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Robot's Revenge

August 04, 2005

Humans are going to feel pretty stupid when and if computers become

"self-actualized" and turn on their human creators.

There have been dozens of science-fiction stories built around

this premise, including "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Terminator" and the

Borg episodes of "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

"Stealth," a new film, follows this well-worn path with mixed

results.

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Trailers for this film present "Stealth" as a Jamie Foxx vehicle.

In fact, Foxx plays Henry Purcell, a wisecracking sidekick to leading

man Josh Lucas, who plays Lt. Ben Gannon -- a hotshot fighter pilot

who is not beyond bending the rules. ("Stealth" was completed before

Foxx's Academy Award-winning performance in "Ray.") Purcell and

Gannon are two of three Navy pilots who have been chosen to test the

latest stealth fighter plane, the Talon. The third pilot is Kara Wade

(Jessica Biel), who is being groomed for big things.

After performing perfectly in land tests, the three Talon pilots

are assigned to the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. They are

dismayed to hear from their commanding officer, Capt. George Cummings

(Sam Shepard), that they will be joined by a fourth pilot. .

The "pilot," however, turns out to be a top-secret UCAV (unmanned

combat aerial vehicle) piloted by a computer.

Although supposedly under the command of Gannon, the computer

pilot -- nicknamed "EDI" -- has an opinion on everything and

constantly second-guesses the other three pilots. When they are

assigned to bomb a skyscraper in Burma where several international

terrorists are meeting, it is EDI who tells Gannon to release his

missile in a high-speed dive to maximize its penetrative capability.

This allows the building to collapse in its own footprint, making it

a "surgical" strike with no collateral damage.

On the way back from this mission, the computer-controlled

aircraft is struck by lightning and its circuitry goes haywire. How

the designers failed to anticipate this possibility is one of the

many plot holes in this film.

As the computer nerd tending to the plane explains, the lightning

strike has turned EDI into a "quantum sponge." EDI begins downloading

every conceivable database in existence, including every music file

-- which explains the heavy-metal soundtrack that accompanies every

flight.

Once "self-actualized," EDI determines his own missions and

priorities. This conduct causes Capt. Cummings to take extraordinary

measures to cover up the problems, including putting the Talon pilots

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