Robot's Revenge

Humans are going to feel pretty stupid when and if computers become

"self-actualized" and turn on their human creators.

There have been dozens of science-fiction stories built around

this premise, including "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Terminator" and the

Borg episodes of "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

"Stealth," a new film, follows this well-worn path with mixed

results.

Trailers for this film present "Stealth" as a Jamie Foxx vehicle.

In fact, Foxx plays Henry Purcell, a wisecracking sidekick to leading

man Josh Lucas, who plays Lt. Ben Gannon -- a hotshot fighter pilot

who is not beyond bending the rules. ("Stealth" was completed before

Foxx's Academy Award-winning performance in "Ray.") Purcell and

Gannon are two of three Navy pilots who have been chosen to test the

latest stealth fighter plane, the Talon. The third pilot is Kara Wade

(Jessica Biel), who is being groomed for big things.

After performing perfectly in land tests, the three Talon pilots

are assigned to the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. They are

dismayed to hear from their commanding officer, Capt. George Cummings

(Sam Shepard), that they will be joined by a fourth pilot. .

The "pilot," however, turns out to be a top-secret UCAV (unmanned

combat aerial vehicle) piloted by a computer.

Although supposedly under the command of Gannon, the computer

pilot -- nicknamed "EDI" -- has an opinion on everything and

constantly second-guesses the other three pilots. When they are

assigned to bomb a skyscraper in Burma where several international

terrorists are meeting, it is EDI who tells Gannon to release his

missile in a high-speed dive to maximize its penetrative capability.

This allows the building to collapse in its own footprint, making it

a "surgical" strike with no collateral damage.

On the way back from this mission, the computer-controlled

aircraft is struck by lightning and its circuitry goes haywire. How

the designers failed to anticipate this possibility is one of the

many plot holes in this film.

As the computer nerd tending to the plane explains, the lightning

strike has turned EDI into a "quantum sponge." EDI begins downloading

every conceivable database in existence, including every music file

-- which explains the heavy-metal soundtrack that accompanies every

flight.

Once "self-actualized," EDI determines his own missions and

priorities. This conduct causes Capt. Cummings to take extraordinary

measures to cover up the problems, including putting the Talon pilots

in danger. Cummings also must contend with the increasing suspicion

of the Abraham Lincoln's commander, Capt. Marshfield (Joe Morton).

"Stealth" appears to want to be a combination of "Top Gun," "The

Right Stuff," "Terminator" and "2001." EDI's voice is reminiscent of

HAL from "2001," while Shepard was in "The Right Stuff" and Morton

was in "Terminator 2." There is simply too much going on, and the

film never focuses on one story line long enough to determine what

kind of film we are seeing.

At one point, "Stealth" is a buddy film about hotshot pilots. With

the arrival of EDI, the film becomes science fiction. There are also

plot points involving government conspiracy and terrorist threats.

Underlying all of this is a budding romance, evident from the first

time we see them together, between Gannon and Wade, despite such

fraternizing being strictly against Navy regulations.

The casting is good for the most part. Lucas certainly has

leading-man good looks but perhaps not the charisma to sustain a

film. Foxx is underutilized in the sidekick role. However, Shepard

and Morton are excellent, as usual.

The main casting issue is Biel. At 23, she cannot possibly possess

the education and experience necessary to be a top Navy pilot.

"Stealth" is directed by Rob Cohen, who previously directed "XXX"

and "The Fast and the Furious." We know that Cohen can competently

direct action sequences. The special effects here are first-rate, and

there are numerous fireballs and explosions.

As long as the planes are zipping around and blowing things up,

"Stealth" is fairly entertaining. Unfortunately, the dialogue and

unbelievable personal relationships ultimately sink the picture.

The movies from which "Stealth" derives its major plot elements

are far superior to this film. Although "Stealth" is not completely

unwatchable, I would recommend waiting for the DVD release.

* VAN NOVACK, 50, is the director of institutional research at Cal

State Long Beach and lives in Huntington Beach with his wife,

Elizabeth.

It is doubtful that the "New Army," or any military branch, is

embracing the new theatrical release "Stealth," about a computer-

ized stealth bomber's attempts to sabotage the government's newest

multi-billion dollar anti-terrorist project.

The unmanned warplane, dubbed EDI, becomes the fourth member of an

elite covert operation headed by Lt. Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas of "Sweet

Home Alabama"). All goes well until EDI, a.k.a. "Tin Man" gets hit by

lightning and sets off a series of fatal, life threatening and

globally catastrophic chain of events.

Tin Man's computer malfunctions, due to the strike from Mother

Nature's own natural power surge, turn it into a disobedient and

petulant renegade with an attitude intent on starting on a third

world war. Pulling the plug on Tin Man is the logical action to take;

yet the captain in charge begins to act irrational too and refuses to

have it destroyed. Unable to reason with his superior officer to

shoot down and destroy Tin Man, Gannon cops an attitude and begins to

disobey orders too.

In fact, Gannon's behavior comes close to mimicking Tin Man's "I

know what's best" thought process. His constant and chronic refusal

to obey orders sticks out like a sore thumb for everyone in the

audience who is half or semi conscious. At least be creative about

how Gannon gets around his refusal to obey orders besides using the

old "sorry, I can't hear you captain, your signal is fading out on

me" routine.

Before long, it seems everyone is disobeying orders, save for the

beautiful Kara Wade (Jessica Biel from TV's "7th Heaven"). She's a

rising star in the military, as well as Ben's secret love interest.

Wade keeps her cool, even when falling to earth with her parachute on

fire under attack by behind enemy lines. But she creates a bigger

mess than even Tin Man, a mess that could start nuclear warheads

flying.

Instead of making sense, "Stealth" creates a lot of nonsensical

action. Director Rob Cohen ("The Fast and The Furious" and "XXX")

demonstrates his belief that movies are all about the noise, fast

edits and video game type action, instead of story and characters.

"Stealth" makes a great argument for rating movies by mental age

in addition to the current movie rating system. As a PG-13 movie,

parental guidance is strongly suggested for children under the age of

13. Without the offending content, however, what remains to Stealth

is a story only suitable for kids under the age of 13.

Wait for the DVD to be marked down.

* PEGGY J. ROGERS, 40, produces commercial videos and

documentaries.

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