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
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
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,
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
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
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