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Science fiction is a genre in a league of its own when it comes to failed attempts of adapting stories for screen. So when the first ever adaptation attempt of my all time favourite sci-fi novel has gone into post-production, I’m anxious to say the least.

Ender’s Game‘ was written by Orson Scott Card and published in 1985. It was actually an adaptation itself, based on a short story he had published in a magazine eight years earlier. The novel received both Hugo and Nebula awards and went on to inspire not just one, but two entire book series, the Ender saga and the Shadow saga.

A short synopsis: Earth is in political distress, and humans are at war with the alien race Formic, commonly known as “the Buggers”. They have already suffered two attacks by the ruthless bug-like race who seem unwilling to communicate or negotiate. Now, through a monitoring process, gifted children are being selected and sent to training at the International Fleet (IF) Battle School in anticipation of the Third invasion. Among these children is five-year old Ender Wiggin, the youngest, smallest and brightest. We follow Ender in his through years of playing strategic war games, in close observation by military officials and in constant fear of ending up like his cold and menacing brother, Peter.

Ender’s Game‘ is a story that is exeedingly difficult to successfully adapt to screen. First of all, most of the narrative takes place in Ender’s head, which works well in writing, but not for visual media. Furthermore, Ender is a child, as are most of the characters in the story. And not only are they children, they are exceptionally gifted children. For a screen adaptation this implies two scenarios: a) the film is actually cast mainly by children under the age of ten, a risky move to any investor and likely to end up a messy display of underdeveloped acting skills, especially as the kids in the story are not merely children but children geniuses; or b), Ender’s age is adjusted to an “investment friendly” age. Although far more likely scenario, it is very difficult to imagine how this can be done without compromising the entire premise of the story.

The author of the book has spoken about these issues at length himself, as well as the issue of the story not containing a love interest (a requirement for any Hollywood production), and has previously declined any number of unsatisfying screenplay drafts. This makes me feel slightly more confident that this version should be worthwhile. He’s given the green light and is onboard as co-producer.

Directing the film will be Gavid Hood, who has previously stood behind ‘Tsotsi‘ (2005) and ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine‘ (2009). He has also written the screenplay for this adaptation. In the grown-up acting department, they’ve brought in Ben Kingsley, Viola Davies and Harrison Ford,  which gives cause for optimism. For the children there are, quite expectedly, some familiar faces and a lot of unfamiliar ones. Ender will be portrayed by Asa Butterfield (‘Hugo‘), confirming that they have indeed adjusted his age; they’ll be hard pressed to make him out as any younger than 12. I wasn’t over the moon about his last performance, but he’s got some experience and has already worked with Kingsley, and he’s got the right look. Cast as Ender’s sister is Abigail Breslin (‘Little Miss Sunshine‘), by far the most experienced of the young cast.

Rumours will have it that both the challenges of the narrative and of the lack of love interest will be solved by bringing in one of the supporting characters, namely Bean (who became the protagonist of the Shadow saga), and making the adaptation into something of a “bromance”. I can see any number of ways in which this may go wrong and betray the heart of the story, but it does sound like the most practical way of approaching the posed issues, so one can only hope Hood has a firm grasp on his script. Bean will be played by Aramis Knight, who has so far only made insignificant appearances in various TV shows.

As for the visual result, I’m semi-optimistic. Unlike the first 20 years after the release of the book, we now do have the ability to make this story look absolutely stunning. The story takes almost exclusively place on a space fleet, and the war games are done in zero gravity environments. Also, there is an alien species to develop. I can only keep my fingers crossed and hope they’ve got a skilled team onboard to pull it off.

The film is due for cinematic release in a year’s time. I don’t know when we can expect the first trailer, but I will post it as soon as it becomes available.

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is based on a novel by the same name, which was written by Stephen Chbosky and released in 1999. The book is not particularly well-known in Norway, but from what I can tell it’s pretty big in the US, and I can easily see why. Since watching the film I’ve bought a copy of the novel and begun reading it, and though I must honestly say that I think for once I prefer the movie over the book, I can see how the book might have struck me if I had read it at 15, and I think it might have done me some good to. Anyway, it’s Chbosky himself who has written the screenplay and directed this film adaptation, which is a bold and risky move, but on the whole successful in this instance.

Charlie (Logan Lerman) is going on 16 and is already counting the days until the end of high school, before his first term has even begun. His only friend committed suicide in the previous year, and even in a family of five, he is all alone. He is a wallflower: he observes and listens, but doesn’t quite know how to participate. Then, unexpectedly he develops a close friendship with step-siblings Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), who are both in their final year at his school.

The story is set at the beginning of the nineties, which is really only significant because it was the time of cassettes and mix tapes, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show events, which are all a big part of the plot.

What makes this film is the atmosphere. The film doesn’t really set itself up for one big crescendo, but is one of those more evenly paced, character-driven stories that nonetheless keeps you interested. I can only compare it to another such film, ‘Dead Poets Society’, and hope you see what I mean. You just want to keep following these characters and see what happens to them, because you feel so at home in their universe and can so easily identify with them and feel what they feel. It doesn’t feel as if the film is struggling to fit any specific genre criteria, which leaves it open to develop all characters, including supporting ones, past one dimension and beyond stereotypes, which makes it easier not only to identify with Charlie, but nearly all of the characters and most of the plot on some level.

To say that it is driven by character development rather than action isn’t to say that nothing dramatic happens, because it does. The plot is actually surprisingly deep, and takes a turn for the unexpected toward the end. It doesn’t feel out-of-place though: there have been clues set up for it all along, if you knew how to recognise them.

The genuine atmosphere is created largely due to the magnificent acting: it’s one of those rare displays of seamlessness that make you forget that you’re watching actors and not actual people. I already expected Ezra Miller (‘We Need to Talk about Kevin’) to be outstanding. He has a remarkable presence on screen that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Emma Watson (‘Harry Potter’) and Logan Lerman (‘Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief’) may not be in the same league, but they seem very at home in their characters too. I am especially relieved by Lerman’s performance, as I was, to put it kindly, somewhat worried in advance that he might be the wrong choice for this character.

The support cast is also good: I was especially impressed by Paul Rudd (‘I Love You, Man)’, who did a good job in the difficult-to-balance role as the kind, cool teacher. Also, Nina Dobrev (‘The Vampire Diaries’) as Charlie’s older sister and Mae Whitman (‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’) as punk Buddhist friend Mary Elisabeth deserve mention.

You might have noticed that I’ve changed the name of my blog since I watched this film. I took the name from a scene in the movie which I thought was one of the most touching and sincere ones – perhaps oddly, in a film so full of them.

This is the scene: Charlie, Sam and Patrick are at a homecoming ball, when suddenly a familiar song comes on. Sam and Patrick’s faces light up, and one of them (Sam, I believe) shouts: “Oh my god! The living room routine!”. The other replies, “Yes! The living room routine!”, whereupon they proceed to run giddily onto the middle of the dance floor and break out into a synchronised dance routine.

This could easily have been a really cheesy, embarrassing scene, but it gives Watson and Miller a great opportunity to demonstrate their relationship – more by their reaction to the song than the actual dance. There are no excessively coreographed dance moves and no big crowd parting; it’s no big deal to anyone but them. It’s not an opportunity to show off, but to let go and have fun and not worry about being seen or judged. (For those wondering, the song is ‘Come on Eileen’, by Dexy’s Midnight Runners.)

Perks’ isn’t perfect. It might sound as if I’m trying to sell it as the best movie of the decade, but it’s not. There are some flaws, most of them the expected result of having the author of the source material make the movie adaptation, clear cases of “kill your darlings” issues. However, watching this film made me feel like I was 17 again. Now, if you knew me at 17 this might sound like a bad thing, but what it says about the movie is that it managed to make me completely accept and identify with the setting and the characters.

I’ve rarely felt so many feelings so strongly throughout a film: I felt happy, sad, sympathetic, embarrassed and worried at alternating times; for the characters and for myself. That to me makes the film successful in all the ways that count.

“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”

I would love to hear your opinions on this film, or the book if you’ve read it!