twenty-eight days. This forces Ender's sole battle with Dragon Army to be taken literally, not as an ellision, and then raises the question of how Ender had time to have his Achilles in His Tent moment on Earth, travel to the command post (near the Formic homeworld), and had any amount of time to integrate with his squad... in less than a month.
    • The xenocide of the Formic species is presented just as negatively as it was in the book, but the true reasons for the Formics' aggression are never explored. It's never explained that the Formics' assumed that humans were merely drones in a Hive Mind just like them, and that they tried to stop the killing when they realized that humans were in fact individually sapient.
    • Ender's decision in the final battle is never discussed. The book makes it clear that his motivation was not to win, but rather to display such Video Game Cruelty Potential that the teachers would flunk him out on grounds of crossing the Moral Event Horizon, and it makes his decision to deploy an Earth-Shattering Kaboom more ethically palatable.
    • Ender's decision to leave Earth to look for a new Formic homeworld isn't explained nearly as thoroughly as it was in the book, leaving us with the impression that his only plan is to wander the universe aimlessly out of guilt. In the book, that's one of only several reasons he decides to go: the post-xenocide political situation made it impossible for him to return to Earth, because he knew that he would be targeted for assassination or pulled into the war with the Second Warsaw Pact. Additionally, the Formics' demise opened up their territory to human colonization, and Ender decides to become the governor of the first colony, which is where he becomes the custodian of the sole remaining Formic queen. The business of wandering aimlessly only really kicks in during the last couple of pages, when he realizes he needs to find a place where it's safe to revive her.
  • Adaptational Intelligence: Happens with Ender, believe it or not. He goes with Spotting the Thread on how only one invasion happened, and says if he had known the "simulation" was real, he would have tried to open up negotiations. Ender in the books never even realized that was an option.
  • Adaptational Timespan Change: In the novel, the story takes place over a span of five years. The movie compresses all the events into just one year, avoiding the problem of how to depict the child characters aging.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Downplayed with Peter Wiggin. His status as an Anti-Villain is never shown in the film, but only because the subplot featuring him is not included in the theatrical cut of the film, reducing his screentime to about one scene. However, while they do leave in the "Buggers and Astronauts" (Called Formics and Astronauts in the movie) game, they cut out the part where Peter tells Ender in detail how easily he could murder him and get away with it if he felt like it, downgrading him to a Big Brother Bully instead of an outright sociopath.
    • However, Graff suffers badly from this. Since the movie changes the backstory so that the Formics only attacked once, his motivation becomes much flimsier. Combine that with the fact that he never expresses regret for his actions or empathy for Ender as he does in the book, and he comes off as a warmongering Jerkass, if not an outright villain.
    • By extension to Graff, the rest of the staff overseeing the simulations at the end of the story come across as more cold and sinister compared to the book. After Ender wins the final battle by destroying the Formic homeworld, he sees the facility's staff calming applauding him, giving a rather cold and cruel vibe over the destruction of an entire planet. In the book, they show a lot more emotion upon Ender's victory, with many breaking down into tears of joy. This shows a more human side to them, particularly since in the book the Formics invaded twice rather than one time, so it's more understandable why they were so happy about the war being finally over.
  • Age Lift: See Pragmatic Adaptation. The characters were aged up to preteens rather than small children, likely because it would be exceedingly hard to find 6-year-old actors who can carry an entire movie.
  • Alien Invasion: The backstory of the film is the Formics' attack on Earth. The humans are attempting to invert this trope by attacking the Formics' home planet.
  • An Aesop: Even when life is on the line, how you win matters.
  • And You Thought It Was a Game: Sorry, Ender, but you really did just sacrifice thousands of human lives and wipe out the entire Formic species in what you thought was a simulation.
  • Arc Words: "The Enemy Gate is Down." A term used in battle school where all combat scenarios came with one Instant-Win Condition: getting one member through the enemy gate without being shot. It's a philosophical premise that there is always a victory condition the instant the enemy decides to meet you in battle.
  • Artistic License – Military: Bizarrely, Major Anderson and Colonel Graff have a Lieutenant insignia and a Captain insignia, respectively, on their collars. Maybe Justified because it is the future and the IF could use a different rank system.
  • Asshole Victim: Stilson and Bonzo, the two boys who force Ender into a fight at different points in the film. Both of them act very bully-like, and neither one of them seems to know when they've had enough. In the film at least, Ender isn't a psychopath, and stops attacking them when he realizes that they're no longer a threat to him. And though Ender does feel some remorse for his attackers, both times the bullies had it coming after Ender delivers a Curb-Stomp Battle to them.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Ender can bring down far stronger opponents by quick thinking and using the environment to his advantage.
  • Badass Boast: After taking out the bully in the beginning, Ender dissuades his friends from taking revenge by pointing out just how brutally he'll fight back if they try it.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Ender's generally a nice guy, but it's a bad idea to get on his bad side. He knows exactly how to wreck people if he needs to.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: Recruits get tagged with a transmitter linked to their senses, allowing the overseers to hear and see everything they do. The tag is removed upon promotion.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: After Bonzo tries to dictate what Ender can do in his free time, Ender threatens to have him iced if he tries it again. Then he offers Bonzo a way out that will make him look like the one in charge even though he's being forced to play along.
  • Broken Pedestal: Rackham's and Graff's unapologetic stance about the Formics' destruction ruins whatever respect Ender held for them.
  • Bug War: The Formic-Human conflict is a classic example.
  • Captain Obvious: Bernard, in the final test: "They're swarming. They see us!"
  • Character Exaggeration: The omission of Peter's subplot unfortunately means that his psychopathy and sadism end up dominating his characterization, while his precocious intelligence ends up becoming something of an Informed Attribute. We know that he's smart enough to have been a serious candidate for Battle School, but we never get to see him put his intelligence into practice by single-handedly predicting the coming of World War III and getting himself elected leader of Earth's government.
  • Chekhov's Armory: Everything Ender learns or experiences during his training comes into play in the final act.
  • Child Prodigy: Ender especially, but other kids as well.
  • Child Soldier: All of the "launchies" are technically this, something that disturbs Anderson to no end.
  • Combat Pragmatist: In the beginning, Ender gets into a fight with a classmate. After goading him into a one-on-one fight, he grabs the nearest blunt object to knock the bully down, then kicks him until he stays there. Against Bonzo, who does this while Ender's in the shower, he turns the water up to full heat, then sprays it in Bonzo's face, and also rubs on some fresh soap so that Bonzo can't get a hold of him. And during his match against both Salamander and Leopard, he utilizes some effective techniques against the other team despite being outnumbered 2 to 1 in that match, such as launching one of his teammates out on a rope so said teammate could gather intel on where the enemy team was hiding behind the blocks and be roped back in to let Ender know.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The film's events take place in less than a year, as opposed to the five years of the book (and another five for the epilogue). See "Pragmatic Adaptation" below for a full list of what got cut out.
  • Converging-Stream Weapon: The Little Doctor fires two beams which react at the point of impact, causing a chain reaction that destroys all matter it spreads to until it has nowhere left to go.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Card voiced a pilot making an announcement to his passengers, though this didn't make it into the final cut.
    • Director Gavin Hood plays the Giant of the Mind Game.
  • Death by Falling Over: Or coma rather. In this version, Ender takes Bonzo out almost by accident, kicking him backwards, at which point he falls down and breaks his neck, as opposed to getting his nose stomped into his skull like in the book.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Bernard is humiliated by Ender, then joins his team and becomes one of his trusted aides.
  • Demoted to Extra: Ender's siblings have much smaller roles in the film than in the book.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • This is Ender's entire M.O. His feeling is that he wants to win not just this fight, but all the other ones to follow. Amongst other things, he invokes Kick Them While They Are Down as a form of psychological warfare.
    • Ender believes that devastating the Formic homeworld and eradicating their race in response to their invasion of Earth was this. This makes sense given the context of how he dealt with his bullies, whom he never intended to kill, only drive off. Note his reaction to his and Bonzo's fight.
  • Do Unto Others Before They Do Unto Us: The fleet command's plan is to blockade the Formic homeworld, then attack it, as a means of keeping the Formics from doing the same to Earth.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Sgt. Dap is a textbook example. He becomes much less severe when Ender gets promoted.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Played with. The Formic homeworld is not literally blown to pieces, but gradually disintegrates, while the surface that has not yet melted becomes a burning wasteland from the igniting of the atmosphere.
  • Eldritch Starship: Formic ships are red, skinny, and with lots of curves and sharp points.
  • Everything Is an iPod in the Future: The children's "desks" look and "feel" like slightly futuristic iPads, just as they were portrayed in the novel... which was released in 1985.
  • Exact Words: When recruiting Ender, Graff tells him that his thoughts won't be monitored and his privacy rights restored. When Ender later complains about the Battle School blocking his emails, Graff retorts that he said his thoughts would be private, but his emails aren't.
  • Eye Scream: In the Mind Game, the rat that Ender controls kills a giant by chewing out his eye and then possibly his brain.
  • Flat "What": During the final test, while the team are in a Curb-Stomp Battle, Ender try a last move, they will shoot the Dr. Device directly to the Formic’s planet, to destroy all the Hive Queen’s starships. The reaction of Petra to this is of complete incredulity.
    Petra: What am I aimed for?
    Ender: The Planet.
    Petra: What.
  • Floating Head Syndrome: In the poster that serves as the page image.
  • Foreshadowing: Ender's first scene has him playing a starfighter dogfight video game against Stilson, which he wins by tricking Stilson's ship into crashing into an asteroid. Not only does this foreshadow Ender's tactic of using the environment to his advantage, but it also points to his fistfight against Stilson later when he accuses Ender of cheating because he didn't actually destroy Stilson's fighter personally. And, most obviously, Ender will end up commanding real starships soon.
    • Also, in his last Battle School game, Ender's use of his team as human shields to protect one boy they surround is a precursor to how he'll use the drone-swarm to defend the "Little Doctor" while it powers up in his final Command School battle.

  • Gender Flip: Card planned for Graff to be gender-flipped when he was trying to adapt Ender's Game himself; when Hood took over, he cast Harrison Ford instead. Major Anderson was gender-flipped, played by Viola Davis.
  • Glad I Thought of It: Invoked several times by Ender. Knowing that Bonzo values looking good in front of his army, he deliberately allows people to assume that his own smart ideas were really Bonzo's. Of course, Bonzo himself knows that he didn't think of those ideas, so the knowledge that Ender is the real genius fills him with seething jealousy.
  • Gratuitous Spanish / Foreign Cuss Word: Bonzo addresses his team as mis pendejos.
  • Guns Akimbo: Ender does this in the match between Salamander and Leopard army.
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: Deconstructed, both the film and the book may have significant similarities with Starship Troopers, but with better technology and smarter people fighting against an even more intelligent race of insects, and the military is looking for young cadets to prepare for the endgame of the war. The Formics attack the humans merely out of searching for resources and not knowing the humans are intelligent lifeforms. Unfortunately for the Formics, they realized that the humans are capable of fighting back much like the situation they are handling at Ender's time, succumbing themselves in defense against the humans.
  • Hive Mind: What the Formics have, which makes their fleets all the more coordinated and quick to react.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: During class, Bernard transmits a message to the other students' consoles mocking Alai's vomit incident. Ender then covertly sends a message mocking Bernard's intelligence. When Bernard blurts this out, the teacher quips that he shouldn't insult people if he can't take it in turn.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: Invoked when Sgt. Dap threatens to personally neuter any launchie caught in the area reserved for the opposite sex. Seems to have worked, since nothing remotely naughty happens on screen for the duration of the movie.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The destruction of the Formic planet is definitely meant to invoke this.
  • Human Shield:
    • This is a favored tactic of Ender's in the battle sphere, on account of the fact that the weapons don't actually cause any harm, instead merely triggering the suit to paralyze the wearer. Thus, it doesn't matter how many times someone gets shot, as long as the one they're protecting is fine.
    • A robotic variation of this occurs in the final battle simulation, when Ender orders his teammate's drones to form a protective barrier around Petra's ship while her Wave-Motion Gun recharges.
  • Hypocritical Humor: When hearing Ender's name aboard the shuttle, Bean taunts him for it. When asked his own name, though, he admits "Bean" isn't exactly something to brag about.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Graff insists that lying to Ender, exploiting his talents, and exterminating an alien species were necessary to secure the future of the human race.
  • I'll Kill You!: Bonzo threatens Ender with this after Ender has shown him up a couple times.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: In the film's universe, mastering a skill in a game is directly linked to mastering it in real life, and the entire premise dwells upon this principle. Could well be The Movie of the trope.
  • Improbable Age: Becoming a Commander of the fleet at the tender age of 10? Seems about right.
    • Semi-justified in the movie, where it's stated that a) the fleets ready to destroy the Formics are almost at the Formic homeworld, b) Ender has been covertly scouted for years for exactly this sort of thing, and c) children are noted as being better at inputting and processing data.
    • The movie's title also has something to do with it. (Ender is led to believe it's all a game, so that he can invoke Video Game Cruelty Potential. And Kids Are Cruel.)
  • Indy Ploy: Exploited by the fleet command, who pick Ender specifically for his ability to improvise and think outside the box.
  • Insectoid Aliens: The Formics. Their name is derived from the Latin word for "ant".
  • Instant-Win Condition: In the battle sphere, if a player passes through the enemy gate without having being hit prior, their team wins regardless of score. Ender's Game itself is the Former Trope Namer ("The Enemy Gate Is Down").
  • Jerkass: Ender's brother Peter, Bernard (though he later becomes friendly to Ender), and Bonzo.
  • Keystone Army/Mother Ship: The Formics' warships are directed by a Queen, and destroying her renders them inert.
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: Ender twice ends up in fights and in both instances hospitalizes the opposition (accidentally the second time). Both times, it's agreed the loser had it coming.
  • Kid Hero: Deconstructed. The film realistically shows the incredible emotional and physical strain of being a child burdened with saving the world.
  • Kids Are Cruel: The cadets can be a nasty bunch, especially team leaders. Hazing New Meat is par for the course, and cutthroat competition makes almost everyone mean and vindictive.
  • Knight Templar: Bonzo thinks he's a capable commander, but all he is is a tyrannical bully who badgers, threatens, or attacks anyone he doesn't like — which is everyone who he isn't personally familiar with.
  • The Knights Who Say "Squee!": Ender is amazed to see Rackham alive, saying he's been painting the models of his ship for years.
  • Last of His Kind: The Formic Queen and her larva seem to be the only examples of the species left in existence after the destruction of their homeworld.
  • Lighter and Softer: Both of Ender's showdowns with bullies are softened. Although Ender sends one boy to the hospital and breaks the other boy's neck, it's not certain whether or not they survived, as Ender doesn't believe Graff's assurances that they'll recover. In the book, both boys die thanks to Ender stamping their nose into their brain, although again Ender is never told of this until after the war.
    • Ender's mental state near the end of Command School is lightened up.
  • Mars Needs Water: Discussed when Graff suggests that the Formics wanted to invade Earth for water, which their desert-like homeworld doesn't appear to have much of. Though they do attack a fleet of Formic ships harvesting ice from a gas cloud at one point.
  • Mirroring Factions: Obvious parallels are drawn between Formics' swarms controlled by Queens and human remote-controlled space drones. Also, Graff says that both human and Formic populations have become unsustainable, and it is heavily implied that Formics are driven by the same concern for the survival of their species as humans are.
  • Motivational Lie: Ender's superiors lie to him about the nature of his final training course so that he wouldn't endure the psychological pressure of risking real lives, nor hesitate to destroy an entire planet full of sentient beings.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: While the frail and skinny Ender can't overpower much older and beefier boys, his superior intelligence helps, such as when he grabs Bonzo's arm and uses biomechanics to threaten to break it.
  • Multinational Team: Ender's command staff, as is appropriate for an organization called the "International Fleet" that is in charge of saving the whole planet, has kids from multiple ethnicities: African-colored-Dutch-raised Dink, Arab Alai, Greek-ish Bean, Armenian Petra, and plain-white Bernard (French in the book, American in the film). However, we're still stuck with a White Male Lead, and it's also interesting that every jeesh member from East Asia (the Japanese Shen, Chinese Hot Soup and Filipino Fly Molo, who does have a couple of lines as a member of Salamander Army but is never identified by name) and South America (Dumper) was cut, along with three more white guys (Australian Carn Carby, Russian Vlad and British Crazy Tom).
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Ender has this reaction at the end of the film, after he realizes the "simulations" he and his teammates played were actual battles between Earth's forces and the Formics. The other kids also look horrified in a Freeze-Frame Bonus.
    • Graff briefly has one when Ender, rather than celebrating his climactic victory, nearly throws up and asserts he will be remembered as a killer. When Ender needs to be sedated, Graff actually looks horrified.
  • Mythology Gag: A few of the events from the larger "Enderverse" are hinted at, without being described in great detail. Ender's father, John Paul Wiggin, briefly mentions being brought to America by the International Fleet, referencing the prequel short story "The Polish Boy"; Bean mentions that he grew up on the streets, and that he got his nickname because he was told that he "[wasn't] worth a bean", referencing his origin story described in Ender's Shadow; Mazer has a speech where he tells Ender that his Māori tattoos are "a way to speak for the dead", referencing Ender's future destiny as "The Speaker for the Dead" in the sequel novel of the same name.

  • The Napoleon: Bonzo is a full head shorter than the entirety of his teenage team, even though he is the commander. Even Ender, implied to be an adolescent boy, is taller than he is (although Ender's actor was also a teenager in real life).
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Ender shouting "NOW!" is often cut to seem as though it's from the final battle. It's actually from an earlier battle in an ice field.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, Mazer Rackham shoots down a Formic, only to have a piece of debris from the vanquished foe slice through his wingman's fighter.
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: There isn't a barest hint of romance between Ender and Petra, despite the trailers seeming to hint at it. There are enough scenes featuring the two by themselves for there to be some Ship Tease, though.
    • The Sergeant even says as much when he informs the group that they are not to enter opposite-gender areas of the school. The battle school seems to have no problems with this issue so far as we ever see.
  • Non-Specifically Foreign: Ender's father is established as an immigrant, and speaks with a nonspecific accent, but his origin is left unexplained in the film. The book explains that he's Polish.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: A variant. In the book, the aliens are rarely addressed as Formics and are more commonly known by the derogatory term used against them - "Buggers". In the film, the Formics are always addressed by their name, and are never addressed as "Buggers". This may be to avoid coming across as profane by British standards.
    • This happens in the Shadow books, as well. After someone mentions "Bugger", they are berated for using such a derogatory term. The audioplay mostly uses "Formic", except in scenes where someone is really angry.
  • Older Than He Looks: Asa Butterfield, age 14-15 at the time of filming, looks barely 11, perfect for the part of Ender who is supposed to be one of the youngest kids in the program.
  • Oh, Crap!: Said word for word by Bernard during the final battle, when seeing that their shot of the Dr. Device only obliterated part of the fleet. The rest of the Formic fleet has just arrived, and is thousands of times more massive than the fleet they just fought.
  • One-Eyed Shot: Closeup Of Ender's eye
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Asa Butterfield plays Ender as an American. When Ender has his breakdown at the end of the movie, he starts sounding more British.
  • Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future: The Mind Game that Ender plays looks and feels like a 2013 Playstation video game. This also counts as foreshadowing because the "graphics" of the "simulated battles" are a huge step up from the game.
  • Pet the Dog: When Ender has his breakdown at the end of the movie, the other officers sedate him. Graff orders them not to hurt him since he's been hurt enough already.
  • Playing Possum: Ender utilizes this tactic against Leopard army. He deliberately floats towards them and doesn't move, as if he's already been hit and immobilized. Then he grabs a second gun when he floats close enough to it, and starts shooting Leopard army with it. Though he doesn't make it to the enemy gate, he does take out quite a few of the enemy team before he's really taken out in the match.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Played straight twice with both major factions. The formics have no comprehension that each human is an individual mind until after they've slaughtered a few million people, while humanity has no knowledge the formics have no intention of starting another war and feel an all-out attack is a justified reprisal. Each side is horribly misinformed, and it's this lack of understanding which drives the tragedy forward.
  • Population Control: Due to overpopulation, families are allowed a maximum of two children. Ender is a government-approved exception, as the IF had considered recruiting his siblings but wanted someone with a personality balance between the two. Despite his case being legal, he still receives prejudice from other kids for being a "Third".
    • In the book, it's explained that his parents jumped at the chance to have another child, as expected by the IF, as his father is Polish Catholic while his mother is a Mormon, both religions promoting large families.
  • The Power of Legacy: The fact that Rackham ejected during his attack of the Mother Ship rather than going out in a blaze of glory was concealed in order to create an irreproachable propaganda narrative.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Writer/director Gavin Hood cut almost everything that doesn't directly involve Ender to avoid diluting the effect of his story in the limited space of a two-hour movie. The result is that several characters who are important in the book have their roles dramatically reduced or simplified.
    • The book opens with Ender six years old, and he is 11 when he fights the Final Battle (and 15 counting the epilogue chapters!). For the film, Ender and his jeesh are 10, and played by teenagers. And all the casual nudity in the book is cut out to ensure a lower than R rating.
    • Ender's time in Rat and Phoenix Army is cut. Dink Meeker is also now a part of Salamander Army instead of Rat.
    • Bonzo's objections to Ender's free time training is that he's practicing with Petra. In the book, it's because he's practicing with his former Launchies despite now being in an army.
    • Dragon Army's training is cut and only one battle is shown, utilizing elements from several of the book's battles. Its members also include several former teammates of Ender, when in the book he didn't know any of his new soldiers, almost all of whom were Launchies.
    • Mazer and Graff's motives are better explained in the novel, as well as why they feel the Formics are such a danger, having some basic understanding of their hive society. To paraphrase, "Don't apologize for them, Ender; in the last war, they killed millions of thinking, feeling individuals, while we only killed one of them."
    • Ender's Angst Coma is cut because it wouldn't be interesting to see him sleeping off trauma. Instead, he has a breakdown on learning he was participating in a real war and it's only after that military officers sedate him.
    • Valentine and Peter's subplot where they become internet demagogues is completely cut, since it adds nothing to Ender's story, isn't truly necessary except as set-up for the Shadow sequels (and so could be retconned in if those sequels are made), and it'd seem unbelievable today that two "bloggers" could affect world politics so powerfully.
    • In the book, Ender leads his jeesh at the IF's asteroid base Eros, and after the war visits a former Formic colony where he finds a replica of the Mind Game's landscape. In the film, his base is on the former colony and the replicated game landscape is made to look like natural formations, likely so the IF wouldn't notice the resemblance.
    • The fact that mankind launches its own antebellum colony program is left out, despite causing Adaptation Explanation Extrication in the (unlikely) event Speaker For The Dead is movie-fied.
    • The timeline of the war with the Formics is simplified. In the book there were two invasions, with the threat of a third invasion being a cover for humanity's retaliation. In the film there is only one invasion and retaliation.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Lampshaded when Ender is told he's getting a team of "misfits" and "outcasts" just like himself.
  • Ramming Always Works: The footage repeatedly shown of Mazer Rackham's victory ends with ramming his F-35 into a Formic starship. This annoys Ender because he's sure there's got to be more to Rackham's victory than that. He's right. Rackham did only destroy one ship, but it was the ship he identified as the one carrying their queen. He also ejected and is still alive.
  • Recruit Teenagers with Attitude: The fleet mobilizes gifted children to combat an alien threat.
  • Redshirt Army: Ender treats his forces this way in the final simulation battle, since he wants to destroy the Queen's ship, and orders his remaining ships to protect Petra's Wave-Motion Gun ship until it could recharge to fire another shot.
  • The Reveal: Near the end of the film, after Ender's team defeats the Formic armada and destroys their homeworld. He then finds out that it wasn't a game at all, and both people and Formics died in the "simulations".
  • Rewatch Bonus: Grant can be seen looking at a report of a fleet approaching Formic with a worried expression. Second-time viewers will instantly realize that he is worried because the actual human fleet is approaching soon and he doesn't know if Ender will be ready before then.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Graff, running out of time to pick a candidate for command, pits Ender's recently-formed Dragon Army team (ranked third) against the top two teams at once, on top of letting the opposing teams deploy before he's ever arrived. Ender takes it in stride.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here:
    • After Bonzo is devastatingly injured by Ender, Major Anderson resigns, unable to tolerate Graff's extreme methods any longer.
    • Ender himself quits after that event. Graff uses Valentine to persuade him to come back.
  • Sequel Hook: Ender flying off into deep space with the last Formic queen. Amusingly, it complicates both of the Sequel Hooks found in the original series.
  • Shock and Awe: The Formics' point-defense weapons resemble electricity.
  • Show, Don't Tell: When Ender and the others are first sent into the zero-g room, he and Bean shoot each other with the guns to find out what it does. Petra also later shows him some of the basics of how to shoot during the matches, which allows him to formulate plans and strategies later on.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Ender's older brother Peter, a rather important character, is missing from the trailer (and only got one scene in the movie). Bean, major enough to get his own side-series, appears for only a few seconds in which his face isn't even shown. In story terms, his role as Ender's right-hand man is taken by Petra.
  • Sociopathic Hero/Sociopathic Soldier: Graff is less concerned with the well-being of his cadets than making sure that the human race survives against the Formics. Best expressed in this exchange:
    Anderson: What will be left of the boy?
    Graff: What does it matter if there's nothing left at all?
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Possibly Stilson and Bonzo, as (unlike in the book) the audience is never told outright that they died. In the book, Ender only finds out much later, when Graff is court-martialled after the war for his harsh treatment of all the child soldiers.
    • The small strike craft that Ender treats as expendable before discovering to his horror they were piloted by real men all along as he goofed around with them, are replaced by ansible-controlled drones in the movie. The drone operators are shown in a few shots, seated behind Ender and his team and clearly not in danger.
  • Take a Third Option: A signature move of Ender, illustrated by his playing of the Mind Game, where, instead of choosing between two poisoned chalices, he kills the giant giving him the choice.
  • This Ain't Rocket Surgery: Played with; a teacher admonishes Ender's class because, aside from him and two others, they all failed a planetary slingshot quiz that is basic rocket science and thus should have been easy for them.
  • Trailers Always Spoil:
    • Mazer Rackham still being alive was kept secret until the last third of the book, but Ben Kingsley's participation is fully advertised. This is mitigated by Rackham being The Faceless up until his proper introduction, and never being addressed by his name in any of the trailers.
    • One of the TV spots, "Truth", shows Ender discovering the Hive Queen's cocoon.
  • Training from Hell: The "launchies" undergo an excruciating, Full Metal Jacket-like training routine.
  • Tron Lines: "Star" blocks have them, to make them more visible in the Battle Room.
  • 2-D Space: Heavily averted. The entire story is about training to comprehend battle strategies from every angle, battle school in particular revolves around an open sphere facility with no Artificial Gravity. The only orientation is the opposite sides of the team entrances, and they focus on complex formations that can protect important assets, especially with the Instant-Win Condition of getting a team member through the enemy gate without being shot.
  • Villain Ball: Whether out of pride or spite, Bonzo's attempts to exclude Ender are more a detriment to himself than anyone else. By insisting that Ender not participate as part of Team Salamander, Bonzo nearly blows his perfect win record, then gets shown up by Ender saving the day. His attempt to dictate Ender's activities during free time could have gotten him iced; he's just lucky that Ender instead saw it as an opportunity to get some leverage.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Alai barfs during his first space flights, with drops of vomit floating in zero gravity.
  • The War to End All Wars: Deconstructed. Ender believes that the best way to end a conflict is to prevent all future conflict, making sure that his opponent never comes back to hurt him again, without necessarily implying his physical destruction. The fleet command harness and exploit that feeling and manipulate him into unwittingly eradicating an entire alien race, using "the war to end all wars" as a justification.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: The Little Doctor.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The fleet command do not even ponder that Formics might have a human-like level of sentience or any motivation for their attack beyond Kill All Humans.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Ender lashes out at Graff and other commanders of the fleet for using Earth's safety as a pretext for exterminating an entire species.
  • Why Isn't It Attacking?: The Formics have not attacked since their assault on Earth. This appears to be because of humans quarantining their world, but in fact the Formics have willingly retreated. Unfortunately, humanity has no idea that they don't intend to attack again. And, while they are building up a huge navy, this is very easily explained by the fact that mankind has blockaded their only system, where they will eventually starve, ruin the biosphere or otherwise be outcompeted. When your back is to the wall, wouldn't you try to fight your way out?
  • Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": To Ender, destroying the Formic homeworld is genocide; to Graff, it's just "winning the game".
    • Averted from a literal standpoint. Ender does call it "genocide" in dialogue—even though Card already came up with a more accurate term, "xenocide"note , and "Speaker for the Dead" was title-dropped by Rackham in reference to his tattoos.
  • Young and in Charge: Gifted children undergo Training from Hell to become lead officers of the fleet.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame / Medal of Dishonor: Ender is furious for being hailed as a hero after he exterminated the Formics.
  • You Are in Command Now: Ender is gradually promoted and given command of first his own army at the Battle School, and later command of Earth's forces in the battle simulations to help train him to become a capable military leader. He later learns that said simulations were actual Earth forces, and doesn't take it too well when he learns he committed genocide on an alien species.
  • Your Mom: Bean delivers an awesome zinger of this type at Bernard when asked how he got such good test scores.
    Bernard: They probably cheated.
    Bean: Your mom cheated; that's why you look like a plumber.
  • Zerg Rush: The Formics do this in their battles, attacking in with massive numbers of expendable drones to overwhelm their opponents. It can be seen in the very first battle Earth has against the Formics, and again in the final simulation battle Ender plays with his teammates.