People that know me and my obsession with “Top Gun” – my favorite movie of all time – ask me one question about it: why Iceman? See, Iceman…Tom Cruise’s character’s rival and the antagonist of most of the film, is my favorite character. He’s one of the biggest reasons I watch the movie and fell in love with it as a kid. But when Tom Cruise is the main character, so emotional, so *intuitive* (do I ever stop saying that word?) , so…Cool…Do I spend all that money to put together my Iceman costume and props?
I figured as I’m 33 years old with Top Gun 2 coming out next summer I figured it was high time to answer this question.
Firstly, I always wanted to be a fighter pilot as a kid. It was the first job I ever wanted to do. Poor eyesight robbed me of that by grade 5, but previously to that there was nothing I wanted more than, in Charlie’s (she’s the love interest in Top Gun…) words be “…Mach 2 with your hair on fire.” But even as a kid I understood that 1.) planes were expensive and 2.) they were paid for by the taxpayer. In fact, “Striker” – the commander of the aircraft carrier in the movie – tells Maverick near the beginning “you don’t own that plane, the taxpayers do!” That always stuck with me. And respect for the taxpayer is still a big deal for me given where I fall on the political spectrum.
Iceman is the definitive pilot, or at least what the definitive pilot should be. He’s calm, responsible, very skilled (people forget that he leads Maverick the entire Top Gun class), and he’s honestly a good guy. Is he a bad boy fighter jock hitting on his teacher? No…Does he ride a cool Kawasaki Ninja in a leather jacket at sunset? No…He’s in his cabin studying theory and figuring out how to be the best damn fighter pilot. So that when the chips are down he has his wingman’s back and will be best prepared to face the enemy and WIN.
Iceman gets a bad rap through most of the movie being portrayed as the “bad guy” simply because during training I guess Maverick needed a foil. But Iceman isn’t “bad” at all. In fact, he does his utmost to do everything right by Maverick. What I’m meaning here is there are at least two conversations in the movie where Iceman tries to mend fences with Maverick and get him to chill out and focus on the big picture:
“Maverick, it’s not your flying, it’s your attitude. The enemy’s dangerous, but right now you’re worse. Dangerous and foolish. You may not like who’s flying with you, but whose side are you on?”
Who’s side are you on? That’s honestly poignant and I say that without irony. Maverick is a member of the U.S. Navy, he is a naval aviator and a key cog on a TEAM. But he never flies or acts like a team player until the final battle. It’s Maverick’s recklessness that gets Goose, Maverick’s radio intercept operator (RIO), killed by being overly aggressive, forcing Iceman to bug out from a kill he was attempting in the training mission where Goose dies. One part of the movie that irks me is how Maverick is not held to account for this. Maverick implores Iceman over and over to prematurely bug out from his attempted kill just because Maverick is impatient to get the kill himself.
In the final battle it is Iceman who is chosen to lead the combat air patrol (CAP). When Hollywood is shot down early, what people forget is that Iceman holds off 7 MiGs (I believe) for about 10-15 minutes until Maverick gets there. One vs. seven in a dogfight for 10-15 minutes. That’s nuts level skill! Even unrealistic. As all it would take is one MiG to back off and get into a firing position. Sure enough, Maverick saves the day (Iceman does get one solid kill at least) and when they land they’re best of friends.
My hope is that in Top Gun 2, which Val Kilmer/Iceman is in, that Iceman finally gets the respect he deserves. How does that look? Quite simply the same relationship that Viper and Jester (the two trainers in Top Gun) had in the first movie. Even though Viper was Jester’s superior, in every scene Viper looks for Jester’s honest opinion and treats him as a partner, not a pawn.
Iceman is the real hero of Top Gun and that’s why he’s my favorite.