by Eric D. Snider
Released: July 29, 2005
Beware of movies in which the human characters are less important than the machines. Your motorcycle movies and drag-racing movies and airplane-flying movies -- these usually neglect their humans because they know their male target audience is more interested in the vroom-vroom and the rat-a-tat-tat anyway. And hence, these movies usually suck.
In no way breaking free from the legacy of suckitude set forth by such films (and indeed directed by Rob Cohen, of "The Fast and the Furious") is "Stealth," about a top-secret Navy air force jet that can talk, fly without a pilot, carry out missions, go rogue, defy orders, kill whomever it deems its enemy, all without a single "2001: A Space Odyssey" reference (or even a "Top Gun" reference, for that matter). It's artificial intelligence at its finest, and never have the words "artificial intelligence" seemed so fitting.
This, my friends, is a grandly stupid movie. Yet it's not even the magical talking airplane concept that sinks it. Goodness knows there have been reasonably good movies made on that subject in the past; why, "Knight Rider" ran for four seasons and no one minded that it featured David Hasselhoff being bossed around by a gay automobile.
No, the failure of "Stealth" comes in its execution, in its porn-quality dialogue and ridiculous story lines, in its twists that defy all logic and reason, in its 100-percent gratuitous scene where the hot young pilot and his hot lady-pilot friend wear small bathing suits while cavorting near a waterfall. I submit that when your movie is about a magical talking airplane, and yet the magical talking airplane is NOT the silliest thing about the movie, then you should not make any more movies.
Our trio of pilot heroes -- Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas), Kara Wade (Jessica Biel) and Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx) -- are at sea on the USS Abraham Lincoln when they first meet their non-human teammate. The jet, designed and programmed by eggheads in Seattle, is called Extreme Deep Invader (EDI), or "Eddie," and he's very polite. He speaks with the crisp, passionless tones that all movie computers speak with, in this case voiced by actor Wentworth Miller. (If you are good at talking like that, maybe your voice could be in a movie, too.)
Ben, Kara and Henry are wary of Eddie, but they get a chance to see him in action when he tags along on an emergency mission to Myanmar (which is what they're calling Burma these days). See, the heads of three terrorist cells are meeting together in the city of Rangoon, and it would be just super if we could pop over there and kill them all at once. Oh, but we only JUST found out about it, and the meeting commences in just 24 MINUTES!! So, you know, hurry. Luckily, the Navy's planes, Eddie included, can do something like Mach 7, so Rangoon is never very far away. Also luckily, the terrorists are meeting in a building that is completely abandoned and uninhabited, meaning only bad guys will be killed with no collateral damage whatsoever. Also luckily, Ben figures out a way to implode the building so that the neighboring buildings aren't affected. This is because it would be wrong to kill innocent bystanders.
Later, Eddie inevitably goes a little crazy -- I think he's jealous of Ben, actually, and you can see why, considering Ben has those big dimples and great smile and Eddie is an airplane. Whether Eddie is in love with Kara, too, I don't know; maybe he should talk to Herbie the Love Bug about overcoming crushes on human women. None of this is my concern.
But anyway, Eddie wants to carry out another mission, that of killing bad guys in Tajikistan who have nuclear weapons, but doing so would kill several hundred bystanders. Kara expresses her dismay at such an outcome by declaring, "Farmers, Ben! They're just farmers!"
Which they are, but Eddie does the mission anyway, gets the bad guys, and kills the farmers, too. Bad Eddie! Bad magical talking airplane! Don't you know that all non-terrorist life is precious? Of course you don't. You're a magical talking airplane that doesn't have feelings.
But wait, it gets better. When Kara is stranded in North Korea -- don't ask why; it's stupid -- Ben convinces Eddie to help him go rescue her! Ben and Eddie, once rivals, become friends! It's so awesome.
Oh, and Ben and Kara's commanding officer Capt. Cummings (Sam Shepard) wants them dead because they could testify about his extremely poor decisions, vis a vis letting Eddie go on missions even though he'd been behaving erratically. So they've got THAT to contend with.
But W.D. Richter's screenplay suffers its greatest blow in the way it handles the various foreign countries encountered by Ben and company. First they accidentally enter Russian airspace while chasing Eddie. When the Russians show up believing themselves to be under attack (quite understandably, given there are three U.S. fighter jets dashing around their airspace), our heroes' response is to shoot them all out of the sky. No attempt is made to explain what's happened, to maybe enlist the Russians' help in stopping the rogue Eddie. Nope, we just kill them. And this is Russia, one of the places we're on reasonably good terms with.
The same thing happens when Kara lands in North Korea -- really, seriously, don't ask how she gets there -- and local soldiers come after her. She barely even tries to escape without engaging them. As soon as she gets her hands on a weapon, she opens fire.
Let's say you come home one night really drunk and you accidentally enter your neighbor's house rather than your own. Then, when your neighbor comes downstairs with his gun to investigate the noise he heard, you shoot him. That's pretty much what we're talking about here.
So in short, while it might seem like a good idea to go watch the movie about the magical talking airplane, it turns out that's actually a bad idea. I know, it's hard to imagine a magical-talking-airplane movie letting you down, but there you go.
Rated PG-13, a little violence, scattered profanity
2 hrs., 1 min.
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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