(First posted to Bad Movie Night in 2001 or so.)
In this multi-million-dollar 110-minute-long Navy recruitment poster, Tom Cruise sticks out his long, throbbing air-to-air missile for all the world to see.
It's the 1980s. The Cold War is still on. Soviet pilots, flying American F-5 fighter planes painted black with a big red star on the tail, routinely harass American aircraft-carrier-based pilots by sticking their tongues out at them. To answer this threat to our nation's security, the Navy forms Top Gun, an elite fighter weapons school that only accepts and trains really good-looking pilots who rate above 150 on the Macho Complex index.
Tom Cruise is, of course, the best of the best. Just ask him. He'll tell you. His goals in life are to flip the finger at every Soviet pilot he gets in a dogfight with, and to shag Kelly McGillis; and he can only accomplish these goals by graduating at the top of his Top Gun class. His main competition is Iceman, another pilot determined to graduate at the top, whose real name is Bobby Drake and who has the mutant power to form ice out of mosture in the ... um, wait, I'm thinking of the Iceman from X-Men comics. Never mind. THIS Iceman's super power is the ability to surpass Tom Cruise in an I'm-a-bigger-asshole-than-you contest (no mean feat, to be sure).
However, tragedy strikes our intrepid hero. While attempting to have air-to-air sex with another figter jet's exhaust nozzle, Tom Cruise flames out both his engines and must ejacul— er, eject. The ejection mechanism slams his co-pilot head-first into the canopy, breaking his neck. (Note that the film didn't make this clear; it looked like his buddy just hit the water below and died for no reason. But I digress.) Saddened by the loss of his compatriot, Cruise withdraws from the Top Gun program and stops shagging Kelly McGillis.
Unfortunately, we don't get to rejoice about this wonderful turn of events for long. The Top Gun instructor comes by and tells Tom Cruise an inspiring story about his dad, who was also a pilot, and how big and potent dad's air-to-air missile was. Spurred on by the Oedipal feelings this story stirred in him, Cruise re-joins Top Gun, graduates, and gets reassigned to an aircraft carrier in Internationally threatened waters.
Thereafter follows the most absurd air-to-air combat scenario I have ever witnessed. Six of those black-painted American F-5's with Soviet stars on their tails threaten the fleet. They fly one behind the other so that our cheap American radar can't see all of them coming, and we think there are only 2 of them. Iceman (who by sheer coincidence was assigned to the same carrier as Tom Cruise) and another pilot named Hollywood both launch to intercept this threat at a distance of 120 miles. (The Soviets have developed a new air-to-ship missile that can be launched from 100 miles away, you see.) When we find out there are not 2, but 6 Soviet planes a-comin', Tom Cruise is launched also. And then BOTH steam catapults on the carrier break. What a coincidence! When the Soviets shoot down Hollywood (not tinsel-town, unfortunately, just the pilot), Cruise announces, "I'm going supersonic, I'll be there in 30 seconds!"
120 miles in 30 seconds? That's not merely supersonic, Mr. Cruise, that's damn near orbital speed.
Upon reaching the enemy planes now threatening Iceman (and continuing ever nearer to our home ship), Cruise loses his nerve. Perhaps the Soviet pilots are un-Cleared minions of Xemu who interfere with Tom Cruise's powers as an Operating Thetan. He fondles his dead buddy's dogtags. What kind of implied fondling this symbolizes, I'll let you sort out for yourself. Finally, though, he realizes that he's got four long, hard, heat-seeking missiles sticking out of his plane and he's getting all hot to use them. He shoots down four of the six enemy planes mere moments before they would have gotten withing air-to-ship missile range of the aircraft carrier, all the while dodging machine guns that are even less effective than those on World War One biplanes.
So now, Tom Cruise is a big hero. He can get any assignment he wants, and he chooses to be ... a Top Gun instructor. And then Kelly McGillis comes back and starts shagging him again. Gah! I thought this movie was supposed to have a HAPPY ending!
This was the big-grossing film that launched Tom Cruise's career as a big name star. After this movie hit the theaters, thousands of young, innocent boys enlisted in the Navy and Air Force with the hope of becoming fighter pilots. I wonder how many new would-be NASCAR drivers popped into the world thanks to Days of Thunder....
Click here to go to Roger M. Wilcox's home page.
Send comments regarding this Web page to: Roger M. Wilcox.