Saturday, February 15, 2014

Ender's Game and thoughts on alien life

So, I finally saw Ender’s Game. While the book will always hold a special place for me (it was the first work of genuine science fiction I read as a kid), the film version is definitely no slouch. For those not in the know, the plot of Ender’s Game is simplistic at first blush, that humanity is at war with a bug-like alien race called the Formics. The true depth of what’s going on, however, isn’t fully revealed until the credits roll. For the purposes of this review, I need to spoil the ending… so, now you know.

Basically, the Formics were pushed back to their homeworld after a failed invasion of Earth. 50 years later, humanity wants to destroy the threat they pose once and for all. The military brass utilizes genius child tacticians to plan their attack. Ender Wiggin is one such boy. Ender is a strategist of unprecedented brilliance, and he trains for mankind’s final assault on the Formics.

Little does Ender know, however, that his “battle simulations” are actually happening in real-time. It’s no game; he’s unknowingly leading men to their potential graves. Under this deceit, Ender successfully defeats the Formics: by vaporizing the surface of their planet. When Ender learns of what he’s done, he breaks down and fights the urge to throw up. He’s committed wholesale xenocide.

Amidst his grief, Ender remembers that he’s been having visions of an egg. Understanding this to be telepathic communication, Ender searches an assumedly abandoned Formic outpost, only to find a healthy queen’s egg.

Now, this part wasn’t touched on that much in the film, but the novel has the queen linking with Ender’s mind to share her perspective. She explains that when the Formics first encountered humanity, they were baffled by their lack of a hive-mind, and assumed mankind was not a sentient species. The Formics realized their mistake too late, however, when they were driven back. The war was a giant misunderstanding.

What interests me so much about Ender’s Game is twofold: firstly, that we must always try to understand our enemy. If we do that, there is a chance that a dialogue can bear fruit, that peace may reign. I think of World War 2 and our conflict with the Japanese. If only we could have successfully viewed each other as equal human beings and tried to respect our differing cultures, maybe the atomic bomb would never have been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Sadly, it can only be viewed as speculation now.

Secondly, what intrigues me is the possibility of making contact with extraterrestrial life. A conversation with another sentient race would be absolutely amazing. Ender’s Game shows how complicated such an event might be, however. In a truly alien environment, there’s no telling how evolution might take place. An insectoid species like the Formics could easily exist in the billions of galaxies with billions of stars each. Imagine what we could learn from beings that have entirely different ways of thinking! How exciting!

It’s hard to believe that we’re the only ones out there. We’re not even in the center of our own galaxy, for heaven’s sake. This brings me to theology. Put simply, why would God create an empty universe? The argument that the universe was merely created for aesthetic purposes i.e. it’s pretty, seems really intellectually hollow. Is it possible that Christ died a similar death for other alien races? While there’s no way to know for certain yet, it’s a possibility.

Finally, concerning the merits of the movie itself, I have to say it’s very well done. The special effects, while a bit too cgi oriented for my tastes, excel at producing truly exotic visuals. The storytelling, while sometimes lacking a bit in emotion (which could perhaps be critiquing the mindset of a gung-ho military), accurately underscores the weight Ender shoulders. Also, Harrison Ford’s in it… so that should be enough to see it, right? Damn well better be.  

1 comment:

  1. Right on why limit Christ who knows he could be walking the streets right now and no one would ever know.