90 Miles From Tyranny : How China Managed To Make 'Top Gun' Boring

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Saturday, May 30, 2020

How China Managed To Make 'Top Gun' Boring

The Chinese government wants to take you into the danger zone.

Here's What You Need To Remember: Sky Fighters is Top Gun with the imagery preserved, but the life—and frankly any bit of joy—sucked out of it. It defies my attempts to make fun of it. Despite the occasional glimpses into real-life Chinese air force operations, it was boring. I couldn’t wait for it to end.

The Chinese government wants to take you into the danger zone. In 2011 Beijing released Sky Fighters, China’s answer to Top Gun. Like Top Gun, it’s about fighter pilots waging aerial war for their country.

But that’s where the comparison ends. Made by the Chinese military as domestic propaganda, Sky Fighters is possibly the worst movie with fighter planes ever made. And that’s saying a lot.

The film imitates Top Gun relentlessly in scene after scene, but in many ways it’s the American film’s exact opposite. While Top Gun is proof that a cheesy film can still be immensely enjoyable, Sky Fighters proves that a movie with fighter planes can actually be pretty awful.

Sky Fighters is a movie about the pilots of Air Division 903, a storied unit of the Chinese air force that has turned out “tens of generals” during its illustrious history. The action starts with two pilots engaged in air-to-air combat training. Yin Shang Hu, the cocky upstart, outmaneuvers his superior officer, Yue Tianlong, by using the famous Pugachev’s Cobra aerial maneuver.

The rest of the film is hard to describe, because Sky Fighters doesn’t really have a plot. It’s merely a collection of incidents that prove the superiority of the Chinese system, as advocated by Yue.

Which system? All of them.

In lieu of a plot, Sky Fighters poses a series of challenges to Yue Tianlong, each of which he excels at. One of the main themes of the film is the friction between...

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