Summit brought the long-awaited Ender’s Game adaptation – based on the touchstone sci-fi novel written by Orson Scott Card back in 1985 – to the studio’s panel at the 2013 International Comic-Con. The project has been embroiled in controversy for sometime now, due to Card’s outspoken anti-gay marriage views; then, more recently, Lionsgate issued a public response to the growing online campaign to boycott the film. So, all in all, this year’s Comic-Con provided a good chance for the studio to help encourage people to start talking about the movie instead (rather than the divisive author who penned the source novel).
The lineup at the Ender’s Game Comic-Con panel included director Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and co-producer Roberto Orci (Star Trek Into Darkness) in addition to cast members Asa Butterfield (Hugo), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) and the legendary Harrison Ford, back after his ‘Con debut back in 2011 (when he was promoting Cowboys & Aliens). Moderation duties for the panel were handled by The Nerdist‘s Chris Hardwick.
For those who need a refresher, here’s an official synopsis for Ender’s Game:
In the near future, a hostile alien race (called the Formics) have attacked Earth. If not for the legendary heroics of International Fleet Commander, Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley), all would have been lost. In preparation for the next attack, the highly esteemed Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and the International Military are training only the best young children to find the future Mazer. Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a shy, but strategically brilliant boy is pulled out of his school to join the elite.
Hood got the party started by announcing that he was visiting the San Diego Comic-Con for the first time (which is a long ways from home for the native South African filmmaker), before he excitedly introduced his fellow collaborators – with Ford, by far, getting the biggest and most enthusiastic response from the people in Hall H - and showed off a brand-new trailer for his Ender’s Game adaptation (which Hood both directed and scripted from Card’s novel).
The new trailer opened similarly to the previously-released trailer (in terms of general content), albeit with different voiceover from Graff about the devastation of the last Formic invasion and Ender’s potential to become humanity’s savior. That material was juxtaposed with new footage of sky battles between human aircraft and Formic ships in Earth’s atmosphere (in addition to brief glimpses of the Formic homeworld and a scorched Earth).
Thereafter, the Comic-Con trailer shifted into overdrive, with rapid-fire glimpses at space-battle sequences between the International Fleet and the Formic vessels, in addition to footage which showed Ender guiding and commanding the human forces to use outside-the-box fighting strategies. Steinfeld as Petra Arkanian and Abigail Breslin as Ender’s sister, Valentine, made brief appearances, along with Viola Davis as Major Gwen Anderson (though only the latter two were shown speaking during the “sizzle reel” portion of the trailer).
Finally, those who have read Card’s original Ender’s Game book will be better able to appreciate the significance of the scenes between Ford as Graff and Kingsley as Rackham – where the pair discuss Ender’s progress – as snippets from those were interspersed within the more bombastic and effects-heavy footage; though, once again, only a few brief shots teasing the Battle School’s zero-gravity training room were included (hopefully, to save that stuff for the actual movie). The trailer concluded with an extended version of the previous trailer’s finale, showing the IF spaceships in attack formation before Ender issues his final deadly order (which still probably only feels that spoiler-ish for those who’re familiar with the context of that sequence).
The panel concluded with some questions from the moderator, followed by the standard audience-member Q&A segment:
- Orci mentioned that he appreciated how Ender’s Game was one of the rare films that he just produced (as opposed to serving as both a producer and screenwriter).
- Steinfeld mentioned that her role as Petra marked the first occasion where she had to undergo intense physical training.
- Ford corrected the moderator, saying that he doesn’t consider Graff to be Ender’s mentor so much as his “manipulator.” He went on to express his amazement at how the original Ender’s Game book could’ve imagined a world that has become an everyday reality (his example was drone warfare) 28 years before the fact.
- Hood praised the complexities of Card’s story and its amazing environments (ex. the battle rooms), promising that this film includes a great, competent story with cool effects and non-simple characters (e.g. everything X-Men Origins: Wolverine was not).
- A fan mentioned the controversy surround the film and asked about Card’s involvement. Orci handled the inquiry, as he explained that the studio decided to use the attention to defend LGBT rights. Orci also emphasized that there were many people who worked hard on the project, and they appreciate the story’s messages about tolerance, empathy and compassion (which earned applause from the audience).
- The Q&A concluded with Ford taking a couple of goofy fan questions, like what he thinks Indiana Jones and Han Solo would say to one another if they met (“Hi, how are you?”) and whether or not Han would be a good soldier for Graff’s army (Ford said he believes Han is what we now call an “independent contractor,” so no). Ford also jokingly grumbled that he’s never coming back to Comic-Con.
Ender’s Game opens in U.S. theaters on November 1st, 2013.