Surprising no one, the trailer for Top Gun: Maverick was released into the ongoing two-year drought of anything watchable from Hollyweird, and it's now the top trailer (13M sets of eyeballs when last we looked), even though it's a year from coming out. Current movies are, in fact, that bad. We caught it yestermorning on Daily Timewaster's blog, and we give the whole idea of a sequel a hearty..."Meh."
First, let's re-visit Tony Scott's iconic offering from 1986. Tony Scott, Ridley's brother, mainly made commercials, both before and after this flick. He inarguably was one of the masters of that genre, which is making something sexy for 30-90 seconds. In that light, the original Top Gun can be more easily understood, because on its best day, it was a child's craft camp necklace of thirty or forty commercials, strung together, somewhat coherently. The story was fantastic compared to, say, a move from Stanley Kubrick or Robert Altman, but compared to one from Tony's brother Ridley, or fifty other feature film director, not so much.
Secondly, the only thing they got right at the time about the actual Top Gun school then at Miramar, (now? IDK. Someone in comments will certainly let me know.) was that it was, in fact, at Miramar, and run by the Navy. Actual Navy pilots, then or now, will happily confirm there is no trophy, and that Pete "Maverick" Mitchell would have been cheerfully booted right the eff out before he started, and not even been missed, then or any other time. And that everything else in the movie was contrived bullshit.
Because Top Gun isn't to see who the best fighter pilot is, it's to take guys who've never been in combat, and teach them how to survive it (at odds of 1v1, 2v1, 1v2, and 1v?), by using their strengths and weakness - every aircraft has those - and then, the really important part - taking those lessons back to the other 12-30 pilots and aircrews in their squadron, and teaching what they learned back there, because the Navy can't rotate everyone in every squadron through Top Gun every year. It's a train-the-trainer class. Band camp, not March Madness double eliminations. Like NTC for the Army, the instructors there are the best of the best, they'll always whack the students every time, until the students, having had the lessons and performance envelope of their aircraft beaten into their heads, can achieve bare parity against guys with 2-5X the flight hours doing ACM, air combat maneuvering. Which is what "dogfighting" goes by, as a handle, lately.
Near total bullshit, militarily. Cinematically: awesome to watch.
This is the same thing John Boyd beat into the Air Farce's head, for exactly the same reason the missiles-only approach failed in the Air Farce, and their result was Red Flag, where they teach similar lessons. E.g, most pilots are killed in their first five combat missions, so why not make those first five in a classroom at full reality, rather than when their lives are actually at stake? Genius. But since Air Force, they do rotate entire squadrons through, and pile in every mission they do in exercises, not just fighter jock ACM.
(There's nothing like sitting beside a dry lake in CA, and having a B-2 fly by below you, with a T-38 in trail so the exercise control AWACS can see where the B-2 is on radar, as it sneaks around a mountain range to enter the exercise area. Or laying back on a camo net, and watching A-4s and F-14s in knifefight ACM 10,000' up above you, over the range at Chocolate Mountains. Ask me how I know.)
The results of both schools were the two day air blitz in Desert Storm, which took out Saddam's air force in hours, mostly on the ground, and chased what survived into hiding into Syria. Repeated in about an hour in 2002. Our training resembles bloodless wars, and our wars look like training with live rounds and warshot missiles. And nobody else can touch us, except when they get lucky and volley a dozen SAMs at an unwary patrol flight. (At least, until we started fielding carriers that can't catapult any airplanes, airplanes that can't perform, and handing out wings on the basis of possessed genitalia rather than meeting performance standards.)
None of which was covered in Top Gun, because boring, plus beefcake beach volleyball, and doinking the imaginary female instructress. (Who is now a thrice-divorced 240-pound lesbian cat lady living in North Carolina, not coming back for this TopGun adventure AFAIK, and thus she and the audience will be spared the embarrassment that was Carrie Fisher's Cryptkeeper reveal in The Farce Awakens.) In fact, nearly everyone in the TopGun: Maverick sequel is new, for pretty much that same reason, except Tom Cruise, who apparently has a picture of a haggard, raggedy old 57 y.o. man in his attic, to explain why he still looks fighter-ready in this follow-up, almost alone amongst his prior co-stars.
And in the trailer for it, we have an equally ancient-looking Ed Harris, looking old enough to have flown Mercury space missions in the 1960s, asking Captain Maverick why he isn't a "two-star admiral", which he opines should be the case, looking at a calendar. Which gets me to why anyone who spent three minutes in the military hates Hollywood with undisguised contempt, because they can't even get the easy stuff right, but instead fuck up by the numbers, because they don't care, neither about either the military, nor the audience.
Firstly, If "Maverick" were a Lieutenant in 1986, that would bespeak three years or more of commissioned service. So will make him a grad of OCS, NROTC, or the Naval Academy in the Class of '83 (and possibly even '82 or '81). So let's look at where he'd be now.
1983-1993-2003-2013-2120. Thirty seven years into his naval career. He would have made captain 20ish years along. By twenty-five years, he should have been promoted. (We'll get to what he should have been promoted to in a minute.) By thirty-seven years, he would have been passed over for promotion twice (actually, more like ten times), but he wouldn't have made even the third bite at that apple: he'd have been selected for retirement, shitcanned, and playing golf on weekends, working for some defense contractor, and living next to the golf course near some Navy base, since his 30-year mark. (Or, perhaps, either a rogue CIA operative, or a former military enigma solving crimes in the Mystery Machine.) That would have been in 2013, if you're keeping score at home. So much for that screen moment. Maverick would look like Tom "Iceman" Kazansky did a couple of years ago: way too fat to even fit into a cockpit. But rumor has it they're going to drag him back too, (someone's trainer earned a bonus) even though as an admiral, he'd be retired by now too. And would have stopped flying Navy aircraft back around 2010 or so, max. Strike Two.
Then there's Ed Harris' line: "A two-star admiral". This (like, I suspect, the entire movie, beginning to end) is just criminally stupid and lazy screenwriting, by people with no fucking clue, and who don't care that they have no fucking clue.
The Navy doesn't have "two-star admirals". Nor would any one of them so refer to it.
They have Rear Admirals. Which hearkens back to sailing days, when the senior full Admiral commanded the main body, the Vice-Admiral, his deputy, commanded the front group in a line of battle, and the junior admiral commanded the group bringing up the Rear.
Hence, Rear Admiral.
Navy ranks in modern times mirror the ranks of the other services, so a Rear Admiral corresponds to the rank of Major (two-star, for all you non-service types) General, who usually commands a division (or equivalent) in ground services. A one-star general is a Brigadier General. Briefly, in the 1980s, the Navy resurrected the rank of Commodore to correspond to Brigadier General. But the Navy PTB decided that it was wrong for the junior not-yet-admirals to have a cooler-sounding rank than them, and one that sufficed all the way back to the time of Commodore Perry, and the not-yet-admirals, not satisfied with martial common sense in naming conventions, nor wishing to be confused with an R&B group, thirsted for the cachét of being called admirals, even though they hadn't earned it, so they combined all Commodores and Rear Admirals, got rid of the rank term of Commodore, calling them all Rear Admirals (not "two-star" admirals), and distinguished them parenthetically as Rear Admiral (lower half) for the former Commodores, and Rear Admiral (upper half) for those actual admirals of the higher rank. Thus a Brigadier General of any of the sister services may salute a nominal Rear Admiral in the Pentagon, only later to find out the poser is (lower half) and the Brigadier outranks him substantially by time in grade. This, of course, makes the Navy laugh, and pisses off the other three services, which was at least half of why they did this.
That's why no one in the Navy would ever say the phrase "two-star admiral", but rather "Rear Admiral". I was never in the Navy, only a guest prisoner on a few of their ships, and even *I* know this. Twenty-nothing jackass screenwriters couldn't be bothered. This is why they're Fucktards, twelve times out of ten.
Which, in a two-minute trailer, tells me the sequel will be every bit as lousy and loose with reality as the original pic, hearkening back to the days when actors and extras regularly appeared onscreen with their ribbon bars upside down, and troops had haircuts that looked like opening acts for a heavy metal concert, rather than a military haircut, and were generally ten years older and forty pounds heavier than guys actually in and serving in the ranks portrayed.
There's also a model for doing a military movie absolutely right: Blackhawk Down.
If you want an expert fisking of the whole trailer, POOF!, you get your wish:
Foxtrot Alpha: Here are all the screw-ups in the Maverick trailer.
Sadly, original Top Gun director Tony Scott decided one day a few years back to drive up to the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro-Long Beach midday, step up to the rail, and leap off. It was a one-way trip. I worked with him (I being very much the underling there) on various projects in my time in Hollywood, and saw him many times at close hand, and while he was director-weird (i.e. creative, but no weirder than anyone else in Hollywood), he, like his brother Ridley, knew his cinematic stuff, so the fact he isn't around anymore, let alone not helming the sequel, is a genuine loss to the industry, and the arts.
That said, Tom Cruise is one of the few consistent box-office draws from Taps to yesterday, which is no mean achievement in an industry that eats lesser lights for breakfast and burps them out, and he puts out some damned fine flicks, especially lately. The fans at ComicCon, where he surprise debuted the trailer, went wild for it, and him. And the original, wrong as it was, was watchable, and notably pro-American, even made by an expat Brit commercial director.
Knowing ahead of time that it will be cotton candy, and inaccurate as hell, I'll still probably go see it anyways. Odds are it will entertain, and be some miles ahead of 95% of the dreck coming out of Tinseltown this year or next, combined. All that, plus carrier launches? Actual USN Top Gun 2020 version? Dogfights? F-18s on 'burner? Oh, and Jennifer Connelly?