Quick Top Gun II: Maverick movie synopsis (and spoiler alert) by the Bad Guys: let's build a secret base using the Star Wars Death Star plans. We'll leave an air vent that looks like a giant bullseye where one bomb will take down the whole place.

Good Guys movie synopsis: to make it a fair fight, instead of one Navy Seal throwing a grenade down that ventilation shaft, we'll come up with a near impossible plan involving multiple airplanes flown by irascible characters. Should kill the whole two hours.

It seems like some sort of anti-union move...

Quick Top Gun II: Maverick movie synopsis (and spoiler alert) by the Bad Guys: let’s build a secret base using the Star Wars Death Star plans. We’ll leave an air vent that looks like a giant bullseye where one bomb will take down the whole place.

Good Guys movie synopsis: to make it a fair fight, instead of one Navy Seal throwing a grenade down that ventilation shaft, we’ll come up with a near impossible plan involving multiple airplanes flown by irascible characters. Should kill the whole two hours.

It seems like some sort of anti-union move to credit people with the screenwriting for this movie. A good 80 percent of the script is just Top Gun I with one character’s name crossed out (arrogant Iceman claiming he’s the best while finding Maverick’s rule-breaking dangerous) and someone else’s hand-written into the script (arrogant Hangman claiming he’s the best while finding Maverick’s rule-breaking dangerous). It’s as if this movie is a tribute band version of the first.

Oh, sure, it is 2022, so the Top Gun cadre has more people of color and the black guys don’t have to endure “just one of the boys” call signs like Sundown. But otherwise 2022’s Top Gun shows its age by being less homoerotic than 1986’s. There is far less sexual tension between Maverick and his old flame. And by old flame, I mean Goose. It’s handled more like he reunites with his old Labrador who remembers him and licks his face. The new movie throws away all the buddy stuff of 1986 by having everyone switch their, um, rears, around each flight.

Even the planes are not center screen anymore, at least not in the great way they were fetishistic characters unto themselves in the original Top Gun. But remember, in 1986, most of us did not yet know the military could put a missile through an Iraqi window on command. So while the featured F-18 in Top Gun II is steroids on Red Bull on little bro’s Adderall to the F-14, somehow it is nostalgia that wins. The aging Tomcat that Tom Cruise gets airborne at the end is held together with duct tape the way Cruise is held together with Botox.

What happened? Since 1986, America has lost its need for speed, its desire to go ballistic with some admiral’s daughter (Val Kilmer is one of three ex-high school principal-like admirals in Top Gun II whose daughters we definitely are not interested in flying with at Mach 4 because they’ve gotta be like 57 years old). America has lost its Top Gun spirit and no well-intentioned but ultimately flaccid sequel is gonna pretend otherwise.

In 1986, when Top Gun first came out, Ronald Reagan was president and it was morning in America. Today, we have Joe Biden and it’s always late Sunday afternoon. In 1986, we saw the end of the Cold War coming with perestroika and glasnost, and we were winning. When the Libyans messed with us, we launched an air raid and almost caught Gaddafi in his underwear out in his Bedouin tent.

Just a couple of years earlier, two Libyan Su-22 Fitters had fired on US F-14 Tomcats and were subsequently shot down over the Gulf of Sidra. Maverick sent carrier battle groups into the Gulf again in 1986, un-freaking-challenged with him and studs like Ice running the show. There were some dark days during Iran-Contra, but from a Top Gun point of view, it sure looked like Marine Ollie North was doing the wrong thing to do the right thing. And inflation was only 1.91 percent.

Libya became the poster child for the last two decades of Middle East policy failure. The Gipper part is now played by Joe Biden, sounding more like a globalist Karen than a Reaganesque leader of the free world. Gaddafi is dead, sure, but instead of some high-tech vengeance at supersonic speed he was sodomized on TV by a thug on the US payroll. Instead of the glory days, turning the Gulf of Sidra into our playground, we are shushed into not asking too many questions about another Libyan night spot, Benghazi.

America spent 20 years drooling on itself with failed policy after failed policy in Iraq, lost opportunities for peace with Iran, wars in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and, of course, Afghanistan. That was where Rambo III in 1988 whooped the Sovs; now, in 2021, it’s the Götterdämmerung for failed dreams of empire across five administrations. Never mind if the pattern is full, nobody in their right mind would want a flyby for that final day on the runway in Kabul.

The bad guys in both Top Gun I and II are faceless (literally: they wear opaque black face masks) and the setup for the all the flyin’ and divin’ and going below the hard deck makes less sense than a typical Road Runner cartoon. This isn’t Platoon or Private Ryan. We get it. It’s hardly even a war movie.

But all that unambiguity, the we’re-the-good-guys stuff, was a much easier sell in 1986 than in 2022. Though at least the filmmakers showed a tiny bit of bravado in 2022, allowing Maverick to keep a Taiwan flag patch on the back of his leather cruise jacket, the China market be damned (for now).

Top Gun II‘s America is too much like Top Gun II to stir the blood like in 1986. Whereas in 1986 the bet involved carnal knowledge on the premises, in 2022 Mav buys a round when he accidentally leaves his cell phone on the bar. All that macho talk about who will be whose wingman likely took place in the Top Gun II Human Resources department safe space.

America in 1986 was still a place where guys slapped each others’ backsides, where the president was a role model for many. We won fights, not depended on wordplay from MSNBC to make it seem like we sorta didn’t lose again. There was no need in Top Gun I for Mav to literally throw the rule book into the trash as he does in Top Gun II. We didn’t need no stinking metaphors.

You get the Top Gun you deserve, America. In 1986, you were along for a real ride. In 2022, you just want to eject early.