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Top Gun

Written By: - Date published: 8:33 am, May 27th, 2022 - 23 comments
Categories: Russia, uncategorized, us politics, war - Tags:

We are entitled to love Top Gun.

The new version of Top Gun out now is sure to give rise to little think-pieces about how comparable the situation in the Ukraine is or is not to Desert Storm in Iraq or any other US-military led war. Or isn’t.

It is of course jarring to see a tale of direct US military intervention released in the week when the lack of direct US military intervention is causing Ukraine to lose its eastern quarter and be reduced to economic poverty.

The close relationship between Executive Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and the US military is multi-decade deep and has led to some of the most detailed appreciation of their military operations one could possibly wish for. The idea of screen creativity as an heroic node of resistance to power is now rendered silly. There’s little point asking whether his productions as Top Gun or Transformers are not assertive recruiting and propaganda pieces for joining and serving in the US Navy and its air carrier capability. They are also enormously profitable and popular with English-speaking audiences: even 30 years later there is a demand that they be remade and that they are better than ever. Rottentomatoes already has this version critically and audience acclaimed at 94%.

While Bruckheimer and Hollywood are entitled to their fictions, similarly there’s little point complaining from New Zealand when our own entire film and television industry is built upon a whites-only German-Nordic-English fiction of pleasant pokey pastoral pride overcoming all evil in the world through multi-front war and death by the hundred thousand: Lord of the Rings x 3 prequelled by The Hobbit x 3.  That fiction worked so well it altered the entire economic, social and cultural outlook of the country.

So let’s move beyond the bleeding obvious, and ask the question: why is it so easy to still love Top Gun?

It is more accurate to describe New Zealand as in the same position as the mother and father Bennetts in Pride and Prejudice: New Zealand is one of the smallest, weakest, most distant and least important countries in the world. Its inventions are agricultural, its thinkers have few followers, its political order and influence miniscule, its corporations don’t grow and conquer. So like the Bennetts, New Zealand is not rich but it still acts like it is.

To succeed in this world New Zealand deploys Austen’s feminine agency and comports itself to attract skilled workers, and specific kinds of capitalist and capital, to deliver outcomes far in excess of its station in life. It has to be asked to dance, and it knows it.

New Zealand aspires, despite its station, to be a part of the 1% from the lowered position most of us have.  Unlike our richer and more tactically astute cousins the Australians, we have no savings of our own to get there. So in the time-honoured tradition of social capital formation providing the grip onto the ladder-rungs of social mobility, we marry up to global capital. But we can only put a suit on to catch the eye of Tom Cruise when we’ve finished milking the cows.

They may or may not bring fighter aircraft with them, they may be ageing around the eyes, but we are still entitled to be entranced by them in either theatrical or commercial forms.  They and their fictions are necessary. They are, like it or not, our way out of where we are.

That’s why we’ve see Ardern sign up one more time with the US this week, in Tokyo and now in the US with Blackrock and the usual roll of beltway exchanges.

And so, turning our eyes once more to all that economic and military power, we will in our hundreds of thousands still queue up to Top Gun.

23 comments on “Top Gun ”

  1. Puckish Rogue 1

    I was fortunate enough to read what I considered to be a well-written, erudite yet down to earth review of the movie, I'll repost it here for everyones enjoyment, along with a trailer for the movie:

    This movie is fantastic entertainment, I rate it slightly higher than the original.

    Its not perfect, the shoe horned in romance didn't really do it for me (or my wife for that matter) and it felt at times as if there was a previous movie we haven't watched but for all that this is top tier movie entertainment.

    I've always been a fan of Tom Cruise because you can tell he loves making movies and he gives 110% for every role but for this he has surpassed himself, you can tell he really wanted this to work and it does, it really does.

    There is no star today (sorry Brad Pitt) that can get close to Tom Cruise when hes on and he may have single-handedly shown to Hollywood that we, the paying public, don't care about representation (plenty of people of colour and woman as pilots in this movie) as long as the characters are more than one dimensional cut outs (see also Aliens)

    I would go so far as to say that this is Tom Cruises Magnum Opus, not saying its his best movie (I have a soft spot for Born On The Fourth Of July) but this is everything that encapsulates Tom Cruises career, turned up to eleven

    You want charming Tom, funny Tom, driven Tom, doubting Thomas (yeah yeah I know), Tom who even though hes 59 can easily pass for late 30s (especially with his shirt off), introspective Tom, take charge Tom, running Tom (of course) then this is it, this is everything

    If this is the start of Tom Cruises with drawl from more physical movies (Mission Impossible aside) then this is one helluva swan song

    Yes its unashamedly nostalgic, as soon as the movie starts and the music starts playing and the you watch the credits you'll know what I mean and yes its unashamedly patriotic but it works

    Grab a large popcorn and fizzy drink (go to the toilet first as its over 2 hours), sit back, let the sound wash over you, put your brain in neutral and prepare to be transported back to when you were 13 years old (or however old you were when you first watched Top Gun)

    Hollywood please take not of this, Tom can't carry the whole industry forever

    • Ad 1.1

      Actually agree with all of that.

      The scene with Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer is pathos-brimming especially since Kilmer is actually pretty sick and probably won't act again.

      • Puckish Rogue 1.1.1

        I know right, it made me keen to watch a movie in the 90s where Iceman is rising up through the ranks and Mavericks getting upto shennigans

  2. The US military is an incredible machine, in a class of its own. Its tech is state of the art, and that's just the stuff we know about. If there's a serious confrontation I suspect they will roll out Stark level tech stashed away in places like Area 51.

    However, is it fit for purpose in the 21st century? It is built to project global power for a WW3 scale conflict. But that is not the usual mission that the military finds itself engaged in. It has a myopic focus on battleground dominance, ignoring longer term strategic goals and other ways of achieving American ends, via political means. From The Angry Staff Officer:

    Now, you might be saying, “What’s the big deal? Shouldn’t we always want the Army to think about winning wars?” Sure, yes, absolutely. Only, see, the problem is, the Army spends most of its time not fighting actual wars. Throughout the history of the Army’s conflicts, “war” – the political act of nations trying to impose their will on each other via violence – takes a very back seat role. Conflict, yes. There’s plenty of that. Irregular, always messy, few clearly defined rules, shifting objectives, politically fraught, sometimes ethnically or racially charged, fought with either little fanfare or with intense media interest. These conflicts have happened anywhere from North America to Africa, from the Pacific to the Middle East, from Siberia to Latin America.

    Furtthermore, as Chris Hedges stridently argues, (I have reservations about some of that piece, but largely agree with it) … Americans love militarism and ignore the cries of their own neighbours, facing multiple domestic crises and insfrastructure deficits and stagnation. It looks a lot like a hollowed out empire clinging to a mythical greatness, while the elites plunder the carcass of a once abundant common wealth.

    • Ad 2.1

      Hard to see another open-field heavy tank war after Ukraine. Equally drones didn't win in Afghanistan.

      I much prefer elections even crap ones to war.

    • Sanctuary 2.2

      As Julius Caesar was fond of observing, you must always support your tanks with infantry.

      Tanks have been declared obsolete since Cambrai in 1917. Ludendorff thought little of them and once the war was over everyone wanted to get back to riding Dobbin. Part of the problem is people have this idea that tanks should be invulnerable. They are not. Never have been and never will be. Between June 6th 1944 and the end of the war in May 1945 in the European theatre alone the US Army lost 4,295 tanks – roughly 100 a week. The USSR lost between 85,000 and 100,000 tanks and self-propelled guns in WW2. Tanks still offer the best blend of firepower, mobility and protection. The old Soviet era designs in the Ukraine were conceived and built for a different sort of tank battle to the one they find themselves in now, and have severe design flaws in the era of top-attack munitions.

      The biggest problem with Soviet era tanks is a hit frequently results in a turret popping ammunition detonation that kills the crew, whereas western tanks are designed to keep as many of the crew alive as possible.

      Ironically, the Russians have a well thought out modern tank that addresses many of these issues in a prescient way – the T-14 Armata. Unfortunately for them, they don't have the money or know how to build more than a dozen of them.

  3. Sanctuary 3

    Top Gun is an Infomercial for the American dream, the pinnacle of US soft power and a snapshot of a morning in Reagan’s America so bright that everyone has to wear sunglasses. The mighty F-14. Naval aviation – where only the most steely eyed survive. The fighter mafia at the peak of it's glory post Vietnam. Men were men and women swooned at the mighty missileers and their afterburning steeds.

    I recall an RAF Tornado pilot recounting how the 1991 Gulf War was the last hurrah of a certain type of American aviator, Vietnam era combat veterans who were all in their forties/fifties by then in the US Air National Guard units – larger than life men who smoked cigars, wore ten gallon hats, had ash trays added to their cockpits and went "Yeeeehaaaa!!!!!" a lot over the radio.

    Everyone secretly or not so secretly wants to be Maverick, and live in the America that was at it’s height of power.

  4. KJT 4

    We will ignore the obvious causal link, between war and gun porn movies, and shootings?

    • Sanctuary 4.1

      I was answering the question – "..why is it so easy to still love Top Gun..?"

    • Puckish Rogue 4.2

      Because its lazy, bullshit reasoning?

      May as well blame video games, drugs, heavy metal music, D & D etc etc while you're at it

    • Populuxe1 4.3

      Hands up everyone who has ever seen Top Gun and didn't immediately go out and invade a foreign country or buy a bunch of AR-15s?

      • Nic the NZer 4.3.1

        Hang on, you just told me you couldn't compare military invasions with US second amendment issues.

        How Russia Loses

      • Puckish Rogue 4.3.2

        Well now that you mention it the 80s are a bit of blur…

      • Phil 4.3.3

        I'm slightly too young to have seen the original Top Gun in theatres, but I can still remember the hilarious fretting and handwringing that went on within circles of 'concerned parents' when The Fast and the Furious was supposed to be the cause of a spate of young people crashing cars.

        • KJT

          People never try and emulate characters in movies?


          • Phil

            Video games, rap music, movies with fast cars… it's the boomer parent trifecta of fears that has as much intellectual merit as previous generations fearing women riding bicycles.

            • KJT

              Billions spent on advertising in and around movies, worldwide.

              Because they have "no effect on peoples behaviour".

              I don't think so.

      • Phil 4.3.4

        Hands up everyone who has ever seen Top Gun and didn't immediately go out and invade a foreign country.

        The Belgian Revolution was sparked by a patriotic opera performance in 1830.

      • Francesca 4.3.5

        The US military hopes it will boost their recruitment drive

        Even though Top Gun: Maverick is Navy-centric, all branches of the military will likely see a lift from the film in what is the toughest recruiting market in more than 20 years, Thomas added.


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