Avocado Weekly Movie Thread (5/24)

Welcome to the Weekly Movie Thread, your place on the Avocado to discuss films with your fellow commenters. Want to make a recommendation? Looking for recommendations? Want to share your opinions of movies, both new and classic?  

This week, we’re flying to the danger zone as Tom Cruise reprises his role as a hot shot pilot in Top Gun: Maverick.

The original film, directed by Tony Scott and produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, just made war look cool. You get to were sick looking shades, fly around in the Ferraris of the military, and blow up a faceless unnamed enemy. (Fun fact: the MiG-28 does not exist, and the fictional plane was played by the Northrop F-5 in the film.)

The producers would go on to finance other films that made the military look at least like the most decent people in the roo, while oftentimes portraying the government as the real enemies. It’s a very Reganesque view of things. Simpson and Bruckheimer would go on to finance Crimson Tide, The Rock, Enemy of the State, Pearl Harbor, and Black Hawk Down.

The Navy, meanwhile, reported that Top Gun led to a 500% increase in recruitment.

Nowadays, the burden of military propaganda has probably shifted more towards video games, such as the Call of Duty and the Battlefield games. But who knows, maybe Top Gun: Maverick will continue the tradition. It is being co-produced by Bruckheimer, after all (along with Christopher McQuarrie, David Ellison, and Tom Cruise).

The depiction of war is a tricky thing in film. As critical as Saving Private Ryan can be of the brutality of war, many walk away longing to be part of the brotherhood shown in that film. Or as much as a movie like Fury can show that our side can be as hypocritical as the other side, it ultimately culminates in a triumphant moment where one man makes a last stand and holds off the enemy by his lonesome like a badass. American Sniper may have been about how being the greatest sniper in the US takes a toll on one’s soul, but the main takeaway for a lot of people seems to be that the Chris Kyle’s affection for the Punisher logo rules and should be adopted by gun nuts everywhere.

In a way, that might make a nakedly more propagandistic film like Top Gun the superior one. Here, trauma is not a test of manliness that you bear because the mission is more important. Affection and domestic life was not meant for warriors such as us! Instead, in Top Gun, the true test of manliness is beach volleyball. Said critic Pauline Kael: ”When McGillis is offscreen, the movie is a shiny homoerotic commercial: the pilots strut around the locker room, towels hanging precariously from their waists. It’s as if masculinity had been redefined as how a young man looks with his clothes half off, and as if narcissism is what being a warrior is all about.”

Comparatively speaking, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Bonus prompt: have you ever felt conflicted about enjoying a movie that might be pro-military propaganda?