The people on-screen during the sci-fi behemoth "Ender's Game" are watching other people on other screens with such ridiculous frequency you'll wonder if director Gavin Hood is making a pre-emptive joke about the people who'll be tweeting at his movie, telling other people to stay away.
But no, the movie takes itself far too seriously for that: It even allows its young space commander hero to ask, near the end of what is a very long space trip, "Why are we seeing these images?" Which is the kind of softball that's almost too ripe to take a swing at.
Why are we seeing these images? Because the original 1985 "Ender" novel (revised/reissued in 1991) by Orson Scott Card has already spawned an entire series of books, and now it has birthed the first of what is set up to be a fleet of motion pictures -- a slow-moving-to-the-point-of-narcosis fleet of motion pictures, judging by the first.
It boasts not only unconvincing actors floating dreamily through space, but also a color palette that belongs in a hospital, music that belongs in an elevator and production design that -- like a fireworks display -- is flashy, bright and devoid of either context or intelligence.
Young Asa Butterfield, the cute kid from "Hugo," is now less cute and less than engaging as Ender Wiggin, a Battle School wannabe who comes under the gaze of the austere Col. Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford, fulminating). Graff sees in the boy the kind of talent, and/or sociopathy, that can save mankind from what is sure to be a second attack by the Formics, a race of insectoids that have already wreaked havoc on mankind.
The story of "Ender's Game" involves Ender's adjustment to being a prodigy, a leader of men/women and the savior of his race. It's all setup to a sequel. None of it is convincing in the least.
And even director Hood ("X-Men Origins: Wolverine") seems to let his own attention wander, becoming fixated on the shiny objects that float about the space station, sleepily, dreamily and with no fixed destination.
PLOT The geek will inherit the Earth -- or, at least, whatever spaceship is assigned the task of saving humanity and committing intergalactic genocide.
RATING PG-13 (violence, action, adult content)
CAST Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Viola Davis, Hailee Steinfeld, Ben Kingsley
BOTTOM LINE Set in zero gravity, it has zero gravity. Stay home. Play a video game.