Next time, just ban the whole movieHow do you teach morality and loyalty to an angst-ridden, rebellious teenager? That is essentially the question Rob Cohen’s embarrassingly predictable “Stealth” tries to answer, except the teenager is a mysterious new computer and the answer is, apparently, by putting him at the controls of the world’s most advanced stealth fighter jet and letting him kill thousands of people.
“Stealth” is the latest summer explosion-fest, one part “Top Gun” and one (much smaller) part “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Most of the characters and even scenes in the film are lifted shamelessly from other films.
Three of the U.S. Navy’s top pilots have been selected for a cutting-edge stealth fighter program under the ambitious Capt. George Cummings (Sam Shepard). Lt. Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas) is the white guy with a rebellious streak but a heart of gold. Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx) is the womanizing black man (with a heart of gold). Kara Wade (Jessica Biel) is the woman, whose characterization is predictably limited to “spunky.”
What they don’t know is that there’s another wingman arriving: the EDI, or Eddie, which stands for Electronic Deep Invader. Of course, on its first mission, something goes terribly wrong. Lightning hits Eddie’s brain. Aided by a readout of Eddie’s consciousness, the long-haired, scruffy techie named Tim explains the strike has transformed Eddie’s healthy bluish swirleyness into a mysterious green swirleyness. Tim and Lt. Gannon then reenact exactly a scene from 2001 in which the computer reads their lips, which everyone knows can’t be good.
Apparantly the green swirleyness has caused Eddie to take after Lt. Gannon’s rebellious character, and Eddie executes against orders a mission that will kill thousands of civilians with deadly radioactive dust. Eddie then goes rogue, trying to destroy a target in Siberia and killing Henry in the process.
But eventually we find out that big government is actually more evil than a crazy computer, and that Eddie’s actually not so bad because he says he’s sorry.
As you should be able to tell by the amount of sense this makes, “Stealth” is not a piece of complex science fiction that challenges the human relationship with machines. It is an excuse to blow things up and get the hero a girlfriend.
But the moral dimension in “Stealth” demands that the film’s themes hold up to scrutiny, and they don’t even come close. Lt. Gannon, protesting Eddie’s reintroduction in the field, says he doesn’t “think war should become some kind of video game,” but humans, not computers, play video games, and the film’s absurd computer graphics and rock music show, if anything, that war was a video game long before Eddie came along.
The film even manages to glamorize computer code, displayed as blurred equations jumping over each other, and studying, which apparently consists of listening to loud music, throwing a basketball around and poking at books rather than reading them.
The film’s finale takes place in North Korea, an obvious detail that has nevertheless been excised at the request of the South Korean government. They could have done us all a favor and banned the film outright.
Action / English
by Ben Applegate