Tom Cruise is back as Maverick in a new trailer for the sequel to his 1986 hit “Top Gun,” a film noted for its swaggering machismo that seemed just right for the “Morning Again in America” Reagan Administration.
But in the age of Donald Trump, will the new film, “Top Gun: Maverick,” have the same impact? The picture will be released in June 2020, months before the presidential election and could play into Trump’s campaign.
The president is nothing if not military worshiping, even though he dodged the draft during the seminal war of his generation–Vietnam. He used the spurious excuse of “bone spurs” in his feet to get out of serving. Now, he’s what’s known in Washington as a “chicken hawk,” someone who never served in the military, much less combat, yet is aggressively pro-military.
At least Reagan could walk the walk. He enlisted in the Army reserve in 1937, four years before the nation was attacked at Pearl Harbor. He was called up for active duty in 1942, but poor eyesight relegated him to stateside duty.
His predecessor in office, soft-spoken Democrat, Jimmy Carter, embodied the “Top Gun” ethos far more than both Reagan and Trump. Carter was elected president in 1976. By then, the nation had been wracked by the Watergate investigation and the aftermath of the Vietnam war. The US was left deeply in debt and struggling with “stagflation.”
Although Carter attended the Naval Academy and served on submarines, a dangerous job even in peacetime, he was quiet and introspective. That led his opponents to portray him as weak and ineffectual. But he was brutally honest in assessing the nation’s problems and attempted to address them.
Reagan, on the other hand, was self-assured, confident, indefatigably upbeat and a military hawk. He re-established America’s aggressive military posture with the invasion of Grenada in 1983, bolstered by a massive increase in defense spending.
Against that backdrop, “Top Gun,” was released in 1986, two years into Reagan’s second term. The president was at the peak of his popularity, and the film captured the machismo and can-do attitude he tried to instill in the nation.
A year later, the myth of the Reagan presidency was shattered by the Iran-Contra scandal and the 1987 economic crisis. But the “Top Gun” aura lived on. Cruise, now 57, unveiled the trailer during a surprise appearance at Comic-Con in San Diego yesterday (July 18). His character is still jockeying jets at his advanced age.
The clip focuses on actor Miles Teller, who plays the son of Maverick’s weapons office “Goose,” who died during a training exercise in the first movie.
Cruise, however, grabs the opening scene, flying an F-18 Super Hornet jet “on the deck” at near supersonic speed. Unfortunately, Maverick’s career as a Navy officer is less high flying. He gets upbraided by a superior for failing to make rank as a Two-Star Admiral.
“Thirty plus years of service, combat metals, citations – only man to shoot down three enemy planes in the last 40 years–yet you can’t get a promotion, you won’t retire and despite your best efforts, you refuse to die.”
Cruise gets more screen time in jets. Maverick is now a flight instructor, struggling to adapt to the new Navy and the inevitable end of piloted aircraft in favor of unmanned drones. All the cliches from the previous movie are included as well–the screaming motorcycle rides, the fetching love interest, played by Jennifer Connelly, bar scenes, brawling and a funeral.
“You’re a dinosaur. Your kind is heading for extinction.” says his superior, presaging the advent of drone-based remotely controlled craft. “Maybe so, sir. But not today,” Maverick replies defiantly.
Joe Kosinski, best known for directing Cruise’s sci-fi film “Oblivion” helms the picture, with a script by Peter Craig, Justin Marks and Eric Warren Singer. Trump will surely latched onto the film to glorify his pro-military administration. But whether “Top Gun: Maverick,” will provide another shot of Adrenalin for a nation wearied by endless war in the Middle East and Afghanistan remains to be seen.