Top Gun and the Vampire Chronicles: The Most Underhanded Crossover in Film History
A Review by Primrose Cohen (An Admitted Purist)
1994's Interview With the Vampire provided few clues that it was the prequel to Top Gun. Likewise, Top Gun gave viewers almost no information that would allow them to realize that LT Pete "Maverick" Mitchell was really the infamous vampire known as Lestat. Filmmakers wove a complex web to keep audiences convinced that these movies, and their subsequent franchises, were unrelated. Apparently, they didn't consider or care that, to the keen observer, having Lestat as a main character in both franchises was a dead giveaway.
It was an interesting obfuscation strategy to introduce Lestat as his alter ego, the aforementioned Maverick, leaving scant breadcrumbs as to his true identity. Filmmakers also muddied the waters by refusing to reveal how Lestat gained his day walking abilities until the third film in the crossover series in which the explanation is retroshadowed. Nonetheless, that third film, Queen of the Damned, despite its status as the bastard child of the series, served an important narrative purpose when considering Lestat's apparent absence from the vampire realm. That film makes it clear that it was Lestat's time in the Navy throughout the latter portion of the twentieth century and into the 2020's that allowed a different vampire to get away with doing his emo impersonation of Lestat. Lestat was too busy flying missions for the United States government to care about an imitator so low rent that he joined a nu metal band. Having his name sullied in the world of the undead was the price Lestat had to pay for his transformation to a heroic figure among humans, if indeed Lestat had truly changed. The (so far) four films in this crossover series present an interesting story structure. The first film gave us the idealized and remolded Lestat, a hero fighting for the lives of human beings (at least when they are United States citizens). The second film painted his backstory as a murderous and manipulative force of nature. The third revealed why the 2000's was a horrible time for vampire music. The fourth, however, is where matters take a menacing turn.
It is in the fourth film in the series, Top Gun: Maverick, in which Lestat's vampiric abilities are most obvious. He survives two supersonic plane crashes and emerges unscathed. He also employs what are obvious preternatural reaction times in order to defeat multiple Su-57s in an F-14 Tomcat. Although, for the most part, Lestat's use of his vampire abilities would be considered socially acceptable by most Americans, it is his vampire seduction powers on display in the film that are the most offensive and most reminiscent of his time with Louis. I'm referring, of course, to Lestat's repeated unnatural seduction of his victim, Penny. Clearly, no American woman would voluntarily allow a man (or vampire) to come and go from her life in the way that Lestat did with Penny. American women have far too much self respect and sense of dignity to permit such behavior. Given how hard the moviemakers worked to keep Lestat's identity so low-key, it is a bit surprising that they included this obvious plotline, and Lestat's hypnotic repetition of “Penny” when influencing the woman was a bit heavy handed. Yet, it is this plotline that truly returns the character of Lestat to his baleful roots.
Although seemingly odd, introducing Lestat to the world as Maverick was a sagacious strategy employed by the creative team. Perhaps they felt they were “getting one over” on the audience. Perhaps they did it for their own amusement, enjoying the story within a story for themselves. Nevertheless, while watching Interview With the Vampire, what observant moviegoer was not both horrified and intrigued to consider Lestat's seeming heroic transformation in Top Gun? As the films continue, the viewers have questions. Is Lestat's seemingly valiant metamorphoses sincere? Is it Permanent? Or will Lestat grow bored with sunlight and naval aviation only to convert back to his previous blood drinking, homicidal ways? With these questions in mind, the ending of Top Gun: Maverick leaves viewers chilled as it suggests that Lestat's apparently valorous journey is about to take a dark turn. It appears that Penny is about to become Lestat's thrall, and her daughter is set up to be the next Claudia. The apprehensive movie fan can only consider the vile possibilities while holding onto a strand of hope. Maybe, just maybe, Lestat will continue his heroic journey and fight off Martians, as was foreshadowed in the strange dream sequence that was (for some confounding reason) made into a feature length film, 2005's War of the Worlds. Alternatively, Lestat could retire from the Navy and team up with Dexter and Hannibal Lecter to start a private detective agency. For those of us who root for Lestat to continue moving in a positive direction and for those of us who root for the well being of Penny and her daughter, any of the aforementioned possibilities, although painfully postmodern, are preferable to the next sequence of events suggested by the end of 2022's most deceptive and thrilling horror film, Top Gun: Maverick.