What are you doing here? You actually want to read the conclusion of this rambling breakdown considering Rob Cohen’s actioner Stealth? Really? Cool!
This final chapter is gonna be about the meat of the matter: the movie itself. Thanks for any patience you may have left.
I promise to keep this under control. No more woolgathering. We understand that part of the RIORI experience is my waxing philosophical on the social commentary end. However there is a movie to consider, so…
Oddly enough and despite being an action flick Stealth was a classic character study. But with missile strikes.
Just to reheat the Frankenstein analogy for a brief moment, Stealth was prescient regarding our current, stirred up fear about AI (at least of this time of writing) and what may be its eventual outcome. Alexa is not too far a cry to the dawn of EDI considering how fast the pages get torn off the calendar. Keep that in mind.
Most folks seem to be scared witless that the dawn of the AI era might cost them jobs, or deep fakes screwing with reality, or why the hell every bloody refrigerator demands a subscription these days. Hell, even your beater Roomba once proud, smart and diligent in keeping the kitchen dust free has become a cat chariot, such as smart tech goes these days: expected to fail in a frustratingly comic manner. Meow.
Okay. I know got all that, but despite Stealth being boasted an action flick as it was, but in truth Stealth was indeed a character study. Including the AI fighter. No, really, and all of that invites. Considering the AI panic criss-crossing the globe as of late some things should just let be. Besides this is a f*cking movie, fer Pete’s sake. On to the principals.
Let’s get to the humans first. With no pretense the acting was spot on. Sure there were stereotypes, but I’ve often found that cast of ciphers only works well in their commitment to their roles. Yep, Lucas and company were stereotypes, but solid stereotypes; they really tore into their roles, albeit on the comical side. Consider the plot with all its deus ex machina splendor. The flesh and blood types better ham it up as flesh and blood types, if only to make EDI seem all the more alien. Surprise, it worked.
Lucas was your typical dedicated, square-jawed pilot. Dedicated boy scout with great hair and in total doubt that an AI fighter could understand the human angle with aerial warfare. Clearly Lucas would not be a fan of ChatGPT and probably filed his flight logs with a #2 pencil. Mr Upstanding ladies and gentlemen.
However Lucas proved effective as the foil to not only EDI’s cold circuits, but also his wingman and wingwoman, too. Lucas was big bro in his cliched family to him and dedicated to their flight performance as well as keeping one another alive Sometimes a canard like Lucas serves as a very kind focal point, if not the pinion upon the whole movie spins. Sure appeared that way, and despite the hard chin, Lucas came across as the guy who could get things done. If only in a DC comics kind of delivery, which was kinda fun. Dopey, but fun.
Speaking of dopey what the blue f*ck was Jamie Foxx doing in this flick? After two Oscar honors he channels Ice Cube circa The Predator (EG: “It Was A Good Day”) release paired with a drunken James Brown. Namely the wild card. In truth, Foxx was a cocky assh*le deserving a slap upside the head for being and even more maverick than Maverick. In sum his Lt Purcell bet he’d ace the SAT’s without cracking a book. His posturing was such a crock of sh*t, and demeaned his talent. It was fun to watch.
Hey, we all need that wild card in most action films (EG: comic relief) if only to soften some inevitable blows. Consider Cabbie in Escape From New York, or perhaps Gyro in The Road Warrior, or maybe even Dennis Hopper in Speed. You must have that bitter tonic to offset too much melodrama. Give the audience a moment to catch their breathe. Shakespeare used this tactic often; tragedy befalls after the comic relief to make the tragedy seem more, well, tragic. In short Foxx was the ace in the deck of this EDI mission, and was first to befall the “Sorry about the Goose” equation. Despite Foxx was pleasantly annoying, it codified the proper triad desired to tell the barest of dramas. Or action films. Or Macbeth. Listen:
Before we beat up on Biel, let’s beat up on the original Star Trek. No really. You’ve been this patient so far.
Okay and first out of left-field comes Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis of personalties. Maybe you’ve heard of this. Sig surmised our minds are a sum of three distinct psychological drives always at odds. Namely the id, the ego and the superego. In simpler terms it was the dark side, the positive side and the balance respectively. In video drama many critics regard the id-ego-superego dynamic was ideally illustrated by Dr McCoy, Capt Kirk and Mr Spock from the original Star Trek. Namely McCoy was the cranky and overly emotional character. Kirk was the positive force to ensure the Enterprise got sh*t done. Spock was the level-minded person trying to balance the illogic between the both to come to reason. Live long and prosper.
Which is why Biel hangs around with these knuckleheads. Ms Captain Kirk. She was never portrayed as lucky (a female selected more an elite mission), eye candy or whatever Demi Moore was trying to prove in GI Jane. Biel held her own against a lot of facial hair and for a commitment to the (air)craft. She held herself well in a wash of testosterone, but then again she usually portrays a whip-smart sharp cookie (EG: roles like in Ulee’s Gold, The Illusionist, her role as Mary in TV’s Seventh Heaven, etc). I found her delivery as pilot Lt Wade a fresh touch against the usual eyewash, shrinking violet support whose sole role is to look good and provide tokenism. Hell, she may be an ace pilot and unapologetic bookworm, but no one tries to f*ck her over. Biel was the best of the triad. In a flick that was not heavy on characterization—save EDI oddly enough—Biel’s tenacity left her role the most engaging.
Left off the Star Trek roster, but perhaps the most pernicious angle of this character study is the budget Dr Frankenstein, Sam Shepard’s Cmdr Cummings. I found his role kinda funny, especially paired with his iconic portrayal of Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff. The guy is one cool character here with Stealth, but also sinister, fascistic and overall a 21st Century Ahab. The man had a background in the theater, and it shows. Cummings had absolute faith in EDI, almost like our fair Doctor meddling in God’s domain. EDI was superior in all ways then any highly skilled fighter pilot, credentials or no. Very no in Cummings’ vision of the future of aerial warfare, and for damned what the techies may warn. The potential of no pilots lost was subverted by his love of the tech (as the B plot may show). In fact the
REDACTED aspect of Cummings true motives illustrated quite the opposite. Not to put to fine a point on it, but K suggested EDI could’ve used a human avatar as a fail-safe. Cummings would not have been hot to that idea.
Lastly, our Maguffin: EDI. HAL 9000 it was not, but more akin to a polite cousin. Considering Cummings who was the real antagonist here?
We go from being disturbed, to hurt, to favoring EDI. Unlike humans the flaw in its programming was intentional, at the machinations of humans (Doc again). To paraphrase Jessica Rabbit EDI’s not bad, it was just built that way. I found it curious—and more than a bit endearing—how lethal AI EDI was basically just a child. Not actualized, just going along with the program (so to speak), not to mention EDI being mocked at every turn by Lucas and company. And why not? That hotshot mainframe was designed to but flesh and blood pilots out to pasture. Fear the unknown, which is why EDI was such a chilling character. At first it was the enemy then later invited empathy. In 2 hours of melodrama and dogfights, despite EDI was not designed for empathy in the endgame it was more human than human, even so far as to
REDACTED and save the day. Maybe this loop was prescient about our current AI panic. However it was humans who created AI, and the wheel goes round.
Despite Stealth got regarded as yet another CGI churning Top Gun knockoff it had some merits. Truth be told I can’t recall much of the action scenes (or the plot for that matter), but I did take note of the workmanlike execution that director Cohen brought to life.
Even though Stealth‘s CGI rendered aerial antics being shot with relatively primitive pixels as of 2005, the shots were solid. Very little muss and fuss. Let’s fly and have cool aerial scenes, but not indulge in stereotypical chaos. The real drama came by Mr Spock rolling his eyes at the cast, so much so there were only two true scenes of your typical pyrotechnics expected in such a flick. And namely such chaos was relegated towards the end of the second act (when Foxx was
REDACTED) and the finale when Lucas got to be the hero. Such restraint I appreciated, especially within a mostly pedestrian actioner. If you’ve ever caught Speed with Keanu Reeves sometimes less can be more. Stealth was not Speed, but might’ve been informed.
So what have we learned? Too much probably. To put it modestly this installment has gone on waaay to long. WTF, I had a lot to say, and thanks for your patience. I’ll never do this to again.
Until I have to. You’ve been warned and don’t bookmark this.
Rent it or relent it? A very mild rent it. It was more fun dissecting Stealth than watching it wholesale. I suggest you follow that path.
Whew. Thanks for tuning in. Now tip your servers, get home safe and please try the veal.
The Stray Observations…
- “That’s hot.”
- Tin Man = no heart.
- “I just feel that war should not be some video.” K: Cuz you can’t just hit the reset button. She’s oddly wise sometimes.
- Ironic turn of roles for Shepard here. Again, ever caught The Right Stuff?
- “All of them.”
- K: Can you say intern?
- Weirdest/coolest Freudian innuendo ever.
- “It’s just what the doctor ordered.”
- Ever notice that when an actor earns or gets a nod from the Academy their next projects are somewhat lowbrow? Foxx was on a roll with Ray and his follow-up Collateral only to slum it with the likes of…well, Stealth? What’s up with that? Now who wants s’mores?
- *”Shmup.” Gamer lingo for an aerial fighting game. “Shoot ’em up” via a vertical scrolling platformer. Yer welcome.
- “There was nothing left to say.”
The Next Time…