If you haven’t read Ender’s Game, the futuristic scenario about a boy whisked off to train to battle aliens can be a lot to digest. Here are the basics of Ender’s Game so you can kick off your studies at Battle School at the top of your class.
By Perri Nemiroff
Years prior to Ender’s story, humans come face to face with an alien race called the Formics. An insect-like species, the Formic social structure consists of a hive queen and workers. The Formics invade Earth intending to colonize it but a human general, Mazer Rackham, defeats them. Assuming the Formics could be regrouping for another attack, the International Fleet (IF) is on the hunt for military prodigies to ship off to Battle School and train to become humanity’s last line of defense.
Kids are plucked from their families all across the globe and shipped off to this military school far off in space to cultivate tactical skills and build an army to fend off the Formics. The curriculum consists of standard classroom courses, free play time and a familiar boarding school-like camaraderie, but above all else is the unprecedented competition that takes place in the rotating room at the facility’s core called the Battle Room.
The Battle Room is the heart of Battle School. Student "armies" named Dragon, Salamander and Rat face off in the weightless round room where they aim to send players through each other's gate. Students use strategic formations, flashguns that "freeze" in position on impact, and gigantic "stars" to bounce off of or take refuge behind.
The label for new students at Battle School. Launchies bunk together and wear yellow uniforms. Having zero knowledge of the Battle Room game, Launchies are challenged to jump into the zero gravity environment and hone their skills so they can eventually move up in the ranks and transfer into an official army. Ender starts his journey as a Launchie.
THE MIND GAME
During downtime, students have the option to play a fantasy game dubbed The Mind Game on their personal tablets. The mind game adapts to each student, so the experience and features are different for everyone, tapping into a player’s emotions and testing students' potential by figuring out how they’d respond to certain situations. As a particularly advanced new recruit, Ender is capable of pushing the game to new limits.
Eros is an asteroid taken by the Formics to use as a staging location. In an effort to gain the advantage, the International Fleet risks a significant amount of lives to claim the base. After assuming control, the IF turns the Formic facility and its anthill-like tunnel formation into a Command School for students on the verge of graduating and becoming IF commanders.
ENDER (Asa Butterfield)
Andrew Wiggin, also known as Ender thanks to his kid sister's mispronunciation, is one of three Wiggin children. When his older brother Peter proved to be too ruthless for Battle School and his older sister Valentine too sensitive, the IF gave his parents approval to bypass the law and have a third child in hopes that he’d be the balance between the two. After a lengthy period of monitoring, the IF deems Ender Battle School-worthy.
"[Asa] is the next breed of actor that we’re going to see. And I’m talking about actor, not action star … I’m talking about someone who’s gonna deliver and make your gut twist and turn.” - Gavin Hood
While Peter takes pride in tormenting his younger brother, Valentine does what she can to protect Ender. Having been so close all throughout Ender’s childhood, Valentine winds up being his primary source of homesickness in Battle School. She plays a bigger part in the book than in the movie.
Hyrum Graff is a colonel in the International Fleet and the head of Battle School. After Ender’s probation ends and he’s deemed a worthy Battle School student, Graff takes a keen interest in his education. He’s dedicated to ensuring Ender develops into the best possible fighter, but along the way, that requires Graff to make some questionable decisions that severely impact Ender’s quality of life.
Mazer Rackham is the reason the human race survives the Second Invasion. Whereas other fighters target worker Formics, Rackham sets his sites on the Queen’s ship. Upon destroying it, he also annihilates all of her minions. At the conclusion of the Second Invasion, the IF decides to establish the Battle School to prepare for the possible Third Invasion and strives to ensure that Rackham can be a key component of that process.
Major Anderson is Colonel Graff’s second in command at Battle School. Her focus is on the Battle Room game, and specifically on creating the most challenging scenarios for Ender. Even though Anderson often raises concerns regarding Graff’s callous teaching tactics, she stands by his decisions for the sake of humanity.
Petra is a Battle School student who’s already well situated in Salamander Army upon Ender’s arrival. When Ender quickly moves up the ranks and finds himself in the same group, Petra takes it upon herself to take him under her wing and ensure he’s ready to play the game at a more advanced level.
“I think what’s so great about Petra is you see her relationship with Ender kind of evolve through the course of the story and in a way that she kind of sees a lot of herself in him.” - Hailee Steinfeld
Bonzo (Moises Arias) is the commander of Salamander Army and when Ender’s arrival results in the loss of one of his prime players, he isn’t happy. Rather than train Ender to fill the void, Bonzo—one of Ender's few antagonists--does everything in his power to ensure Ender never outshines him.
"He’s all about honor and he wants to be the best of the best, and he’s threatened by Ender instantly." - Moises Arias
Even though Bean (Aramis Knight) is one of the younger and smaller Battle School students, Ender pegs him as one of the brightest and most talented of the bunch. Bean is particularly skilled in the Battle Room when it comes to overcoming unexpected obstacles the IF commanders throw his way.
"I’m a little softie inside. But Bean is different. He’s tough, but I love being him.” - Aramis Knight