Long before teenage protagonists and post-apocalyptic settings became a staple for enormous box office profits (via young adult novel adaptations like The Hunger Games and newcomer Divergent), author Orson Scott Card had already laid-out his vision for what young people will face in the not-too-distant future. Now, 28 years later, Ender’s Game is coming to the big screen under the direction of Rendition and X-Men Origins: Wolverine helmer Gavin Hood – with Asa Butterfield (Hugo), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), and Harrison Ford in the lead roles.
Following hot on the heels of new character-specific posters for the film, the cast and filmmakers of Ender’s Game traveled to Comic-Con 2013 to showcase new footage and answer questions about the highly-anticipated film adaptation. However, before they took to the Hall H stage, the Ender’s Game crew met with journalists behind closed doors. Unsurprisingly, many of the questions were directed at Harrison Ford (making his first appearance ever at Comic-Con) and the actor provided a number of insightful and candid answers on a variety of topics – including his iconic turn as Han Solo and the timely themes of Ender’s Game.
Responding to a question about the differences between his Ender’s Game character Colonel Hyrum Graff and his most famous science fiction rascal, Han Solo, Ford asserted that while he loves his part in the Star Wars universe, Graff is a “more complicated” character:
“I would think that they [Han Solo and Hyrum Graff] are nothing alike. Graff is a very complex character that is charged with an awesome responsibility who recruits and trains young Ender Wiggin. And really in this construction of the story, faces a lot of the moral issues that are involved in the using of young people for warfare and the complex moral issues are part of Graff’s story. Ender doesn’t really face the issues of morality until the end of the film, when he knows what’s happened to him, but Graff is aware that his moral responsibilities are part of the story. I think the book deals with a lot of very complex issues of social responsibility and the moral issues that one faces when you are part of a military establishment [...] I think Graff is a much more complicated character than Han Solo – which doesn’t mean that I regret Han Solo.”
Given that Han Solo is easily one of the most beloved characters in the Star Wars franchise, with many fans eager to see the character return in Episode 7, certain moviegoers will no doubt take issue with Ford’s claim that Colonel Graff is “more complicated.” Yet, Ford wasn’t merely toeing the PR line, talking up his next project at the expense of earlier work, since the actor went on at length about why he chose Ender’s Game – as well as how the nearly thirty-year-old story reflects current challenges in society.
Elaborating on those “complex” issues of morality and social responsibility, Ford discussed the core themes at play in Ender’s Game, identifying two elements that are especially timely – the disconnect between emotion and military combat as well as the role of young people in modern (and future) warfare:
“This movie was very prescient, the novel was very prescient, in recognizing something that we now have as a reality in our lives, which is the ability to wage war at a distance and to do the business of war somewhat emotionally disconnected from it. And so the reality of a military commander and the military command structure, the morality of a society which raises a military and wages war are the moral concerns of this film and they are something that we are wrestling with daily in our lives. The issue of interplanetary warfare is a science fiction aspect of it but what gives it such emotional tone and reality is that these are the concerns of our everyday lives now. Drone warfare and the capacity that we have technologically is one part of the moral package.
The other is the use of young people in the business of war – which has always historically been the case. The youngest and fittest of our cultures have always been the ones who are first in line for warfare. And the question of using even younger people. In the book Ender Wiggin starts out at seven years of age, in this case I think wisely it has been changed to be a young person closer matching Asa’s age – twelve or thirteen. It was a wise choice but the character that I play is responsible for manipulating young people in service of some perceived need of humanity as a whole. And no matter how you try and wrestle with the questions of warfare and the military the more you realize how complex these issues are and how much attention they deserve. I think it was really important to visit these questions, not only in the daily news and then dismiss them, but in our emotional and civic lives.”
Anyone who has read the Ender’s Game novel will easily recognize the connections that Ford is alluding to in his statements. Many aspects of Card’s book haven’t just held-up overtime, they’ve actually grown more and more relevant, as technology, and subsequently warfare, have evolved in the last three decades. While the author’s personal beliefs are still a hot-button issue for many moviegoers, Ford’s recent comments reinforce what the Ender’s Game filmmakers and cast have been saying for weeks – that one person’s politics shouldn’t distract from the hard work of the hundreds of crew members who helped bring the film to audiences or the value of themes that are present in the story of Ender Wiggin.
Ender’s Game opens in U.S. theaters on November 1st, 2013.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for further Comic-Con 2013 coverage, updates on Ender’s Game, as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.