Hot Shots, Charlie Sheen’s comedic tour de force as U.S. Navy pilot Sean “Topper” Harley, was one of the first movies about aviation that I ever watched. It’s silly bordering on stupid — just one gag after another for 84 minutes. What my 7-year-old self didn’t realize is that it’s a spoof of Top Gun. My dad suggested we watch it together so he drove me to the video store, and we rented the VHS.
I was spellbound. The flying scenes were breathtaking. The speed, the power, the growl of the engines, the earth-shattering roar when the naval aviators hit the afterburners — they seized my attention and wouldn’t let it go.
I watched it again. And again. And again.
That’s it, I thought, I’m going to fly jets in the military and shoot down MiGs. At twelve, I got glasses — so being a military pilot was out of the question. But I did earn my wings as a civilian pilot, and while I will never splash MiGs, I’ve racked up an enviable number of victories over clouds at the controls of my little Smith Miniplane.
In my late teens, I realized Top Gun was a terrible movie. I mean, shockingly bad. The dialogue is terrible. Entire swathes of the plot do not make sense. The antagonism between the crews goes beyond reason into the realm of sexual creepiness. And then there’s the beach volleyball scene. And the one in the bar. And Maverick’s insistence on showering in the apartment of a woman he barely knows.
Still, the flying scenes are just incredible.
The trailer of Top Gun: Maverick gave me chills. Look, naval aviation has come a long way in the 34 years since Maverick caused and then defused an international incident. They’ve moved on from the venerable Tomcat and replaced it with the Super Hornet; they play beach football now — still sans shirts; and even though I can’t be sure because there’s no audio, they’re probably still singing You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’ in that San Diego bar (which I’ve visited, by the way).
Apparently, Val Kilmer’s Iceman makes an appearance (can’t wait to see how that goes down), and Tom Cruise mentors the son of Goose, his back-seater who dies in the original flick (after they fly through Iceman’s wake — so again, that’s going to be a frosty reunion).
I’m hoping the plot will hold more water than the 1986 original, but I’m not getting my hopes up. I can tell you now that the flying scenes are going to blow your mind. And on a Tuesday night in June 2020, my buddies and I will dress up in flight suits and fighter pilot helmets (with the visors down so that no one will recognize us) to watch Top Gun: Maverick. We might even end up in a bar later and regale patrons with off-key renditions of that Righteous Brothers tune.
It’s how Goose would have wanted it.
Listen to the soundtrack for Top Gun
Watch Jonathan Rotondo on CBC
Need a refresher course? Airborne 101