So far in the HD DVD – Blu-ray format war there hasn't been
a lot for those in the Blu-ray camp to cheer about.
The first wave of titles were uniformly
unimpressive and they didn't do much to advance the format. With the release of Stealth, a mediocre 2005
high budget action film, that's changed.
This disc actually looks good, with strong details, eye-popping
explosions and a very impressive soundtrack.
It's just too bad that the first high quality Blu-Ray disc
been a better movie.
Lt. Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas) is the leader of an elite group
of Navy pilots. Along with Lt. Kara Wade
and Lt. Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx), he has been assigned to the newest
fighter planes that the Navy has, the Talon.
Yet after putting the new planes through their paces, the
Capt. George Cummings (Sam Shepard) has a surprise for his pilots:
squadron is getting a new member. This
is no ordinary flyer though, the new plane is going to be piloted by a
computer. This new prototype, with the
unlikely designation Extreme Deep Invader or Eddie for short, may just
wave of the future.
Gannon and company take the plane on some exercises and it performs
impeccably. Almost too good.
When returning from its first real mission
though, Eddie takes a lightning strike and its quantum memory gets
scrambled. It becomes self aware and can
think for itself, hack into any files it wants, and disable any fail
might have been installed, all unbeknownst to Capt. Cummings.
Though Gannon says that "something doesn't feel
right" about Eddie after the lighting strike, Cummings orders the group
out on another mission. When they
discover that the job can't be completed without significant civilian
Gannon orders his squad to abort, but Eddie doesn't.
He's a fighter plane and his reason for being
is to fight. He proceeds with the
mission, causing hundreds of people to die, and then informs everyone
selected another target to attack, this one inside of Russia. It's up to Ben, Kara, and Henry to stop the
plane from starting a world war.
Going into this film, wasn't expecting much, but I was
curious. When it was in the theaters
this film was mercilessly attacked by the critics, so I was sure it
masterpiece. Then again, it was written
by W. D. Richter the director and producer of one of the movies I find
popping in the player way too often, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai
the 8th Dimension. He also wrote another
guilty pleasure of mine, Big Trouble in Little China.
So I thought there was a chance that it might
be worth watching.
My reaction? I had
fun. Yes, it's a mindless movie, and
there are way to many plot holes and stupid mistakes to list. If you think about it at all, the film
pretty much falls apart. If you pop a
big bowl of popcorn, sit in a nice comfy chair, and crank your stereo,
should have a good time. This special
effects laden spectacle has a lot of cool explosions and some really
flying scenes. Yes, it's all eye candy,
but that can be fun.
Aside from the fun factor, there really isn't anything to
recommend this movie. There are several
ludicrous moments in the film, and anyone who has a basic grasp of
geography will be scratching their heads through most of the movie. (Kara is over Pakistan
and is flying to the Mediterranean but travels over North Korea
to get there? How's that work?) The acting is wooden and uninspiring, and the
dialog is pretty bad. Some lines just
make you cringe, such as Gannon's argument against employing Eddie:
terrible. It's meant to be terrible, and if it stops being terrible,
going to stop us?"
I can see why this movie was trashed when it came out.
There are a lot of things wrong with it. It
is, however, still a lot of fun. You get a
visceral thrill from watching a
giant unmanned blimp filled with jet fuel explode or a plane flying at
straight down in order to bomb some terrorists.
Things blow up, clouds whiz by, and there's a good amount of
weapons fire. Sometimes that's enough.
Blu-Ray DVD player on the market at the time of this review is the
Samsung BD-P1000. Apparently an error
crept into the
design, and a noise reduction algorithm on one of the chips was turned
creates a softer picture. As yet there
is no fix for this, or even an official announcement from Samsung.
I haven't had a lot of good things to say about the video quality
Blu-Ray discs that I've seen. None of
them have really impressed me. Until
now. This disc looks really good, and no
one is more surprised than I am.
The 2.40:1 widescreen image is impressive with objects that
really pop off the screen, something that has been missing from all the
Blu-Ray discs I've screened. The picture
is full of detail and sharp. The blacks
were spot-on black, and the colors were very vivid.
The explosions seemed to leap off the screen
with bright orange tongues of flame that were textured and realistic. The night scenes looked great too, with good
color saturation and details that weren't lost in shadows.
Even better there wasn't any grain or digital
noise that has affected other Blu-Ray discs.
Edge enhancement was nonexistent too.
This is the first Blu-Ray disc that isn't a
disappointment. If this had been the
first disc released, the format war would have started out much
The disc offers viewers a choice of an uncompressed PCM 5.1 track or DD
tracks in English and French. I screen
the title with the PCM track and was very impressed.
This really brought the film to life, adding
another dimension to the film the way the best soundtracks do. There good use made of the full soundstage
with all of the speakers getting a good workout. Planes
seemingly flying overhead and from
left to right and front to back, gun shots fly across the room totally
immersing the viewer. The explosions, of
which there are many, shake the windows and rattle the doors. More importantly the quite parts of the film
sound great too. The high notes of the
background music are crisp and the whole soundtrack is clean. An excellent sounding disc that will impress
Like the SD release, there are also subtitles in English, Chinese,
French, Spanish, Korean, and Thai.
When looking for extras on a Sony Blu-Ray DVD, I expect to
be disappointed. They often only include
a fraction of the material available on the standard definition discs. Even with my low expectations I was pretty
astounded that there were none of the extras that are to be found on
two-disc special edition. Okay…well what
do we early adopters get instead??? An
Introduction to Blu-Ray with Stealth Director Rob Cohen.
Sounds cool doesn't it? Maybe he'll
talk about the new technology
that has been developed for the format, or maybe he'll discuss how the
mastered in HD to take advantage of Blu-Ray's capabilities. Sorry to disappoint you but he doesn't talk
about any of that. His entire
contribution is a single sentence where he introduces himself and
viewers to the disc. The rest of the
four-minute feature has shots from the movie and on-location shots of
and crew while rock music plays in the background.
No voice overs, no discussion of Blu-Ray or
the film. Nothing. There
are even some shots of people surfing,
and I can't for the life of me figure out why they were included. A really disappointing extra. A trailer would
have been more welcome.
I was pleasantly surprised by this disc. The
image quality was what I was expecting
from Blu-Ray all along. The image looks
HD and the planes zipping around the stratosphere look really good. The audio is even more impressive with a
soundtrack that envelopes the viewer during the action scenes but
collapse into a stereo mix during the rest of the film.
My only regret is that the film is so
poor. This is the second time I've seen
the film, and it doesn't hold up very well on repeated viewings. Still, this is the best looking disc I've
seen for Blu-Ray yet, and for that reason this disc is Recommended.