Columbia Pictures' Stealth - 2005
How often is it that a movie completely meets your expectations? How often does it happen that your preconceived notions about a film turn out to be completely correct? Almost never. Potential duds like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory turn out to be at least semi-sweet, and sure things like Anchorman seem to miss more than they hit. But a movie that is exactly what it seems to be? Unheard of. This week's aerial action extravaganza Stealth is one of those rare examples. It is just as lame and ridiculous as the trailer makes it out to be. Talk about truth in advertising.
Starring Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, and a very pre-Oscar Jamie Foxx, Stealth tells the story of the future of aerial combat. In the “near future” the U.S. military will commission an elite fighter squadron; three pilots with extremely advanced stealth fighters who can advance American air superiority throughout the world, working for peace, justice, and acquisition of hot babes across the globe, at least in the case of Foxx and Lucas. Jessica Biel, the token female fighter pilot is too pure to sleep around, further entrenching sexual stereotypes, just one of this film's appealing characteristics. But it's ok because, though he is too much a dumb male to notice, Lucas and Biel are deeply in love, a fact that could prove damaging to both of their careers. Foxx, on the other hand, has a girl in every port, his zen spirituality luring them like bees to honey. He is especially fond of spouting the importance of prime numbers, giving his character a mysterious and important totem that the filmmakers obviously think will be interesting and amazing to the average moviegoer, providing he hasn't made it out of fifth grade yet. It seems as though our threesome will spend their military careers playing out these idiotic character idiosyncrasies, until a new element is introduced into the group. EDI, or Eddie, for short, is the newest generation of drone, an unmanned aircraft, but one with something new: a brain. EDI is equipped with artificial intelligence, that convenient futuristic bogeyman, that means he will go haywire and try to kill everyone, which he does. And it's up to our trio of heroes to stop him. But will their rigidly defined character types allow them to do anything but follow the formula set up for them through literally dozens of Hollywood action thrillers? The answer is no.
Ripping off plot points from a dozen other, better films, from Top Gun to 2001 to Wargames, Stealth is a mishmash of ideas, just none of them new or in the least bit surprising. Rarely have I seen a movie as predictable as this one. Characters signpost like crazy, and foreshadowing is so thick there might as well be subtitles warning you of upcoming tragedy. Attempts to capitalize on topical military concerns like terrorism and North Korea are played without the least bit of subtlety. I half expected the terrorist bad guys to twirl a Snidely Whiplash mustache before commencing their evil deeds. And the character of EDI is especially troublesome. Not sure whether they want to present a villain or a misunderstood innocent, the writers seesaw wildly in portraying the rogue fighter plane.
This seems to be the summer of unlikely survival. Last week we saw Ewan Macgregor and Scarlett Johanson survive a fall from a seventy-story building amid raining debris with little more than scratches to show for it. This week Jessica Biel gets to fall from several tens of thousands of feet in an ejector seat, pre-parachute, and get hit with a piece of burning fuselage from her plane, only to finally deploy her parachute and watch it burn up in the rain of fire falling around her, finally crashing into the forest below. The scratch on her cheek was hideous, really.
Silly action movies do not, in and of themselves, offend me. What offends me is the filmmaker's estimation of my intelligence. Take the previous example. Do they assume that, because the explosions are spectacular that I will forget all my knowledge of basic physics? And let's not even talk about the idiotic “ring of fire” sequence you see in the preview. What about the predictability? No more than the most rudimentary effort was put into the framing of this story, and the dialogue was junior-high level at best. A movie called Stealth should be quiet, sneaky, and complex, not loud and blundering. Hopefully it won't be any trouble for the competition to shoot this movie down. Grade: D
Stealth is rated PG-13 for mindless action, suggestive dialogue, and language.
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