Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Review
I had to watch "Stealth" twice: once with my brain turned off to enjoy it and once with the mental gears engaged to properly review it. And, having watched it first for pleasure, let me get my lavish praise out of thew way first: Ooohhh! Look at all the pretty pictures!
I suppose enough time has passed that a capsule of the action is in order. Three hotest shot pilots fly the newest stealth aircraft as America's newest anti-terror weapon. A plane flown by an AI pilot is added to their wing. A lightning strike scrambles the AI making Roboplane go off on his own and generally disobey orders until it becomes necessary for the story for Roboplane to follow the orders of the lead actor.
Now for the scorn. Actually, I should say a couple of things before the scorn begins in earnest. The planes, called "Talons" in the movie, are just exceedingly cool. This is what every guy (and by "guy" I mean "guy") in creation wants to fly. Just sexy as hell. And the Roboplane is a difference design but also just way cool. The set design is all cool blue (cool as lighting temp, not style) lighting and multiple giant plasma screens, as I said, very pretty.
When the pilots are told that they're getting "a wingman," there is round of just stupid dialog about there being three of them and 'the number three.' Please. If these pilots were so stupid as to come up with the nonsensical words these actors are speaking.... I don't want to finish that sentence. I have more respect for Naval aviators to imagine that a scriptwriter would make them sound so (insert profanity here) stupid. Bad writer! (Smack!) Don't write again!
The Sam Sheppard character always has a bowl of Granny Smith apples around, two bowls in one scene. Why? I don't know. It must mean something to someone, like the color red in "The Sixth Sense." It's unusal for me to see Sam Sheppard as the bad guy (oh right, like anyone can't figure out that the commander who sends the heroes on thier mission is not going to be the bad guy!) I want him to always be Chuck Yeager from "The Right Stuff." But that's my problem.
The opening sequence in which the three humans are flying their Talons to take out some "terrorist" locations is good stuff - "Top Gun" but a little more clear as to what's actually happening. And it ends with the launch of a "Blue Ferret" missile which flies right up a mineshaft to blow up a weapons cache. Neat. But why are there manequins standing around in the cache? It looks like the film makers are showing us animatics instead of finished film. Or, they just don't give us enough information to understand why we're being shown the Blue Man Group frozen in a terrorist weapon bunker. Oh well.
After the initial mission, there's a segement that's supposed to humanize the pilots (I suppose). They are all in dress whites at a sushi bar where Jamie Foxx's date is a skeeve with big boobs in a low-cut dress and Josh Lucas's date is braless while wearing a handkerchief. And how do they act? Jamie Foxx is supposed to be bug-eyed at the breasts while Josh Lucas is going for gape-mouthed tonsil hockey. Oh yeah. Real class. And then they all go to a club where they're still in first-class unis! Bullcrap.
Here's a minor point but one that really sticks out for an old English major like me: language screw-ups. At one point John Lucas calls Lake Baikal "Lake Bakail." Then late in the movie he calls anti-radar chaff "chafe." And finally, there is a mission that's sent to the nation of Myanmar and the city of Rangoon. Oh please! If you are going use the name "Myanmar," the city is called "Yangon." If you are going to use the name "Rangoon," the nation is "Burma." It's called a stylebook. Use it.
Earlier I said that the planes were great but why oh why don't the moviemakers pay attention to detail? there is a scene where the Roboplane is flying into North Korea under the radar. This flight deck is supposed to be 15 feet. So at one point the plane comes bucketing along over a town and the jetwash behind the plane tears roofing tiles off the houses it passes over. That's good. In fact, I think that's precisely what would happen. But throughout the movie, the planes are blasting along over water and desert yet kick up no water or sand. If you do one, you have to do the other or thinking film-goers will call bullshit.
Other tech stuff that struck me: the engines look cool but I'm left to wonder at all the times we're shown the trapezoidal "nozzles" surrounded by little round nozzles. Could we have an explanation of what this is supposed to be? No. Better let this one slide. I'll give them the weird engines. But I won't give them any slack on the flight helmets. Again, they look cool. But at one point, Josh Lucas bangs his Talon down while wearing his full-head helmet and emerges with a cut over eye. Jeez Louise! A helmet is designed to protect against this very thing! And he's wearing his. Think people. Think for a change.
More tech problems. The Roboplane is said to run on "catalyzed methane." What the hell is catalyzed methane? And then Roboplane goes to a high-atmosphere flying refueling station to gas up. I can say gas up because it's methane, see? In a pretty cool sequence, the Roboplane's access code to refuel is denied so it just shoots the drouge off the line and plugs into the line which is now streaming fuel. later, a Talon goes to the same refueling station to gas up. If the Talons and Roboplane use the same fuel, why was it necessary to tell the humans what kind of fuel Roboplane runs on? Because it sounds cool? To quote Howard Stern's father: Don't be stupid ya moron!
I mentioned the mission to Rangoon and that's where a lot of problems arise. Foremost, the three humans and Roboplane are sent on their very first flight together and it's changed to a mission to bomb a terrorist gethering. I'm sorry but could you tell me any branch of the service would change a shake-down flight into a super-sensitive mission to bomb a single building in the middle of a city and that the bombing necessarily had to have zero collateral damage? Pish tush. Twaddle. I am going to run out of polite terms for bullshit in this piece.
Unfortunately, that mission into Rangoon is the source of much nonsense. The idea to take out a building where terrorists are meeting (info from humint on site we are supposed to believe) is a good one. And the execution of the out-taking is very well done. But. Really, really big but so much is foolish and needless. First, the bullshittery of magic sensors. We are told that Roboplane can tap directly into data from spy satellites. OK but it would take a satellite launched from Hogwarts to do what we're shown: voice recognition, retinal scanning and fingerprint identification. From space! Then it's Roboplane that comes up with a way to blast the building without collateral damage: a "Truncheon" missile can penetrate the 14' thick reinforced concrete roof of the building if the plane delivering it accelerates to "2070 knots" straight down imparting that kinetic energy to the missile. I admit - that's a clever idea. However a plane travelling at "2070 knots" is going 2,383.605 miles per hour which is Mach 3.14. I don't care how good a pilot you are, you can't pull out of a 3+ Mach power dive in the space shown. And there's no indication of a sonic boom which would tear up most of the city as the Talon is shown streaking down a city street as it pulls out of the dive.
In fact, I think no one on the movie crew ever bothered to think about speed. After the Talons' first mission, they fold in their wings (so cool) and hump up to (via voice over) Mach 4. Well, in the first mission, the planes are attacked by SAM missiles. Any plane capable of Mach 4 can simply outrun a SAM. The SR-71 Blackbird has never been shot down because it can fly faster than any missile shot at it.
But the speed issues don't end there! Oh no! Not with this movie. After the second mission, the remaining Talon pilot says to control, "We're going hypersonic." Well, hypersonic defined as over Mach 5. Yes, it sounds cool. There is even mention of "scramjets" but why is it necessary to introduce a unneeded concept when such a concept is beyond the physical capability of any fighter plane. And the Talons are, after all, fighters.

Oh man. I can't go on. There's plenty more to dissect in this sorry but pretty flick. But I'm going to leave it for my very first review sequel. Coming soon to this blog near you. Very near you - on your computer screen in fact.

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