August 4, 2005
By Amy Diaz
A bleeding edge of
technology airplane joins a trio of human Navy fighter pilots and
develops its artificial intelligence in scary new ways in Stealth.
This is not the cold,
clinical intelligence of Hal on 2001: A Space Odyssey or Data on Star
Trek: The Next Generation. This is more like KITT from Knight Rider
meets a Korn fan. EDI (pronounced Eddie), the name of the self-piloting
stealth plane, is sassy like every 15-year-old boy who thinks itís,
like, so unfair that heís been grounded. EDI is all, yeah, well what if
I donít wanna follow your stupid orders, man? What if I just wanna go
bomb Tajikistan or go to the mall or whatever? And then EDI pouts and
listens to Incubus. No, seriously, the way we know the plane is in
rebellion is that it starts blaring out the rock music.
Ah, welcome to August
at the movies.
Of course a punk plane
is only one of many stars in Stealth. The trio of human pilots a little
put out by this mechanical presence are Ben (Josh Lucas), Kara (Jessica
Biel) and Henry (Jamie Foxx). Ben is the leader whose job it is to smile
real big, be charmingly Southern (Lucas being something of a poor manís
Matthew McConaughey) and get his feathers ruffled about the idea that he
might be outdone by a computer with wings. Karaís job is to be a girl ó
in a war movie this means that she should be tough and tomboy-ish but
also have a girly heart and, at least once, be in need of rescuing.
Henryís job is to amp up the bravado factor and to frequently point out
how unbeatable the three of them are. Seeing that Kara has a secret
crush on Ben and Ben has a secret crush on Kara and that these secrets
are secret to no one but each other, guess who the expendable member of
the group is.
It certainly isnít EDI,
who shows up to join in on the War on Terror and do some of the killing
that the human pilots arenít physically or morally able to do. The
humans donít trust this sort of amoral ability and are particularly
alarmed when EDI begins to exhibit odd behaviors after being struck by
lightning. Not that any of the of the commanding officers are willing to
listen ó the Navy has apparently invested a lot of money in this latest
toy and is reluctant to take it out of commission even after it
downloads every song on the Internet and starts acting cagey about its
plans for all the weapons itís carrying.
The movie progresses
through a variety of events, each more absurd and improbable than the
next, culminating with the scenes where Kara is forced to bail out over
North Korea. No, wait ó itís the scene where a wounded Kara is still
able to outrun the North Korean military and more or less shoot her way
to the demilitarized zone. Jessica Biel is wonderfully unbelievable as a
soldier and her action scenes are, at times, laugh-out-funny.
Stealth takes a few
unnecessary detours, including scenes in Thailand to establish a whole
bunch of things (Ben and Kara heart each other; Henry likes the ladies
and the ladies like Henry) that we have known since they were unsubtly
demonstrated in early scenes. As a result, itís at least 45 minutes
longer than it needs to be. Had this movie been a fast-moving hour and
15 minutes of hokey military clichťs and man-vs.-machine-hooey, it would
have been short enough to serve as the kind of enjoyable late-summer
entertainment it is clearly meant to be. Instead, its attempts to
interject morals or philosophy or plot into a collection of special
effects and almost-one-dimensional characters bogs the movie down. This
is like introducing lettuce to a Snickers. Donít screw up perfectly good
junk food by trying to give it the appearance of nutrition.
Stealth is and was
always meant to be a bad movie ó I just wish it had applied itself and
tried to be a little worse.