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.)