There’s a stereotype about Los Angeles: that everyone here works for the movie industry. That’s ridiculous. But everyone at least knows someone who does. Probably several someones. One of the most successful of my friends has made a damn fine career by supervising CG animators. Early on, she worked on the 2005 Top Gun meets Short Circuit action flick Stealth. In her defense, she had very little to do with the quality of the final product.
Tagline: Fear the Sky
More Accurate Tagline: Fear the Vag
Guilty Party: I brought up my friend’s connection because this is one of the few cases where I can 100% identify the guilty party responsible for a film. In this case, it’s director Rob Cohen, who is probably most famous for directing the most homoerotic of the Fast and the Furious movies, the least homoerotic of which are still so gay Fred Phelps thinks they shouldn’t be allowed to marry. Stealth is not homoerotic. It is, however, absolutely terrified of women. And for those who thought this was unintentional, Cohen often described the villainous aircraft as having “labia.”
Synopsis: In the near future, the Naval Air Force has created a new program to fight terrorism. Is it a police system that’s proven effective? Oh, hell no, it’s three idiots in super advanced jets flying around and shooting missiles at cities. Or as it’s called in Washington, “winning hearts and minds.” There’s Lt. Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas), Lt. Kara Wade (Jessica Biel), and Lt. Black Partner (Jamie Foxx), and they’re a three person squad who’s about to get a fourth member.
The “person” turns out to be the Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle Extreme Deep Invader. What? “Extreme Deep Invader”? Seriously, movie? Ugh. Anyway, “EDI” looks like a different plane than the others so we can tell during dogfights, something Godfrey Ho never bothered to figure out. EDI is also a robot. Captain Cummings (Sam Shepherd), is the officer behind the project and is thus very invested in EDI’s success, though how much is unclear until his third act heel turn. (I will be using the “he” pronoun for EDI because the movie does, although the robot’s assumed gender is one of the more fascinating aspects.)
In their first mission to take out three high-level terrorists in Rangoon (they were gathered there for summer luge lessons, and in the spring planned to make meat helmets), Ben doesn’t trust EDI to do the crazy flying necessary to take out the terrorists without leveling half the city, so he does it himself. On the way home, all three planes are struck by lightning, and since that’s the most reliable way to make an AI sentient, that’s what happens. EDI’s first act? Downloading all the songs on the internet. Yet whenever he plays something, its invariably some terrible early-aughts bullshit like fucking Incubus. You know what? If a robot plays Incubus, that means the fucker has no soul and should be fed into the nearest furnace. Hell, the same could be said for anyone who plays Incubus.
The heroes get some shore leave and Ben abruptly decides he’s in love with Kara, but the vacation is cut short when they get called in for Mission in Tajikistan (which I spelled correctly the first time, thank you), to destroy some scud launchers and warheads. Once out there, they figure out that if they blow up the warheads, radiation is going to wash down on like a thousand innocent farmers. Ben tries to scrub the mission, but EDI refuses the order and goes to work, all while blaring some crappy alt-metal. Once everything is on fire and radioactive, EDI flies off to kill more shit. Kara inventories EDI’s missiles, saying he has “two Throatrippers, two Shockhammers, and three Blue Ferrets” which makes me think she accidentally checked her World of Warcraft character’s backpack instead.
The good guys hunt for EDI, and Black Partner catches up first. RIP, Black Partner. Kara’s plane was also damaged and ends up crashing over North Korea. Hey, if your aircraft is that fucked up, maybe don’t fly it over the most hilariously terrifying country on the planet? Just sayin’. Anyway, she bails out and survives, and spends the last part of the film running from North Korean soldiers. If Margaret Cho had played Kim Jong-Il in these scenes, this would instantly become the greatest movie ever.
EDI heads off to Russia on a fake mission called Caviar Sweep with Ben in hot pursuit. Russian jets damage EDI, and he and Ben decide to fly home because they’re friends now. They can only make it as far as a private base in Alaska. But oh no, Cummings is in full cover-your-ass mode, and orders Ben to be killed and EDI to be dismantled. Ben gets wise at the last minute, kills some dudes and flies off in EDI. Oh yeah, the AI has a cockpit because fuck you, logic.
EDI says he feels sorry for what happened, and he and Ben fly off to North Korea to rescue Kara. Before they go in, Ben radios HQ and tells them about Cummings, who responds by killing himself. EDI sacrifices himself to save Kara, and she and Ben make it home. After the credits, the camera pans in to the North Korean border where EDI’s memory core sits in a pile of rubble (incidentally, EDI’s brain looks like a dildo, just in case you were worried something might not be sexualized). A red light comes on, threatening a sequel that never happened.
Life-Changing Subtext: Here we go. Here we fucking go.
All right, EDI has a not-coincidental resemblance to a vulva. From the superfluous labia minora on his back to the entirely unnecessary cockpit, which only exists so that the machine has a clitoris, EDI is a vag. This has been confirmed by my friend, so don’t start with all that “dirty mind” bullshit. Yeah, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but when the goddamn thing has a glans on the end and spits out white stuff, it’s a cock, got it?
Ben Gannon is the alpha male of the squadron, and he instinctively does not trust EDI. These sentiments are echoed by Black Partner, who flat-out states that he does not want another woman on the squad. Ben rationalizes why he doesn’t like EDI (Black Partner never bothers), but it’s pretty clear what they’re frightened of: the overturning of traditional gender roles. Yep. The core of their distrust of EDI (and Black Partner’s of Kara) lies in a woman appropriating the masculine. Specifically, the rock hard phalluses that are missiles. EDI, remember, stands for Extreme Deep Invader, which is what a high schooler names his dick. Yet EDI is a feminine avatar, armed with the masculine, and outperforming actual men in the manly task of war.
The plot doesn’t turn around until Ben climbs inside EDI, taming him by camping out in the fake clitoris that is the cockpit. Also: cockpit. Anyway, by manipulating the machinery around the clit, Ben is able to get EDI to apologize for his previous actions. They penetrate North Korea and rescue Kara (downgraded from a pilot to a damsel in distress, her masculine power safely taken away), and later, EDI sacrifices himself by ramming a North Korean helicopter.
So, ladies, stay where you belong. And don’t get struck by lightning or you’ll attain sentience.
Defining Quote: “If you go down, Cummings wins.” Well, yeah.
Standout Performance: Richard Roxburgh as Keith Orbit, the man who programmed EDI. He’s here as if to prove he will never be in a good movie.
What’s Wrong: Nothing after Kara gets shot down is at all necessary, making the back half drag on for an extra half hour. Also, the subtext is, at best, awful.
Flash of Competence: Ben’s rationalization for why he doesn’t like EDI is a solid moral argument. War is hell, he reasons, and that’s a good thing, providing a strong incentive not to do it. Granted, he’s ignoring that wars are declared by rich, draft-dodging assholes who never actually get into the fighting, but hey, it’s a nice sentiment.
Best Scenes: The film wallows in its sexual subtext, but occasionally, some detail will break free of subtext and rise, erect and glistening, into actual text. Ben orders a penetration detonation early on, just to prove his manly bonafides. Cummings gives them all popsicles as a reward, which is an excuse for Jessica Biel to eat a popsicle on camera. Cummings at one point mentions his cigars are “rolled on the thighs of mulatto women,” just so Cohen can throw in a little old-timey racism in there.
I should mention that Black Partner is fucking insane. The reason he claims to dislike EDI? Three is a lucky number, while four is unlucky. See, prime numbers are lucky. Three is about Thesis and Antithesis coming together to make Synthesis. Wait, is he pitching a threesome? Also, he should remember that with four we get Parenthesis and therefore organization. See, I can play word games too.
Black Partner’s autism is echoed in the end when Ben says to Kara, “We’re two. Two is a prime number. Which makes it a lucky number. and I think we’re very very lucky.” It’s possible this script was written by Rain Man.
Transcendent Moment: All of the sex imagery reaches apotheosis during the Refueling Scene. EDI, blaring his shitty music, flies up to this fat metal blimp filled with gas, and… well, there’s no delicate way to put this… gets a robo-erection. He tries to jam it into the blimp’s… receptacle… and a feminine voice tells him, “Access denied.” EDI shoots the end off, and it gives him a facial of sweet, sweet fuel. Then he docks anyway, ramming his rod into the blimp’s port. Yep. Robot rape scene. It happened.
Stealth could have been a forgettable special effects film cobbled together from the cast-offs of other forgettable films, but Rob Cohen threw his weird issues in there and we have something that, while stupid, is at least interesting.