Can you believe this film is 20 years old? Wow.
Top Gun is a jingoistic recruitment film. ‘Rah, rah! We rawk!’ But still it holds a special place for me. See, I grew up in the shadow of NAS Miramar. I spent many summer days at the base pool. Dad was a pilot. (Civilian, under the G.I. Bill. He was Combat Aircrew in Korea, and got into surface warfare/Communications/ASW after he got his commission.) Flying is ‘in my blood’, as it were. F-14s flew over my school, and S-3s were a favourite site as I sailed at the Navy Sailing Club. Were it not for an unfortunate skiing accident in high school, I would have become a Naval Aviator.
Consider also the times. We’d lost in Vietnam. In the 1970s the economy was in a shambles. Hostages had been taken in Iran. The Cold War was still on. By the mid-1980s we needed a ‘shot in the arm’. Yes, Top Gun is a superficial film filled with clichés. But it was one of the things that made us feel good about ourselves.
I’d been wearing flight jackets and Aviator shades since I was a kid. (My first flight jacket was a WEP jacket given to my mom to give to me by an F-4 pilot at Miramar.) After Top Gun everyone was wearing flight jackets and aviator shades! Tom Cruise rides a sportbike. Now, sportbikes didn’t need this film to become popular. But it certainly didn’t hurt.
Top Gun reminds me of good times. I had a good job (on flight test programmes at Edwards AFB), drove a little Porsche and an MGB, was young with my whole life ahead of me… Terrorism was far away. Sure, we had a Cowboy in the Oval Office. Gangs were an ever-increasing problem. Scandals abounded. But for me it was fun, fun, fun in the Southern California sun. I had a very happy childhood, and the scenes of San Diego in the film reminded me of them.
Now, about the film. There I was, in my early-to-mid-20s, a pilot’s license in my wallet, working around aircraft, and excited to see a film sure to appeal to a plane-crazy ‘Navy Brat’. An F-5 appears on the screen. ‘Ah ha!’ I thought, ‘I know all about “Top Gun”. That’s a VF-126 Aggressor aircraft. The filmmakers want us to think it’s a Bad Guy. But I know better. It’s an exercise.’ Whoops. My smugness was unfounded. In the film the F-5 really was a Bad Guy! You probably know from my other posts that I frown upon such inaccuracies.
But I liked the film. F-14s, man! Maybe my second-all-time-favourite aircraft! Great flying, and great scenery. The love story? Eh. Very contrived. And I wanted Kelly McGillis to wash her face. Too much make-up in several scenes. ‘Maverick’s’ father’s ‘official’ status following Mav’s career was a stretch. The movie follows a predictable pattern. But so what? It’s entertainment. I’ve seen a lot of films that fail in that respect. The style was, for the time, refreshing. I remember watching a lot of films when I was growing up that didn’t look as good. It’s a very ‘clean’ looking film.
Top Gun was an exciting well shot movie. Even today I can feel the energy. I can overlook such flaws as the predictable story and the unbelievable subplots. I still use such phrases as ‘Geez, I crack myself up’ and ‘Great shot! I should be a photographer.’
And it has planes in it.