After only 13 weeks in release, the film has made a worldwide gross of $1.4B, by far the most successful motion picture of 2022. What’s more, Top Gun made all this money without playing in China. The film is a blockbuster “crowd pleaser” due to sensational action scenes, emotional punch, humor, wit, romance and a touchstone to the warrior ethos. Top Gun is a true big screen cinematic experience and adds (perhaps unintentionally) some insight into the devolution, and decline, of the modern US military leadership class. The original 1986 Top Gun movie kicked up navy recruiting by 500%. Fast forward to 2022, and all the military services are struggling to meet recruitment goals. What affect, if any, will the movie have on US Navy recruiting?
The essence of the film is the aviation-duty premise (mission) with a profound risk of death. In real life American history this happened in WW2 – does the 1942 Doolittle Raid ring a dim bell? How about the 1944 film about the raid; “30 Seconds over Tokyo”? Consider the circumstances in 1944: the US was at war; an honest to God war declared by the American Congress. All Americans were on the war path about the Japanese surprise attack at Pearl Harbor. America was Justified to strike back against the Japanese. Our pilots knew the risk and were motivated to go on a very dicey mission. There was no flying back to the aircraft carrier. The lucky ones crash landed in China and were rescued by Chinese locals. Several U.S. bomber crews were lost.
In Top Gun: Maverick all these elements for Justification do not exist. The reasons are vague. The foe is unnamed. Not one pilot asks the question; “Is this really worth it? Whose idea was this?” I don’t mean to be making snide comments, only raising rationale, normal questions. Yet the film is devoid of human conscientiousness – and is perhaps the most fascist American movie ever made. To further sanitize the film, the lethal bombs are dropped via a video game format into the target (a fresh air duct, I think). The audience is spared the horror of seeing the bloody outcome, but it is clear that our pilots delivered a real “ass-kicking” to this unknown, underground foe. All of us in the theatre breathed a sigh of relief and our hearts stopped racing at the calming thought of American Exceptionalism, once again, being “On target with a surgical strike”. Yes, the raid was extremely thrilling and entertaining, and the most popular movie of the year sustained the American Militarist, not humanist, tradition. And that is what bothers me. We get the movies we deserve. Yes, I loved this movie, as long as I don’t think too much about it. But sometimes I do.
Written by Ben Clark. Copyright 2016-2023. All rights reserved.