Sunday, May 3, 2020

now, how the hell do you know what you need?

For a movie that hinges on some rather exciting sequences, Iron Eagle starts out with some really slow, boringly scored footage of jets flying. Like we were all going to get off just seeing jets flying... which maybe we were in 1986. I know there were these books in our school library that were basically just visual and technical guides to military vehicles and it was like pro-America propaganda and war porn wrapped up in a series of... I guess they were Time Life books, but I was never as into them as a couple friends of mine were.

But, give me a good action movie with Americans taking on Communists or Arabs for, you know, whatever reason, and surely I cheered like anyone else did in the theater. Iron Eagle was, of course, one of a string of jingoistic action movies in the 80s that offered an extra bit of fun for a kid--the protagonist was not some stuffy adult, was not some guy who follows all the rules
(And, how was it so fucking common for protagonists in so many 80s films, from military action things like this to cop dramas to college comedies, when we were still pretending we were united America versus the Russkies and we all had to work together like the good ol' days.)
and was someone much easier for someone like me to imagine I could be. Plus Doug has that awesome tape player--and a fantastic soundtrack, too--that straps onto his leg, not that such a thing would have been very useful to me at age 10, which I would be just a couple weeks after this movie came out. I wasn't driving a car, and certainly wasn't flying a plane. And, I wasn't fighting Russkies. Hell, I don't think I was even playing at that. Instead, I had action figures from Star Wars fighting the Galactic Empire, action figures from Masters of the Universe fighting Skeletor and his minions, G.I. Joe figures fighting Cobra, M.A.S.K. fighting V.E.N.O.M., and so on. Random name-brand figures, and brand new, I had M.U.S.C.L.E.s and G.U.T.S, and all of these mixed together with random cars and trucks left over from earlier in my childhood, and none of them were Russians, none of them were Americans. But, in a way, I think it all amounted to the same thing. Cold War America, especially when you've got a twisted religious angle telling you you aren't going to ever really get to grow up anyway, means everything is war. Us versus them. Good versus evil.

And, here are a bunch of teenagers getting shit done. Add in some Wargames, some Red Dawn, some Last Starfighter (1354 1355) some Goonies (1358 1359 1360, The Rescue, and surely a bunch I'm not thinking of right now. Space Camp. Explorers. Even The Lost Boys. And, all that right along the adults. All those Stallone and Schwarzenegger and Norris films. Top Gun (544 545 546 547 548 549). Even Spies Like Us.

What's interesting in just the handful of movies I just listed, you've got Russkies and Spies Like Us both making an effort to humanize the enemy. Like we were getting tired of the Cold War and 1984 was not just two years past but a nonsense reality built on regularly scheduled hate and constant rewriting of history to manipulate us all, and it was a reality we could rid ourselves of if we just persisted. Watch the right movies, in my case, I suppose. Survive Bible Class and church services. Survive the Cold War. Survive the end of the world, because it really wasn't going to happen, and I wish I'd learned how to make real plans for the future before I was already in college and had barely managed to angle myself toward any dreams because I didn't value them enough. Didn't think them possible. Not really.

Doug still needs an adult to manage, though, doesn't he? Most of the adults are useless, like parents or the police in a slasher film. But, Chappy--it's interesting how much it matters that Chappy is played by Louis Gossett, Jr. Not just Foley from An Officer and a Gentleman (1282 1283 1284), who we all know is plenty capable, not just the start of numerous other films, but an African American who has a great line about how those in power messing with the little man pisses him off. There's a history of racism that surely fuels the character--and the character was based off a real-life pilot who was one of the Tuskegee Airmen--but the film makes no comment on it. And Gossett is, watching this movie again today, probably the best thing about this.

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