You won’t see any F-14 Tomcats on static display outside US Naval Bases or in aviation museums. It is a shame as they were beautiful planes to watch flying, as evidenced in that 1986 classic movie Top Gun.
That is because, after they were all retired, they were shredded into very small pieces of scrap, to prevent the only other user of the Tomcat, the Iranian Air Force (who acquired them pre-1979 revolution when Iran was the USA’s friend), acquiring any spare parts by hook or by crook.
I am pretty sure that I saw the film Top Gun in the cinemas, although I cannot actually remember seeing it there. It was 1986 and I was in my last year of high school and I did have a lot on my mind.
I do remember that someone wrote a review of the film, presumably for their English class, and proudly typed it up and posted it on the school bulletin board. The one bit of that piece of brilliant prose that sticks in my mind was the passage which read ‘This is a State of the Art movie’.
‘State of the Art’… I suppose that we all revert into established cliches (many of which come from the plays of Shakespeare) rather than invent witty phrases of our own, so I cannot sneeringly condescend about that teenage reviewer, especially not with the hindsight of 36 extra years.
But even with the leading stars of the day, Tom Cruise (clearly in the ascendant after ‘Risky Business’ was a breakout hit), Kelly McGillis (in the second of her three noteworthy roles), Val Kilmer (why was he not Oscar nominated for playing Iceman?), Anthony Edwards (I saw him recently in ‘We Crashed’ – he looks like a late middle aged accountant now) and Meg Ryan (three years before she became America’s sweetheart), the F-14s were the real stars of the film.
And now, 36 years later, we have a sequel: Top Gun: Maverick. I saw promo posters for it at the tram terminus yesterday.
Top Gun was a very successful film in its day, and it probably did deserve a sequel or two – but back in the 1980s and 1990s. It is not a film that you can realistically park for three and a half decades and then do a sequel. I was, as I have said, still in high school when it came out, and these days, I am a deeply middle aged man counting down to my retirement in months, rather than years (still more than 12 months, though).
The only way in which Top Gun 2 can credibly work as a film now is in a similar way to The Colour of Money, which was a sequel to The Hustler where Tom Cruise co-starred in with Paul Newman soon after Top Gun. But even then, there was a 25 year gap between the two films.
With fighter pilots (or naval aviators as they prefer to be called in this context), I am not sure that a 36 year gap works. The F-14s have been retired, Kelly McGillis cannot come back as a credibly cine-genic love interest, and a 59 year old Tom Cruise should, as Maverick, have been drawing his navy pension long before now. Having him in an F-22 or F-35 in this day and age definitely does make him, in the words of Val Kilmer’s Iceman in the original film ‘Unsafe’.