‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Enemy Explained: Who Are They Fighting?

Warning: The following article contains minor spoilers for “Top Gun: Maverick”.

The mission of Tom Cruise’s Pete “Maverick” Mitchell and his team of young Navy fighter pilots is clear: destroy a nuclear enrichment facility. The risks are even more obvious: perilous terrain, anti-aircraft systems, adversaries flying advanced stealth jets.

There’s just one thing that’s unclear in “Top Gun: Maverick” — and it’s a pretty big one: who exactly is the enemy? In “Top Gun: Maverick,” that question is intentionally blurred, with the film offering vague and contradictory clues about the antagonist that don’t quite add up.

The thing is, enemy ambiguity — like shirtless beach sports, high-speed motorcycle rides, and aviator sunglasses — has been baked into the “Top Gun” franchise from the start.

In 1986, when the first “Top Gun” was released, America was still in the grip of the Cold War with the Soviet Union and Russians were often Hollywood’s go-to villains, whether it was the imposing Ivan Drago in “Rocky IV” or the army invading a small Colorado town in “Red Dawn”. naval jumped 500% in the year after its release – the film never explicitly named the adversary.

The Soviet-made MiG-28s that Maverick and Goose take on in this film’s climactic mission were fictional (all post-war MiG aircraft were odd-numbered). The enemy planes in the film were actually American-made Northrop F-5s, painted with tail markings – a red star inside a yellow circle – that borrowed elements from Soviet, Chinese and northern military aircraft. -Koreans without precisely matching any of them. By placing the climactic encounter in the Indian Ocean, the film further obscured who exactly the antagonists were.

In “Top Gun: Maverick”, the enemy is portrayed as a rogue nation that owns a fleet of fifth-generation fighter jets and tries to enrich uranium to develop nuclear weapons at a fortified site hidden in a mountainous terrain prohibited.

But otherwise, the film offers no real clues to the identity of the adversary. Its pilots and military ground personnel are never heard of. Its planes have no discernible insignia that would indicate a particular nation. Speaking of the mission to the young fighter pilots he is tasked with training, Cruise’s Maverick says, “Time is your greatest adversary,” which doesn’t help clear things up.

Cruise takes flight in a scene from ‘Top Gun: Maverick’

(Paramount Pictures)

The most obvious contenders at first glance seem to be Russia or China. The Russian and Chinese militaries each use fifth-generation aircraft – indeed, the enemy aircraft in the film appear to be based on Russian Su-57 stealth fighter jets – and the snowy, jagged topography where the facility is located Uranium enrichment could be found in any of these countries.

But Russia and China are already established nuclear powers, and direct military engagement with either would immediately plunge the United States into World War III, so the idea that the United States Navy would undertake a mission risk to destroy such a facility in either country is implausible. to the extreme. And while Russia is considered a rogue state – a loose term used by international theorists to refer to countries that threaten world peace and order – by the US government, China is not.

What about North Korea or Iran? Both countries are considered rogue states by the United States. Both have snow-capped mountain ranges and nuclear ambitions that America and its allies are determined to try to contain. But neither country has operational fifth-generation combat aircraft. (Iran announced the development of its own Qaher-313 stealth IAIO in 2013, but independent military experts have expressed doubts about the plane’s viability.)

Although production was completed in 2019, there are good reasons Paramount Pictures and the creators of “Top Gun: Maverick” want to avoid explicitly identifying the film’s enemy as the project hits theaters after several years. pandemic-related release delays. With the world already troubled by the tensions sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s slashing of Taiwan, the last thing filmmakers want is to be seen as throwing more fuel. on geopolitical fires.

There are also important box office considerations. China is on track to become the world’s largest movie market in 2022 for the third consecutive year and Cruise, who has spent his entire career carefully cultivating a global audience, has visited the country frequently to promote films. films such as “Jack Reacher”, “Oblivion” and the “Mission: Impossible” films. (According to the Wall Street Journal, Chinese tech company Tencent Holdings Ltd. originally planned to co-finance “Top Gun: Maverick,” but pulled out over fears that Communist Party officials would disapprove of its involvement in a film celebrating the military. American.)

While it’s unclear at this point if “Top Gun: Maverick” will get a Chinese release, the filmmakers would be foolish to preemptively close the door on such a massive potential audience. (No release is planned in Russia at the moment.)

Neither “Top Gun: Maverick” director Joseph Kosinski nor the film’s writers were available to be interviewed for this story. But speaking to The Times recently, singer Kenny Loggins – whose hit song ‘Danger Zone’ from the film’s soundtrack is being brought back for an encore in the new film – said he was, for his part, happy that “Top Gun: Maverick” does not identify the enemy.

“I think it was a wise move,” Loggins said. “Airplanes don’t have markings. The uniforms have no markings. They are just bad guys hoarding nuclear stockpiles, and we have to stop them. It’s not the US military that overthrows the government somewhere.

If there’s anyone who knows how to stay out of the danger zone, it’s Kenny Loggins.

Times writer Mikael Wood contributed to this report.

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