In September 2018, Coronado was buzzing with Hollywood vibes—“Maverick” had orders for Naval Air Station North Island! The local filming of the second Top Gun movie afforded us with glimpses of movie stars at The Del, nightly crowds of production crew members at the “World Famous I-Bar,” and friends and neighbors spendings their days on set as blockbuster extras, hoping to avoid the cutting room floor. Who could have imagined production and pandemic delays would push the movie’s release almost four years?
Shortly after The Eagle took off and landed on our doorsteps last Wednesday, however, Top Gun: Maverick finally lit up the silver screen, premiering as promised at Naval Base Coronado’s 1500-seat historic Lowery Theater. The event was complete with a VIP red carpet entrance and a warm welcome by VADM Kenneth Whitesell, Commander Naval Air Forces, remarks by The Honorable Carlos Del Toro, the Secretary of the Navy, and a motivating speech of gratitude by none other than Tom Cruise, accompanied by director Joe Kosinski and executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
Upon their departure, the lights dimmed, the crowd hushed, and a familiar 1986 description of the Navy’s “Top Gun” fighter weapons school program appeared on the screen, with a small gender inclusive update. Finally, the silence was broken by the powerful chime of that unmistakable first note of the “Top Gun Anthem,” sending chills of nostalgia through the audience. As the opening scene of flight deck operations brought the movie to life, cheers and applause erupted from the sea of summer white clad Service Members and Military Families filling the auditorium.
For this crowd, being transported by film to the “danger zone” of a United States aircraft carrier was both exhilarating and something of a homecoming. Faces beamed with pride, as our Navy and Navy-connected community experienced—for a moment—an outsider’s view of our everyday world. Navy camaraderie, bravery and devotion to duty were front and center, alongside fun in the sun on the beaches of our beautiful Crown City.
Happily, the storyline does not disappoint, offering several “Easter eggs” for Top Gun fans of the past and tackling new relevant themes of twenty-first century national security, to include nuclear non-proliferation strategy and unmanned aerial vehicle potential to replace piloted aircraft. At the heart of the movie, the plot returned to the original focus on love and friendship forged by the intensity and thrill of Naval Aviation. Top Gun: Maverick will certainly “wow” this year’s film fanatics with edge-of-the-seat aerial sequences and the romance of flight, but for those of us “in the know” in Coronado, the movie offers a quiet wink of recognition and admiration for the Service Members and their families who embrace this passionate life of service. I wouldn’t have wanted to see the film with anyone else!
Vol. 38, No. 19 - Thursday, May 12, 2022