It's not that Stealth, a futuristic actioner that has the Navy's three top flyers joining forces in global missions with the government's experimental robotic vehicle, doesn't deliver the goods. Hollywood big guns like director Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious, XXX, etc.), screenwriter W.D. Richter (Brubaker, Dracula, Slither, etc.), and producers Laura Ziskin, Mike Medavoy and Neal Moritz, armed with big-bucks ammo, deploy ear-splitting, lavish, special-effects-loaded, manic adventure that demands attention.
But so much is familiar kids' stuff that, in spite of some outstanding action sequences, innovative special effects and spectacular locations, Stealth-as summer-suited as a flashy beach towel and trashy novel-may only keep altitude for its initial three or four weeks.
Richter's lame what-if premise is merely serviceable: What would happen if three ace Navy flyers had to perform critical missions like thwarting terrorists or destroying nuclear warheads with a fourth "wingman" that is an experimental, artificial-intelligence-based, unmanned vehicle? Filmgoers who remember 2001's computer HAL 9000 will know the answer as Stealth's trial machine, nicknamed EDI (pronounced "Eddie" and voiced by Wentworth Miller), has the same smarmy voice as Kubrick's creation. Happily, the elitist trio of test pilots-a movie-perfect racial and gender medley-must have missed the sci-fi classic and agree to serve with EDI.
Aboard the carrier, Captain Cummings (Sam Shepard) briefs pilot Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas), telling him that robotic vehicles like EDI are the future of the Navy. The commanding officer sends Gannon and fellow flyers Kara Wade (Jessica Biel) and Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx) on a trial strike with EDI that involves thwarting terrorist bigwigs in an Asian skyscraper. The mission is a success, although Wade is appropriately concerned about the possible collateral damage of the strike, which could mean the deaths of countless civilians.
Beginner's luck turns bad after EDI is struck by lightning and takes on a mind of his own. Cummings consults with EDI inventor Keith Orbit (Richard Roxburgh), a creepy type whose taste in babes, modern art and loft-like living make him highly suspect.
Wade, in one of the film's many eye-popping action sequences, is shot down over North Korea but lands somewhere in the wilds. Because romantic sparks have flared between Gannon and Wade, he's off to the rescue. Fortunately, North Korea, as depicted here, is a pretty small country as Gannon somehow manages to locate the downed flier.
Stealth abounds in non-stop flying and battle sequences that, thanks to great special effects and nervous editing, are kinetically powerful. But many story threads, like those involving an evil Alaskan doctor, a suspect Washington politician and the decadent geek Orbit, are left dangling.
Predictably, the film is also fueled by a pounding rock track and a John Williams-like score that signals the triumphs, dangers and heroics on view.
All in all, Stealth with its pile-up of hardware, software, noise, manic camerawork and genre clichés, is memorable for being forgettable. Yes, situations stay with us, but it helps to know the characters. If a Stealth video game is in the works, the film might best be remembered as the most expensive ad ever to promote a PlayStation product. But for young, restless and all-too-easy-to-please moviegoers, the film will satisfy.