‘Top Gun 2’ features familiar scenery

Film crews drop estimated millions in local economy

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

‘Top Gun 2’ features familiar sceneryThe franchise that made Tom Cruise a household name is now sharing the big screen with two local celebrities — namely our landmark topography and the incomparable F/A-18.

On July 18, Paramount Pictures released the trailer for “Top Gun 2: Maverick,” which was not-so-secretly filmed in and around the Indian Wells Valley over the last 10 months. Since last September film crews have been traveling to our remote community, staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants and shopping at our local stores between filming scenes at Inyokern Airport, China Lake and other recognizable desert locales.

The teaser opens to our famous Super Hornet making a low pass over Cuddeback Dry Lake before launching into an abrupt vertical climb. Although this impressive move is not necessarily an official military maneuver (though it depends on who you talk to), the shot captures the impressive amount of thrust it takes to move that quickly while traveling at such high speeds.

As the trailer progresses, scenes with Tom Cruise as the aging Maverick are cut with shots of the Super Hornet lined up on the tarmac, flying through our snowy Sierra, soaring through skies and skimming over water. Locals speculated on the exact location of each of these backdrops, sharing the link across social media and adding to the 20 million views that were racked up within the first few days of the trailer's release.

Cruise is also seen “piloting” a Super Hornet, although insiders note that he’s in the backseat while a naval aviator pilots the craft. “Civilians cannot fly an F-18,” stated one source. “Although even the fact that he’s seated in one is remarkable.”

As Ridgecrest adjusts to its newfound notoriety after local earthquakes drew the eyes of the world, some believe this is a way to capitalize on that fame in a more positive way.

“Let’s face it — whether you like it or not, the earthquakes put us on the map,” said Dan Spurgeon, local hotelier and member of the Indian Wells Valley Economic Development Corp.

“Now that everyone in California knows where Ridgecrest is, this is an opportunity for us to showcase our geography and the landmarks that make us unique.”

Spurgeon estimated that “Top Gun 2” has already been a significant economic engine for the community — pouring an estimated $2 million into the local economy.

“This was a feature film with a $100-million budget,” he said. They brought in hundreds of people for weeks at a time, and then they returned to film more scenes.

“Now that people have seen the movie, they are going to want to see all the areas where this was filmed — our airport, our valleys, our canyons, our mountains,” said Spurgeon.

He said that there is an existing draw for visitors — to the tune of 500-1,000 room nights per year — for people to stay in Ridgecrest and drive out to Crowley Lookout in Saline Valley for the chance to see aircraft flying through Rainbow Canyon.

“The following for Top gun is huge. The following for people who have never seen an F-18 is huge. It’s no big deal to us, because we see it every day. But for people who don’t live here — this is just amazing.

“The number of people who come here for a chance to see what’s in that trailer could be in the thousands — and it could go on for years.”

Spurgeon said tourism is one of the highest-yield, low-impact ways to boost the economy.

“We don’t need to build more infrastructure, we don’t need to hire more police or fireman, we don’t need more schools. Tourists come, they visit, they leave. They are well behaved. They just leave behind a lot of taxes and revenues that have a significant and positive impact on our economy.”

Scott Seymour, general manager of Inyokern Airport, said he was not at liberty to comment on the filming project.

“I can say I’ve seen the trailer, and the photography looks great, and wherever that hangar and airport are is a very cool place!”

Doug Lueck, director of the Ridgecrest Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Ridgecrest Film Commission, said, “We have to walk on ice, because this is sensitive information until the film comes out.”

However, he acknowledged that his consultants have been evaluating ways to promote the area in light of the recent high-profile video.

“People are certainly going to recognize our area.”

Pictured: The opening scenes of the trailer for Top Gun 2:?Maverick showcases our iconic aircraft and geography — Courtesy screenshot

Story First Published: 2019-07-26