Shortly before Top Gun hit theatres, another jet fighter movie took to the skies, this time it was the F-16 Eagle, in the military fantasy, Iron Eagle. I say fantasy, because this film pretty much embodies every young boy’s dream of being a hero, of going against impossible odds, and proving to his father that he can be a man.
Jason Gedrick is Doug Masters, a young man about to graduate high school. He’s live on air bases his entire life, and dreams of becoming an Air Force pilot. But his world is yanked out from under him, when he receives a rejection letter from the Academy, and his father, played by Tim Thomerson, is shot down and captured in the Middle East.
Not willing to stand by and let his dad be executed, Doug recruits his friends, including some recognisable 80s and beyond faces like Jerry Levine, Shawnee Smith, Larry B. Scott, and Robbie Rist to ransack the airbase they all live on to get the information, and materiel that Doug will need to fly in and rescue his father.
He’s aided not only by his teen friends, but by Charles ‘Chappy’ Sinclair (Louis Gossett Jr.), who is impressed with the young man’s flying, and his ability to get the plan and the mission together.
He’s not a complete fan of the fact that Doug flies better when he listens to 80s rock, which includes some familiar tunes by Queen and Twisted Sister, as well as a title track by King Kobra, and Adrenalin’s Road of a Gypsy. (I would do the same thing when I played the sit down version of Afterburner in the arcade). That being said, there’s also a solid score by Basil Poledouris!
While the shoot was able to use real jets, and captured some great photography, nothing would stand to the supersonic onslaught that Top Gun would deliver a few months later. That doesn’t mean it’s not mindless fun, because it is that. And if you go into the story realising that nothing Doug and his friends pull off against the Air Force in the movie could actually happen, then you can probably enjoy it for what it is…
… mindless fun with some pretty cool aerial photography and the F-16 looks pretty damned sleek on the big screen, though I have always loved the F-14 more.
Gedrick is solid in the role, but the series launched a bit of a lower budget franchise, and the focus shifted from his character (which means a disastrous end at the beginning of the second film – and that threw me for a loop and made me mad) to Chappy – gone was the rock music of the 80s and instead different planes for different missions were the order of the day.