Movies made from books seem to have the odds stacked against them, especially science fiction books. My favorite author, Robert Heinlein, wrote two books that were made into movies after his death, and both sucked toxic waste: Puppet Masters and Starship Troopers.
More recently, the last Harry Potter movie did quite a good job of adapting the book. I started reading that series to my then-young children when it came out. Most of the movie adaptations in the series were fair, but the last one was worthy of several repeated viewings. Many Tolkien fans swear by the Lord of the Rings trilogy. They’ll sit through twelve hour marathons to watch all three movies again.
I wish I could say Ender’s Game is in the same league, but I can’t.
I’m assuming most readers have read the book at some point, so I’m not worried about spoilers. For those of you who have not read the book, I suggest that you don’t bother with this movie. It will probably feel like another generic “kid saves the universe” story, with special effects trying to carry a sketchy plot. If you plan to see it despite this advice, then you might want to stop reading now.
For those who have read the book, let me explain my mixed feelings about this movie.
If you already understand the story, this movie isn’t awful. It’s nowhere near as bad as the Heinlein adaptations I mentioned earlier. It has generally good casting and good special effects. If you are a really big fan of the book, as I am, it’s worth a viewing. It really works to stay faithful to the book.
In fact, the movie’s biggest problem is that it tries too hard to stay faithful to the book.
I cited Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 because it is an excellent example of adapting the story to the needs of a movie. There are many things that depart from the book. For example, in the book, Voldemort can’t feel when a Horcrux is destroyed, and Harry can’t just sense their presence. But the movie needed those shortcuts for dramatic effect, and they work very, very well in the film.
Ender’s Game feels like a Cliff’s Notes version of the book. Or perhaps a Cliff’s Notes version with every other page missing.
Every major theme and turning point is included, but most of them are in matchstick drawings instead of fleshed out drama. For example, the battle room scenes are well done from a production standpoint. But there are not many of those scenes. The development of Ender’s skills and leadership is compressed to a mishmash, with one battle against other teams mashing together several battles in the book, simply extracting key scenes from each one. The result feels disconnected and contrived.
When the script does depart from the book, it’s done badly. They obviously wanted the character of Petra in that major battle room scene, so they contrived a sprained ankle by a team member and a dispensation from Graff to get her there. But just before that, it’s explained that Ender’s team is a bunch of misfits anyway. At that point, Petra doesn’t have her own army, so why not just put her in Ender’s and skip the contrivance? That’s the kind of spackling over a problem that makes a movie adaptation smooth.
The final battle is fairly well done. The set for it was perfect, and the use of holographic technology and gestures was as good as any movie I’ve ever seen.
Then that was spoiled with a heavy handed resolution about the battle being real instead of a simulation. That entire part of the movie bends over backwards to slap people in the face with the supposed peaceful nature of the buggers, and how terribly awful it was to kill all of them. As the book made clear, they started the conflict and killed many millions of people. When the survival of one’s species is on the line, giving the benefit of the doubt to an enemy who attacked first is mushy, politically correct sillyness.
Casting is reasonably good. They apparently wanted the gruff version of Harrison Ford here, so that’s what they got the entire movie. They could have done lots worse for the role of Graff. Ben Kingsley was fine as Mazer Rackham.
Most of the kids are good enough to get by. The actress in the role of Petra turned in a good performance, but she looked too soft for my vision of Petra. Plus, she resembled the actress playing Valentine enough that I got confused at least once about which one Ender was talking to.
I have no idea if the kid playing Bean is any good, because they didn’t give him enough of a part to find out. I realize the story had to focus on Ender, and Bean was pushed to the background to allow that. It still grated on me to see one of my favorite characters reduced to wallpaper.
Bottom line: this movie isn’t awful, but it isn’t great either. As I said, if you really liked the book, you’ll probably want to see the movie at some point. You probably won’t be shouting at the screen in rage the way I did at Starship Troopers. But unless you liked it better than I did, you won’t be watching it twice.
This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the Republican-led House’s decision to fully fund Obamacare, the economy, and the Obama Administration’s Syria-related stupidity.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
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Over at Just One Minute, Tom takes a look at a couple of articles on the Zimmerman trial, and finds an astonishing admission from a black pastor.
If you’ve been paying attention to the trial, you know that it’s almost over, and every observer with a shred of objectivity thinks Zimmerman will get a “not guilty” verdict.
Problem is, the local black community was convinced from the beginning that Zimmerman was guilty. The media led them right to that conclusion with misleading reporting. For at least one outlet, NBC, it went beyond misleading into outright fraud.
Naturally, those craven journalists will never take responsibility and set the record straight. They even continue to fan the flames with race-baiting articles like the one Tom cites from the New York Times, which included this quote:
Mr. Oliver, the Sanford pastor, said he remained optimistic. “You can feel a little sense that anger is re-emerging,” he said.
You don’t have to be a trained sociologist* to know what that means – possible civil violence, maybe on the scale of the Rodney King riots.
Why anger? Isn’t an innocent man walking free a good thing? Ah, but we’re back to the world of post-modern narrative. Truth doesn’t matter, only narrative matters, and narrative doesn’t have to have any relationship to truth. In the black community, the dominant narrative is that Zimmerman is guilty. As that race-baiting article put it:
Still, black pastors, sociologists and community leaders said in interviews that they feared that Mr. Martin’s death would be a story of justice denied, an all-too common insult that to them places Trayvon Martin’s name next to those of Rodney King, Amadou Diallo and other black men who were abused, beaten or killed by police officers.
That paragraph only makes any sort of logical sense if you assume from the outset that Trayvon is innocent and Zimmerman is guilty.
Out in the real world, where people are watching the trial, there is a dawning realization that the media got it wrong in the first place, and Zimmerman deserves acquittal. Some of us actually went beyond the fraudulent reporting of the major media and realized that months ago.
But the local black community, and others like it across the nation, sounds like it is not prepared to accept that message. They’ve been told for too long how they are victims and Trayvon is just another one.
Despicable race baiters such as the author of that New York Times article, and the sociologist quoted in it, carefully nurture that attitude. Local leaders pick up the tune, amplifying it. The local educational system, mostly dominated by left-leaning teachers unions, reinforces it while simultaneously ensuring that the locals are handicapped in trying to ever break out of that cultural matrix.
The end result is a community culturally isolated from its larger society. It’s members reinforce each others prejudices, and nurture old grievances. They find themselves unsuited for life outside their local community, because they lack the education to fit in anywhere else. This becomes yet more evidence that the outside world has it in for them.
Thus is fulfilled the dreams of the southern white segregationists. Blacks are encouraged to stay in their own culturally isolated communities.** They are encouraged to believe they are somehow different and cannot mix with outside communities. Their poor education marks them as second class citizens.
Who would have thought that government dependence programs, corrupt Democratic city politicians, and a biased leftist media would accomplish what the white segregationists could not?
For me, it’s one more reason to despise the American left. I hate what they have done to my fellow citizens. I despair when I realize that a typical inner-city resident has no reasonable hope of social mobility, and is stuck in a cycle of government dependence, generation after generation. I shake my head at the nonsense peddled to them by the left and by the likes of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Barack Obama.
I hate that one of the more likely outcomes of the Zimmerman trial is that, like the Rodney King affair, black neighborhoods will end up getting torched and looted – by blacks.***
Hey, New York Times and all your “compassionate” leftist race-baiters – does this make you happy?
* Like the race-baiting one in the article, who complained that the non-credible, borderline illiterate star witness for the state was “mammyfied”.
** As one of the effects, just look at how many wealthy suburbs of major American cities are lily-white.
*** I hope it doesn’t happen, and my incurable optimism says maybe the evidence is so clear in this trial that it won’t. But lately, my pessimistic side has a better track record than my optimistic side.
I assume you’re aware of the riots in Turkey. The people of Turkey, or at least a unhappy group of them, are making themselves and their feelings known in a very direct way. According to the WSJ, it began over a park in Istanbul that was going to be replaced by a housing development and shopping center (since the Turkish government controls the media, this “cause” could be as flaky as the anti-Islamic video causing Benghazi). The natives, or at least some of them, are not happy about that.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not happy about the situation either. Why, how dare these people question his government and its motives. They’re pure as the driven snow:
“If you can call someone who is a servant of the country a dictator, then it leaves me speechless,” he said in a televised speech. “I have no aim other than serving the nation.”
The siren song of every dictator I’ve ever heard of or read about. My guess he borrowed the words from Mr. Assad in Syria, who, may have gotten them from Saddam Hussein, who … well you get the picture. And add a little “Bolivarian revolution” to the statement and the dead but unlamented Hugo Chavez or his mentor Fidel Castro could have said them.
Perhaps the most interesting statement, however, came from someone in the street:
People are angry because the government is interfering in everything, be it the alcohol restriction, building of the third bridge, or the new Taksim Square. Everything has piled up, and that’s why people protest,” said Erdal Bozyayla, a 29-year-old restaurant worker who supported the protesters and condemned the violence.
I’d like to believe that’s the real sentiment behind those riots and protests. It may not be. But it got me to thinking what it would take in this country for people to actually take that sort of direct action (and no I’m not condoning or calling for violence … direct action doesn’t have to be violent – witness the civil rights movement). Oh, sure, we’ve had the “Tea Party” rallies and the like, but what is happening in Turkey is obviously much different than that. And if they sentiment expressed is the true cause, why is it that a country like Turkey, with only a short history of freedom (now under concentraged attack by the latest “servant of the country”) apparently have the gumption to say “enough”, when we simply roll over each time another of our freedoms is taken or pared down.
Now, I recognize there could be all sorts of other factions, to include extremist Islamist factions who don’t think Erdogan is moving far or fast enough, could now be trying to co-opt the protests and turn them into something else. But still, was the spark really “the government is interfering in everything” and if so, when, if ever, will that spark be struck here?
Long ago, I argued that the end result of Lawrence v. Texas, and ultimately the legalization of gay marriage, would ineluctably lead to calls to polygamous marriage, and in some fringe cases, incest. Here I am arguing it in 2005. What I was told at the time, essentially was:
Ah, the famed ’slippery slope’ argument. It goes like this: ’’Opening the concept of marriage to any interpretation will lead to a slippery slope for any type of relationship to emerge as the new norm.’’
This is patently offensive. It says that if a loving gay couple can marry, we will have to allow a zookeeper somewhere to marry his monkey. Then, we have to allow Jethro to marry 8 women. We have to allow dad to marry his daughter.
But that response was stupid. Because it was essentially, "Your artificial definition of marriage is monstrous. But my artificial definition of marriage will hold, impervious, for as long as the sun burns hot in space."
But, I was right, of course. Now that gay marriage seems to be becoming fixed as an accepted right, we find ourselves faced with the next logical push for expansion of marriage. In Slate today, Jillian Keenan has penned an article urging the legalization of polygamy. Indeed, according to her, it’s a feminist imperative.
While the Supreme Court and the rest of us are all focused on the human right of marriage equality, let’s not forget that the fight doesn’t end with same-sex marriage. We need to legalize polygamy, too. Legalized polygamy in the United States is the constitutional, feminist, and sex-positive choice. More importantly, it would actually help protect, empower, and strengthen women, children, and families.
It will empower women! Indeed, look at how empowered women are in all the polygamous societies that currently exist in the world. And in polygamous societies all throughout history.
Oh. Wait. It’s the exact opposite of that, isn’t it?
Anyway, the argument goes that, under the feministy, empowering regime of legal polygamy it won’t be patriarchal polygyny. No, a woman can have two or three husbands! Because, you know, men like nothing better than letting their wives screw other guys. That’s just human nature.
In any event, the definition of marriage is plastic, you see. it’s just a social construct and it can mean anything we want it to mean. And there’s nothing inherently better in one definition of "marriage" or another. It’s all good! Family is family, right? So, like, whatever.
But, let’s forget the argument about whether polygamy is a good or a bad thing. Ultimately the point is that I was, of course, right to argue that we’d end up with arguments demanding a right to polygamy and, despite gay marriage advocates calling me a monster for even suggesting such an unseemly slippery slope argument, well…here we are.
Eight years ago, the slippery slope polygamy argument was just a load of Rick Santorum, wingnut, Christer bullsh*t. Today, it turns out it was just a logical prediction that was correct, and entirely foreseeable. I suppose that means that, eight years from now, we’ll have to let Jaime and Cersei Lannister get married.
So, we should probably start thinking about how we’re gonna deal that little dick, Joffre, right now.
Following up yesterday’s post, this is really the sort of country I long for as articulated by Troy Senik. In fact, I long for it:
I want a “leave me alone” society — one where Christian schools can turn people away for rejecting their doctrine, just as gay rights groups can reject those who don’t share their beliefs. I don’t want us all to get along — not because I’m misanthropic (well, not just because I’m misanthropic), but because I know that “consensus” is usually a fancy word for muting minority viewpoints. I want us all to be free to be annoyed with each other from our separate corners. Is that too much to ask?
Apparently. Ask Sarah Conely (I still can’t get over the title of her book and the implication it carries which, if she even realizes it, should chill her to the bone). Ask Mayor Bloomberg. Ask most of the left and a good portion of the right.
How did we ever wander away from that direction and end up on the one where a major news organ, the NYT, even gives a forum to crypto-fascists like Conely? What a horrifying person she is. Imagine someone as cavalier about your rights actually in a position of power. Imagine the possibilities. Oh, that’s right, we don’t have too, do we. We have history to provide the examples. Tons of them.
And yet here is this supposed “learned” academic parroting the same authoritarian themes in a soothing voice designed to lull you into feeling good about giving everything away to the authoritarians (or at least enough so that at some point they can just take the rest).
I want what Senik wants. I don’t have a problem with most discrimination. Yeah, I know – that’s heresy isn’t it? Look, if someone wants to discriminate let them – and let them pay the “stupid tax” for doing so. But here’s the point – you should be free to do that. You should have the right to be stupid and to do stupid things (with the usual caveat that it’s only okay as long as your stupid acts don’t harm others or violate their rights). You should have the right to fail, get fat, smoke, drink, and be an ignorant slob without the do gooders deciding they have to save you from yourself and the only way to do that is to take your freedom away. Or to tell you how to act, talk, or interact with penalties for not being politically correct.
Why is it that the Sarah Conely’s of the world are published in the NYT and the ideas of the Troy Senik’s of the world have to settle for blogs? When did Senik’s idea, which was once very main stream in this country, become extremist while what was once not only extremist, an anathema to America, but thoroughly discredited throughout history somehow gain respectability again?
When you boil it all down, it is that dilemma which amply describes why we’re in the awful shape we’re in and why we see our freedoms under constant assault and slowly being taken away.
I’m just wondering when the tipping point occurred.
That’s essentially what Sarah Conely does in a NY Times op-ed. Oh, she cloaks it benignly enough -“it’s just soda” – as he supports the Bloomberg ban on large volume soda sales. But in essence what she claims is “government knows best” and “giving up a little liberty isn’t so bad if it benefits the majority”.
You see, liberty, in her world, is much less important that security or safety. And we, as knuckle dragging neanderthals, don’t always know what is best for us or how to accomplish our goals without the hand of government to guide us (how we ever managed to make it to the 21st century without that guiding hand is still a mystery in Conely’s circle). Sure some can do it, but most can’t and so laws should be designed to protect and guide (coercively of course) those who can’t (or are believed to be unable).
A lot of times we have a good idea of where we want to go, but a really terrible idea of how to get there. It’s well established by now that we often don’t think very clearly when it comes to choosing the best means to attain our ends. We make errors. This has been the object of an enormous amount of study over the past few decades, and what has been discovered is that we are all prone to identifiable and predictable miscalculations.
Research by psychologists and behavioral economists, including the Nobel Prize-winner Daniel Kahneman and his research partner Amos Tversky, identified a number of areas in which we fairly dependably fail. They call such a tendency a “cognitive bias,” and there are many of them — a lot of ways in which our own minds trip us up.
For example, we suffer from an optimism bias, that is we tend to think that however likely a bad thing is to happen to most people in our situation, it’s less likely to happen to us — not for any particular reason, but because we’re irrationally optimistic. Because of our “present bias,” when we need to take a small, easy step to bring about some future good, we fail to do it, not because we’ve decided it’s a bad idea, but because we procrastinate.
We also suffer from a status quo bias, which makes us value what we’ve already got over the alternatives, just because we’ve already got it — which might, of course, make us react badly to new laws, even when they are really an improvement over what we’ve got. And there are more.
The crucial point is that in some situations it’s just difficult for us to take in the relevant information and choose accordingly. It’s not quite the simple ignorance [John Stuart] Mill was talking about, but it turns out that our minds are more complicated than Mill imagined. Like the guy about to step through the hole in the bridge, we need help.
So, now that we have these Nobel Prize winning psychologists and behavioral economists on the record saying we’re basically inept shouldn’t it be clear to you, as Conely concludes, that “we need help”?
That sort of “help” used to come from family, friends and community. We somehow managed, for around 200 years, to grow and succeed splendidly without government intruding and trying to control our lives.
The basic premise of her piece is much the same as Bloomberg’s more direct assault:
The freedom to buy a really large soda, all in one cup, is something we stand to lose here. For most people, given their desire for health, that results in a net gain. For some people, yes, it’s an absolute loss. It’s just not much of a loss.
Or to quote a more succinct Bloomy: “I do think there are certain times we should infringe on your freedom.”
Notice the arbitrariness of the “I do think”. His choice, not yours. Bloomberg picked sodas. What else could he or those like him arbitrarily pick next time? Think government health care for example and your mind explodes with where they could go.
And notice Conely’s dismissal of the loss of freedom as “not much” of a loss. Incrementalism at its finest. Pure rationalization of the use the coercive power of the state to do what they think is best for you, because, as her academic colleagues have stressed, “we need help.” And our betters are always there to “help” us, aren’t they?
Funny too how the solution is always the same, isn’t it?
And their desire to intrude? Well its wrapped up in their concept of government’s role in our lives:
In the old days we used to blame people for acting imprudently, and say that since their bad choices were their own fault, they deserved to suffer the consequences. Now we see that these errors aren’t a function of bad character, but of our shared cognitive inheritance. The proper reaction is not blame, but an impulse to help one another.
That’s what the government is supposed to do, help us get where we want to go.
No. It’s not. That isn’t at all the function of government as laid out in the Constitution. Not even close. It has always been our job to “get where we want to go”. Government’s job was to provide certain functions to ensure an equality of opportunity (like a fair legal system, stable monetary system, etc), but on the whole we were free to pursue our lives without its interference as long as we stayed within the legal framework and did no harm to others or attempted to defraud them.
Conely’s last sentence is the mask that fronts and justifies/rationalizes every authoritarian regime that has ever existed. If you don’t believe that, I invite you to look at the title of her last book. “Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism.”
Kind of says it all, doesn’t it?
One of the more frustrating things I observe is our apparent unwillingness, as a country, to learn from the mistakes of other countries. For instance, we’ve watched the effects of the welfare state in Europe and its fiscal impact, yet we continue down the same road toward the same cliff they’re now getting ready to go over.
More specifically, we’ve watched other countries raise taxes higher and higher and subsequently watched them lose their native talent. France is in the process of doing that now. And Britain? Well, they’ve been suffering from it for a while:
Nick de Bois, secretary of the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs, said that Britain needs a “culture change” to stem the flow of talented emigrants by encouraging success.
“Our most economically active are leaving to apply their talents elsewhere,” the MP said, warning that talented Britons are being lured away to “growth economies” elsewhere in the world.
Office for National Statistics figures obtained by Mr de Bois show that in the ten years to 2011, a total of 3,599,000 people permanently left the UK.
Contrary to the perception of the typical emigrants being older people retiring to a life in the sun, the figures show that 1,963,000 of those who left were aged between 25 and 44.
By contrast, only 125,000 people of retirement age emigrated.
Note what is “luring” them away? “Growth economies“. And what does one usually find is anything labeled a “growth economy”? Economic opportunity. A chance to better your own situation without being punished and vilified for doing so. You’d think that might be something our “leaders” would understand and appreciate.
But it’s about culture, isn’t it? About the culture our leadership fosters. And that culture in this country is “class warfare”:
“Government must help lead a culture change in this country that competes with the new economies, one where competitiveness and success are valued and personal achievement and personal wealth are respected, not pilloried,” he said.
That’s not at all where this particular government is headed, is it?
And the result? Human Nature 101. See Britain.
Ok, they’re downbeat according to Gallup:
So what? I mean, this is what I don’t get. The American public just re-elected possibly the worst and most incompetent president in my lifetime (what the hell do you have to do to get fired?), they refuse to make their leaders face up to the realities of the fiscal situation, they give away freedoms like some universities give away condoms and suddenly they’re “downbeat” about America’s future?
They should be downbeat – they as much as anyone have generated the culture that has produced these politicians that they continue to reward with reelection term after term. If you don’t make those who represent you do what they should be doing, if you continue to reward their kicking the can down the road with re-election, why in the hell should they do anything? Especially when those who try “die”, politically speaking.
And, of course, you have the compliant press who has no compunction anymore about pursuing an agenda that supports the premise that there is a free lunch and the rich should pay for it.
I’m fed up.
Can you tell?
What if people could easily function with much less sleep?
Jon M at Sociological Speculation asked that question after observing that “new drugs such as Modafinil appear to vastly reduce the need for sleep without significant side effects (at least so far).” At extremes, as Jon M noted in a follow-up post, modafinil allows a reduction to 2.5 hours a night, but “the more common experiences seem to be people who reduce their sleep by a few hours habitually and people who use the drugs to stay up for extended periods once in a while without suffering the drastic cognitive declines insomnia normally entails.” In fact, alertness is not the only reported cognitive benefit of the drug.
The US brand of modafinil, Provigil, did over $1.1 billion in US sales last year, but for the moment let’s dispense with the question of whether modafinil is everything it’s cracked up to be. We’re speculating about the consequences of cheaply reducing or even eliminating the need for sleep for the masses.
If I can add to what’s already been said by several fine bloggers – Garett Jones at EconLog on the likely effect on wages, then Matt Yglesias at Slate sounding somewhat dour about the prospect, and Megan McArdle at the Daily Beast having fun with the speculation – the bottom line is that widely reducing the need for sleep would be a revolutionary good, as artificial light was.
For a sense of scale, there are about 252 million Americans age 15+, and on average they’re each awake about 5,585 hours a year. Giving them each two extra hours a night for a year would be equivalent to adding the activity of 33 million people, without having to shelter, clothe, and feed 33 million more people.
Whatever objections critics have, sleeping less will be popular to the extent that people think the costs are low. For all the billions of dollars spent trying to add years to their older lives, obviously people would spend more to add life to their younger years. Who ever said, “If only I’d had less time!”?
Consider that the average employed parent usually sleeps 7.6 hours each workday. He spends 8.8 of his remaining hours on work and related activities, 1.2 hours caring for others, and 2.5 hours on leisure and sports.
If he spends more time working productively (i.e. serving others), that’s good for both him and society. The time and effort invested in birthing, educating, and sorting people for jobs is tremendous, so getting more out of people who are already born, educated, and sorted is just multiplying the return on sunk costs.
That’s a godsend for any society undergoing a demographic transition after the typical fall in birthrates, because aside from hoping for faster productivity growth, the specific ways to address having fewer workers per retiree – higher taxes, lower benefits, more immigration, or somehow spurring more people to invest in babies for decades – are unpleasant or difficult or both.
And if he uses extra hours to pursue happiness in other ways, that’s generally fine too. A lot of people may simply get more out of their cable subscription. Others will finally have time for building and maintaining their families, reading, exercising, or learning a skill.
Yes, once a substantial number of people are enhancing their performance, others will likely have to follow suit if they want to compete. But then, that’s also true of artificial light and many other technologies. If people naturally slept only four hours a night and felt rested and alert, who would support a law forcing everyone to sleep twice as long, cutting a fifth of their waking hours so that everyone would slow down to the speed that some people prefer to live their lives?
I don’t think most people have such a strong presumption in favor of sleep. We like feeling rested, or dreaming, but not sleeping as such; a substantial minority of Americans sleep less than advised despite the known costs, and so reveal their preference for waking life over oblivion.