Russian-American relations were on full and revealing display Monday as a Russian Su-27 fighter jet flew within five feet of an American reconnaissance aircraft over the Baltic Sea. According to reports, the Russian aircraft was armed and approached the American plane above international waters. A spokesperson for European Command (EUCOM) described the interaction as “provocative” and “unsafe” by the Russians.
Wait—five feet? In a way it seems a repeat of Cold War tensions. But of all parallels that can be drawn between this latest altercation and those of a few decades ago, the most popular example comes through a Tom Cruise movie, not an Air Force report. Top Gun defined all things cool—sand volleyball, Ray Bans, and, of course, fighter jets. The movie was a hit because it was hip, but also because it was relevant.
The Sequel America’s Calling For
Paramount put together a movie in 1986 that promoted a modern idea of Americana—fighter jets, beer, cheesy love stories—and set it up against a cold and mysterious Russian foe that stood for what we as Americans were not. For a well-grossing film, this appears to be a recipe for success. And now, after over thirty years of rumors of a sequel, Tom Cruise and Co. will roll out Top Gun: Maverick.
For lovers of the original, sequels can be a risky business. Too often the second chapter of our favorite stories don’t match the originality and novelty of the first. But a second Top Gun is happening, Cruise revealed May 23 on the Australian morning show Sunrise.
So what do we know? Cruise says he’ll begin filming “probably in the next year.” Iceman (Val Kilmer) is, Goose is probably not. But what will make or break the newest edition of Top Gun probably won’t be the storyline or flawless execution (the original scored an underwhelming 6.9/10 on IMBD despite its immense popularity). Top Gun: Maverick, like its predecessor, will be defined by the emotions it conjures. If the movie is nothing more than a repeat of the 1986 edition, can it still succeed?
Monday’s altercation over the Baltic Sea is a subtle reminder of how our sense of patriotism, security, and appetite for entertainment haven’t changed too much in the last thirty years. If the news surrounding this sequel means nothing else, America wants to see another opening sequence of planes taking off to the sound of Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone. If Top Gun is a pleasant summer memory of all that is good, and that’s all it is, wouldn’t you want to relive it?
Certainly there is the possibility that the new movie doesn’t top the original. But the movie will be a success if it appeals to what makes America cool. Is there enough pro-fighter jet, anti-Russian sentiment out there to do just that? We’ll find out in theaters soon enough. I know I’ll be there.