2013 has been a pretty good year at the movies for original science-fiction—think Oblivion, Elysium, Pacific Rim, and Gravity. But the movie I’m most excited about isn’t original at all. Ender’s Game is based on a short story Orson Scott Card first published over 35 years ago and expanded into a full novel in 1985, at which point it promptly won just about every genre award on the planet and gained “instant classic” status.
Now, it’s one of the biggest movies of the fall, with a cast to kill for—five, count ’em, five Oscar-nominated actors—and an award-winning director. Below, find five reasons we’ve been counting the days until it is released on November 1.
1) We’ve been waiting forever: I first read Ender’s Game in the mid-’90s, when it was already a decade old, and I immediately wanted to see it translated to the screen. That was nearly 20 years ago, people. Hollywood has been working on it almost that long: Orson Scott Card wrote an adaptation in 2003 that was later rewritten by D.B. Weiss and David Benioff (two names you might recognize as the minds behind a little fantasy show called Game of Thrones) and was supposed to be filmed by director Wolfgang Peterson (Air Force One, Troy). When that version failed to, er, launch, Card wrote a new script that also went nowhere. In 2010, Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) joined the project as the screenwriter and director, but it took two more years (and the addition of Transformers and Star Trek scribes Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman joining as producers) for filming to begin. After all the blood, sweat, and tears, it’s anyone’s guess what will actually make it to the screen. Hopefully my inner 15-year-old won’t be let down.
2) The Battle Room: Ender’s Game puts the title character through the ringer preparing him to be a master military strategist, most memorably through early training exercises in the Battle Room, a 360-degree, zero-gravity war simulation. These sequences, though absolutely thrilling to read, seemed impossible to film convincingly—at least until I saw Gravity. If Ender’s Game‘s special effects are anywhere near as good, there’s practically no way the Battle Room sequences won’t be a highlight.
3) Harrison Ford is back, baby: Look, I don’t begrudge a man slowing down in his old age (dude is 71!), but I also won’t fault an audience for yawning through Harrison Ford’s performances in late-career entries like Hollywood Homicide and Extraordinary Measures, since the actor could barely stay awake himself. But there’s reason to hope (yes, even after Kingdom of the Crystal Skull): early buzz indicates the actor has brought his A-game, turning in his best performance in decades. Just in time for a Han Solo cameo in Star Wars: Episode VII, right? Right?
4) The young cast: Let’s face it, one of the major obstacles in getting this book to the screen is the fact that the main character is a kid—a kid who has to convincingly carry the fate of the entire human race on his shoulders, no less. And though the movie fudges things a bit by aging Ender up to around 14 (he’s 6 at the start of the book and 12 by the end), Asa Butterfield seems like he has the gravitas to pull off the role. But that’s not all: youthful Oscar nominees Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) and Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) also play major roles.
5) It’s about more than explosions: Sci-fi movies have a reputation as being big, loud, and dumb, but the best of them exhibit the same strengths as the best novels in the genre—an ability to use a futuristic setting and strange alien creatures to reflect on the world we live in right now. Playing heavily on themes of xenophobia and a preemptive war against an unpredictable enemy, Ender’s Game feels like a movie whose time has come.
Are you excited for Ender’s Game?