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The United States Navy has built three new top-of-the-range fighter jets called F/A-37 Talons. From over 400 applicants, 3 pilots are chosen to fly them; smart hotshot Lieutenant Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas), tomboyish Lieutenant Kara Wade (Jessica Biel), and street-wise, philosophical Lieutenant Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx). When the three are flown out to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Philippine Sea where the jets are, they learn the navy's developed a fourth jet; unmanned artificial intelligence "EDI" (Extreme Deep Invader). The pilots are to take EDI out on a mission and train it. While they're at it, debate rages amongst commanders about whether it's ethical to use artificial intelligences in war, given that although a computer is not subject to the physical limitations of a human pilot and can calculate strategies more quickly; they likewise possess no sense of morality. At least; theoretically... can you guess where this is leading? And indeed, sure enough, with the mission a success, on the way back, EDI is (we shit you not) struck by a lightning bolt, thus zapping his circuits, and he develops a moral code. Initially, everything is fine. But then, on a subsequent mission in Pakistan, EDI decides that the decisions of the humans are faulty, and he starts doing his own thing... Now it's up to the three pilots to stop him.
The film cost $138 million to make, but was savaged by critics and was a colossal box office bomb making only $76,932,872 worldwide, one of the biggest losses in cinematic history.
- Ace Pilot: Who would have guessed.
- Aerial Canyon Chase
- All of Them: Possibly the most ridiculous application of this trope in history. It happens right after EDI becomes sentient after getting struck by lightning.
Tech Guy: EDI just downloaded some music from the internet.
Ben Gannon: How much?
Tech Guy: All of it.
- AI Is a Crapshoot
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version uses "Countdown by Hyde as the theme song.
- Black Dude Dies First
- Character Development: Makes EDI more interesting than the actual leads. One can argue that had the writers treated EDI as an actual character instead of an excuse to do an AI Is a Crapshoot Aesop, the movie might've turned out much more interesting.
- Combat Pragmatist / Well-Intentioned Extremist: EDI doesn't care about collateral damage as long as he kills terrorists. Then again, he learned this from Ben, who was prepared to slam his plane into the ground and kill hundreds of people just to prove a point.
- Cool Plane: Well yeah.
- Custom Uniform: Real naval uniforms are not quite as flattering as Jessica Biel's.
- Custom Uniform of Sexy: Given how tight her uniforms are.
- Did Not Do the Research: When Lt. Gannon crashes at the Alaska base, a man runs up to check on him. The jet is still on fire, so there are concerns for explosions or toxicity from the burning fuel, paint, and metal. Also, the first safety procedure performed before anyone touches the aircraft, or the pilot gets out, is to attach a grounding wire to discharge the static electricity produced from air rushing over the jet at several hundred miles per hour. It eliminates the chance to spark another fire, and there is enough charge to send a person flying; and the guy not only stands on the aircraft put knocks on the canopy with his bare hand.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Leaving aside the funny acronym, just watch the scene where EDI goes for a refuel. His initial attempt is met with a feminine computer voice saying "Access Denied." He angrily shoves his refueling probe into the nozzle several times, complete with bumping noises. As he does this, the camera is focused on his cockpit and the actual computer housing his AI inside at an angle that invokes an angry-looking facial expression. Then, he shoots off the nozzle and forcibly shoves his refueling probe into the hose.
- Driven to Suicide: The Power Trio's boss kills himself when his villainy is exposed (although we don't actually see it).
- Everything Sensor: In Rangoon, EDI manages to perform a series of comically impossible tricks to identify the various terrorists, including identifying a fingerprint using a spy satellite.
- Fan Service: Bikini clad Jessica Biel? Yes, please. Doubles as a Shirtless Scene for Josh Lucas, and it's certainly just as nice for the chicks and non-heterosexual males in the audience.
- Heroic Sacrifice: EDI, though it's pretty obvious.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: It appears that one of Lieutenant Gannon's descendants will be a hot-shot test pilot a few hundred years later during the events of Wing Commander III. Where he'll fight along side Luke Skywalker.
- Hey, It's That Voice!: EDI's voicebytes were recorded by Michael Scofeld.
- Hollywood Science: Lots and lots of it.
- Informed Ability: For the best pilots in the world, they sure do a lot of stupid things during the course of the movie.
- Improbable Piloting Skills: The dive-bomb in Rangoon. And that's not half of it. This may be justified on account of it being the planes and not the pilots.
- Instant AI, Just Zap With Lightning: EDI becomes sentient after getting hit by a bolt of lightning; a splash of water from Lucas' character saves EDI from burning up and helps nudge him into a Heel Face Turn.
- The trailer for the movie featured the utterly stupid line "That lightning strike rewired it somehow!" Thankfully, it was cut from the movie proper.
- Just Plane Wrong: Basically, the designers have never studied a real plane. Any accuracies are pure coincidence.
- Karma Houdini: The government ally of the Power Trio's corrupt boss seemed to go scot-free, despite his involvement in most of the movie (even if he only came up in the second half of the movie).
- Power Trio/Four Is Death: The trio becomes a foursome once EDI arrives, and then it's back to a trio again.
- Josh Lucas' character just comes short of naming this trope explicitly to his superior officers when complaining about the new foursome. At times it seems he's not so much bothered by EDI being a computer as so much as just being there, period.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The power that be want EDI to learn from the three mains. It watches and learns from Ben that getting the mission done is more important then following orders from that stupid stunt in Rangoon. If Ben had JUST let EDI take the damn shot ....we wouldn't have a movie.
- Rule of Fun: The most likely reason for all the inaccuracies and improbabilities.
- Sapient Ship: EDI.
- Scenery Porn
- Shout-Out: EDI has a big red eye; an obvious reference to HAL 9000.
- The Stinger: After the credits, we see the red light of EDI's CPU come back on.
- Stuff Blowing Up: The aircraft seem to have non-conservation-of-energy missiles that explode with the force of plot.
- Token Romance: Ben and Kara. Mentioned in about two scenes, never has any relevance to the plot, and barely transmitted in the character interactions.
- Too Dumb to Live: Purcell's death is entirely his fault. His wingmates not only warn him to back off, but he insists on chasing EDI through a narrow canyon instead of above it like they do. The second he fired on EDI, he was dead. Hit or miss, the moment of blindness that came with the explosion was enough to make him smash into the cliff face.
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future: Set in the year 2016.
- Viewers are Morons: We're aware that a prime number is a number only divisible by one or itself, thanks, movie.
- Lampshaded; the guy who was getting lectured had just as much patience for it as the audience.
- Viral Marketing: Shots of the life-size Talon props on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln were leaked with claims that they were taken by a crew member and showed a new US fighter prototype. Of course, the shots were all in perfect focus and showed the pilots were Hollywood actors, but some people were still taken in.
- X Meets Y: From us: Ace Combat meets 2001: A Space Odyssey.