Many considered "Stealth" to potentially be one of the bigger hits of last Summer. Every Summer seems to come with a pack of big-budget action movies, and "Stealth" - director Rob Cohen ("Fast and the Furious")'s $130 million dollar actioner - seemed like it could fit the bill. Yet, the movie was not greeted with a warm welcome: it topped out at a bit over $30m at the box office, and added to the concern over a year at the box office that's not been anything close to stellar.
"Stealth" focuses on an elite group of naval pilots. It's the "near future", and the pilots are part of an anti-terrorism group that had 400 applicants and ended up with 3 final picks: Kara Wade (Jessica Biel), Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas), and Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx). The three have been brought together for another assignment, and are told that a fourth will be joining their group: a completely AI-driven plane called EDI, which will follow the three and learn from their moves in the air.
However, after their first mission together, EDI gets zapped by a bolt of lightning and its circuits go haywire, resulting in the plane turning on humans and destroying anyone who tries to stop it. Apparently, the scienists behind the plane that probably would cost in the billions of dollars did not care to speculate what would happen if the plane happened to be in a thunderstorm. "Stealth" is not only "that kind of movie", it's the dictionary definition of "that kind of movie."
So, we get the expected series of scenes about how the pilots are upset about being replaced by a robot (obviously, an argument of interest in this tech-heavy era, but this movie isn't interested with making any sort of debate) and a series of action sequences (amazingly, a character actually says - in a movie that's about as close to looking like a videogame as movies get - that "they don't want war to be a videogame.")
"Stealth"'s real failure is its screenplay, which offers some of the most cringe-worthy dialogue I've heard in ages, not to mention countless cliches. It's to the point where the screenplay almost seems unfinished, as it has some major logic issues. Obviously, character development is not usually important in a movie like this one, but we get a bare minimum here - especially Foxx's character. There's really nothing to the plot, despite the fact that the movie always tries to appear hyperactively busy.
As I've hinted at earlier, "Stealth" takes ridiculousness to new and previously unseen levels, especially in a movie this expensive. It's unapologetic in its goofiness, and from the earliest moments, the picture's over-the-top absurdness really pushes the movie from being lackluster into that rare catagory of movies that are not good, and yet remain oddly fascinating because they go so far off course at times. There's the whole "lighting strike" issue mentioned before, along with another sequence where Biel's pilot has to eject at incredible speeds as her plane breaks up above her. Bits of plane are falling rapidly by her, her parachute is hit and falls apart and yet, she looks to have barely a scratch on her after impact. Another moment has Gannon finding out that Wade has crashed into North Korea, but immediately after, he gets called on a bizarre trip to a base in Alaska. EDI's seemingly indecisive nature about whether it wants to be good or bad is another serious weak link in the script. The list goes on and on.
To the film's credit, it does pull together some very nifty action sequences in the air. Technically stunning, the film does capture the high-speed flight sequences and still manage to keep everything from turning into a mess. The action sequences offer exceptionally detailed and aggressive sound design, as well. As for the performances, they're not very good, although the human element of the picture is essentially an afterthought, and I doubt anyone could work magic with some of the one-liners contained within.
Overall, "Stealth" could have been considerably better had some more attention been paid to the screenplay. While films like this are generally known for not being logical, "Stealth" takes suspension of disbelief way too far. The film certainly has flash and offers a few entertaining moments (although it's often entertaining for the wrong reasons), but "Stealth" had the potential to be a lot more enjoyable.
VIDEO: "Stealth" is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The picture quality is generally excellent, as sharpness and detail are generally excellent throughout, with only the occasional moment that seems slightly softer than the rest.
The presentation showed some very minor edge enhancement in a few instances, but otherwise, no major flaws were spotted - no artifacts, print flaws or other concerns were seen. Colors looked sharp and vibrant, with very good saturation and no smearing.
SOUND: "Stealth" is presented in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1. Issues with the movie aside, those looking for a new sound demo will certainly find it here. With sound design by Tim Walston (whose work on Cohen's "Fast and the Furious" is still considered pretty groundbreaking), the film's audio is incredibly loud and aggressive from the opening frames until the very end. Surrounds are essentially operating on full strength throughout the entire movie, with an assault of discrete sound effects enveloping the viewer during pretty much every sequence. Audio quality remains rich and dynamic throughout, with crisp dialogue and punchy effects. The DTS edition of the soundtrack offered improvements over the Dolby Digital edition, with the Dolby edition sounding a bit flatter and less detailed. The DTS edition seemed more enveloping, and offered deeper bass.
EXTRAS: Seemingly in place of a commentary we get "Harnessing Speed", a 3-part, 75-minute documentary that takes the audience along for the production process from beginning to the end of post-production. In a way, the piece is interesting to watch in a technical fashion, as the film's wealth of artists, technicians and other production crew have to set-up, plan, prepare and more for each major sequence, and how they face a lot of major challenges. On the other hand, almost all of the filmed behind-the-scenes footage has the cast and crew concentrating on the technical issues with the production. On occasion throughout, Cohen talks seriously about the deep themes of the movie, which made me wonder what movie I had just finished watching. Still, this documentary is certainly very in-depth, and those interested in the making of the feature will get a lot of information out of it.
Next are two lengthy (approximately 20 minutes each) "making of" documentaries that take a look into the details of making two major sequences in the movie - "Big Suck" and "Kara Falls". Each of the documentaries discusses the obstacles involved with each of the sequences, and the stunt work and visual effects that went into the making of each. Another section provides scene comparisons (final/storyboard/pre-vis) for "Welcome to Alaska" and "Escape From Alaska Explosion".
The first disc of the 2-DVD set provides a featurette on the film's music and trailers for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts: I've enjoyed plenty of popcorn movies in the past, but "Stealth" often gets silly and frequently abandons logic throughout much of the running time. The film offers a few impressive action sequences, but much of it is unintentionally entertaining due to lackluster dialogue and absurd plot developments presented with complete and utter seriousness. Sony's DVD presentation provides excellent audio/video and a nice helping of supplements. Fans should consider a purchase, but those who haven't seen the film and are interested should certainly consider a rental first.