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'Ender's Game' Teaser Poster Strikes Wrong Note

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by Anne Thompson
March 26, 2013 3:06 PM
12 Comments
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'Ender's Game'

I've been excited about new sci-fi epic "Ender's Game" (November 1) not because I'm a fan of the original Nebula and Hugo-winning 1985 novel by Orson Scott Card, but because Roberto Orci, who wrote the two recent "Star Trek" movies with partner Alex Kurtzman, is producing. @boborci has been tweeting about the project; for example, he confirmed this week that the "Ender's Game" trailer will run in front of "Star Trek Into Darkness" (May 17).

But my heart sank when I saw this stab at an "Ender's Game" teaser. The job of a movie marketer is to make us want to see a movie, usually by titillating us with some kind of arresting image that promises something we haven't see before. An exotic world, a character, a story. Digital Domain is doing the VFX. Haven't they got something better than this?

Lionsgate/Summit's poster for "Ender's Game" is as generic as you can get. Remember "John Carter"? That was a similarly bland intro to a $250-million movie that wound up as the biggest write-down in Hollywood history. Show us a world! A character! Not some generic spaceman's back! 

The epic adventure is directed by Oscar-winning South African writer-director Gavin Hood ("Tsotsi"), who adapted the novel about brainy young strategist Ender Wiggin ("Hugo" star Asa Butterfield) who is recruited by the International Fleet to help save Earth from another alien invasion.

"Ender's Game" reunites Butterfield with his "Hugo" co-star Ben Kingsley; the film stars a raft of other Oscar nominees including Harrison Ford ("Witness"), Viola Davis ("The Help"), Abigail Breslin ("Little Miss Sunshine") and Hailee Steinfeld ("True Grit"). Hood gave an update on Tumblr:

“Hello fellow Ender's Game fans. It's been four years since I first began writing a screenplay based on the classic novel. I love the book. And I especially love the character of Ender Wiggin. I was drafted into an army myself at 17, and Ender's journey of self discovery - his battles with authority figures he does not trust and his development as a leader - are themes I strongly relate to.

“We are now well into post production, and the famous zero gravity battle room scenes are looking fantastic. We started a year ago by sending our talented young actors off to a ‘space camp’ to train under the guidance of real NASA astronauts.

“They learned to move in zero gravity environments and experienced the wonderful feeling of weightlessness. Mix in some truly incredible visual effects work and today we are looking at battle room scenes that will blow your mind!”

There's plenty of time to do better than this, which Summit's savvy marketing team will surely do. (They reminded me that this is just a teaser.)


12 Comments

  • Dan Muey | April 4, 2013 11:15 AMReply

    Glad to find out about the poster but the article is wrong:

    If you had read the book you’d probably love this poster! It has the scale of the battle school, the battle room, the “stars”, the gate (which is down BTW!!!), the suit, etc. For a current fan its awesome, for future fans it will be awesome if its not already, and essentially there is no [intended]3rd[/intended] type of person :)

  • Dan Muey | April 4, 2013 11:17 AM

    sigh, your website mis-encoded the data, somewhere something is not utf-8

  • Mazer Rackham | April 1, 2013 7:25 PMReply

    With all the issues that i see that could not be avoided (aka child actors to old, beans actor not half size for his age) they would realy have to do a good job of selling the enviroment to even get me to go and give it half a chance. both Bean and Ender are small for their age and even in partal grav Bean is unable to jump and touch the celing. many many things are having to be adjusted in the story line to make this work and the way they did the poster is to let us know that they are trying to stay as true to the story as they can... i just hope that my interpitation is accurate because the screen shots of the actors in battle dress leave me lacking

  • Hannah | March 28, 2013 7:27 PMReply

    I think you got it wrong :p

    This poster is exactly what I was looking forward to seeing! It shows SO much that I've been excited about... including a battle room WAY more incredible then I had imagined it in my head. It shows the space suits, it shows Ender... and according to the mother of one of the actors, it shows various other actors in the battle room.

    It's just a teaser poster, get over it.

  • Anthony Russo | March 28, 2013 11:52 AMReply

    I'm a fan of the book and very pumped for this movie, but the poster is actually very good regardless of knowing the book or not. You just have to look more than a glance of some guy in space.

    The floor states he is about to go into zero G space.
    There are others in there fighting in zero G.
    That guy in space IS Ender.
    The overall look is very clean and polished.

    With the synopsis it should be simple to see that this is a high-production movie that is going to have a central focus on the kids fighting in the battle room preparing for the upcoming war. It is just a poster so it should spark interest, rather than lock in dedication to an unknowing observer.

    I must say that the list of included cast and their previous roles made me think you really had no knowledge of Sci-fi whatsoever and shouldn't have been writing this article in the first place. I see from your comment that I am mistaken but I cannot recall the last time Harrison Ford was referenced for "Witness" as a landmark role, above Star Wars or Indiana Jones or The Fugitive even.

    Witness? Really?

  • Andy in Indy | March 26, 2013 7:37 PMReply

    Being in the group that get "gets" the poster and its significance to both the books story and the way it would effect the storytelling in the movie, I know I am biased in my opinion of it. That said, it shows that the first wave of marketing is being directed at the "hard core " fans. I think this is just a way to create some buzz from those fans. That sort of marketing works when there is a popular source like this book, and the interest those fans create will draw others in. If this were a less popular book, I think this would backfire. But since so many adults and teenagers have already read this over the last 30 years, I think it will be a strong enough start to draw outsiders into the movie.

  • Ciaran O'Brien | March 26, 2013 7:27 PMReply

    This article is written by an idiot who can't get their research right. Butterfield wasn't in Let Me In Kodi Smit-McPhee was. Read the book and you'd appreciate the poster.

  • Anne Thompson | March 26, 2013 5:58 PMReply

    Thanks for the intel, this suggests that Summit is targeting core fans of the book with this poster. I may get around to reading "Ender's Game" before the movie comes out, but point is, I shouldn't have to in order to respond to a poster. I am a huge sci-fi fan, from Asimov, Clarke, Le Guin, Bradbury, Herbert, Heinlein and Bester to "Star Wars," "Star Trek," "Alien," "Aliens" "Avatar," "Blade Runner," and "2001: A Space Odyssey." This poster tells me that a young man is in outer space. That's all.

  • Hannah | March 28, 2013 7:58 PM

    This book has 30 years worth of fans behind it. I think that it only makes sense that a first teaser poster would be directed towards them.

  • Andy in Indy | March 26, 2013 7:40 PM

    A young man playing laser tag in space. ;-)

  • tyler4all | March 26, 2013 7:39 PM

    You're right, Anne. The movie has to stand on its own two feet and not hide behind the "read the book" slogan. The studio is not interested in getting fans of the book to see the movie. Most of them will go out of sheer curiosity anyway. The task of the marketing is to win over the casual observers who, if they're anything like you or me, have not been won over by this poster. Looks ok but nothing special. and is it possible to draw attention to a mistake without calling the writer an idiot? nah, basic decency is too much to ask of the nameless, faceless hordes populating the internet.

  • Wolfen | March 26, 2013 5:43 PMReply

    If you dont get excited by this poster than you havent really enjoyed Card's bestseller in its entirety. Had you actually read even the middle of the book you would have noticed that the room you are seeing in the background if the battleroon. The game that encircles every part of the book. With this poster alone anyone can see the awsome battleroom and the extent that the filmmakers are going to in making a great film. I for one love the poster.
    Id read more into a movie or book before you critique anything.

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