Top Gun 2: What Might Have Been

Okay, so I’ve got a confession: I’m a veteran and a military nerd who doesn’t care for war movies. And it’s not because I’m anti-war, or because Hollywood doesn’t “get” us vets, or because the movies trigger PTSD: no, I just don’t care for them because they’re too obvious and in your face. We get it, it’s war: human emotions mixed up with extreme violence, pretty much any producer’s wet dream. What I find more interesting is using the military perspective to look at other popular movies that deal with conflict, because they are often more on point. Take pretty much anything I’ve written about Star Wars, for example.

But there are some movies that bridge the gap between overtly war and conflict-based productions and sci-fi/fantasy. Such as Captain America or Top Gun. Yeah, that’s right, I said it: Top Gun isn’t a war movie.

These two stand out in my mind as classic examples of how one can apply a military mind to examining non-war movies: not tactically, but esoterically. Because anyone who has served a day in the military can tell you, it ain’t all high fives, barrel rolls, and jumping out of perfectly good airplanes alongside the Norse god of thunder. In fact, most of it is as prosaic and mundane as your sad day job. Which is why you get people wondering if the Army owes Cap some back pay from all the time he was frozen, or speculation on his long overdue promotion to major and eventual relegation to office work.

Which of course leads me to wonder: in the upcoming Top Gun 2, will Maverick still be flying?

I’m sorry, let me rephrase that: will full Admiral (four star) Peter Mitchell still be flying?

Yeah, that’s right, if Maverick was a Navy lieutenant in 1986, the year the first film came out, by 2016 he would be a full admiral, the highest rank that the United States Navy can bestow (minus that of fleet admiral, a wartime rank, for all you Navy nerds angrily hovering over your keyboards right now).

How can we tell?

Because judging by – approximate – timelines, Maverick would have commissioned into the Navy somewhere between 1978-1980. Just like the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, the Chief of Naval Operations, commander of U.S. Cyber Command, commander of…you know what, I think you get the idea. Of course, that’s all predicated on the idea that Maverick didn’t get himself kicked out of the service for his antics as a pilot. Odds are, some commander got tired of his smart-aleck remarks and promoted him so that he could go be someone else’s problem child. And so on and so forth, until all of a sudden Maverick has substantial influence in the U.S. military.

“In thirty years, I’m gonna run this place.” (Paramount Pictures)

Let’s all just take a moment to consider what glory Top Gun 2 could be if it centered on Admiral Peter Mitchell, commander, U.S. Cyber Command. For those that don’t know, cyber is the new and sexy up-and-coming battlefield. Therefore, it would only make sense to put someone like Admiral “Mav” Mitchell into the role of commander. Of course, the admiral’s staff and advisors would have to get used to his little idioms from a bygone era, such as his persistent demands to have U.S. Cyber Command “buzz the tower” of China, or his edict that all service members sound off with, “I’ve got a need for speed!” when logging onto their work stations. His declaration of “You can be my wingman!” to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and requesting high fives after tactical cyber attack reports could possible get under some people’s skin. Indeed, the Director of Naval Intelligence would probably hate him for saying, “It’s classified. I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you,” when asked anything about cyber operations. And yes, Admiral Mitchell would need to stop making volleyball games mandatory training for all service members. But what better person to have at the helm of a new kind of war machine? One can just imagine the President of the United States calling Admiral Mitchell into the Oval Office and haranguing him about how, “your ego is writing checks that your operating system can’t cash!” I’d watch that movie.

Can you imagine this in the halls of the Pentagon? (Paramount Pictures)

However, Hollywood being what it is, we are told that Top Gun 2 will feature none of these glorious moments, but will instead be a rehash of “John Henry the steel-drivin’ man versus the steam powered drill,” but with manned versus unmanned aircraft. That’s right, Mav is back in the cockpit again, thirty years later, trying to outfly some state-of-the-art drones. Rest assured there will be some stale attempts at one-liners and classic put-downs that will make us smirk a little and think about dusting off the old aviators, but knowing what could have been makes the whole thing seem just a little sad.

Talk to me, Goose.

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