Fire Birds (1990): A Film Review
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Fire Birds (1990): A Film Review

Fire Birds was one of the ambitious films of 1990s with a winning storyline and a credible cast of actors aside from the employment of combat helicopters as a convincing attention getting for prospected film goers. How it failed in the theaters and why it was negatively received in the box office is an interesting point for discussion being undertaken in this film review.

Four years after “Top Gun (1986)”, David Green in a directorial role may have been thinking of a possible "Top Gun" – like sensation film that could compare with the former’s box office success and media fame. But of course, “Iron Eagle (1986)” which was released four months before “Top Gun” deserves some consideration which despite only a substantial box office success may have inspired “Top Gun” to improve on the jet fighter sequence stuffs allowing it to earn more than 20 times its production budget. With the military flying machines formula that allowed the two films to earn well, combining a cast of successful stars and capitalizing on a slightly different storyline, “Fire Birds(1990)”(also referred to as Wings of the Apache) utilized the appeal of combat helicopters against the previous application of fighter jets on a scenario where combined DEA and US Army collaboration led to the deployment of combat helicopters in a mix of AH-64 Apaches, UH-60 Blackhawks, AH-1W Cobra and a Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior to counter drug cartel operations in South America.

The team up of Nicolas Cage, Sean Young and Tommy Lee Jones was initially thought out as a strong combination to the military hardware stuff that was the element which made both “Top Gun” and “Iron Eagle” a cult classic. However as most critics of the film thought out, the dialogues were a bit too fancy and trivial that made the outcome of what would have been a gripping film to a child turned out more of a spoof film for adults that looked nothing different to a video game. Critics agreed that the dialogues especially of Nicolas Cage playing the role of Jake Preston, an overconfident pilot, circled on glorifying himself destroying whatever substance that is to be expected from the film.

Back in 1983, “Blue Thunder” a less sensational but well-received techno thriller film about a sophisticated stealth combat helicopter employed to neutralize urban disorder fared well to the box office with former “Jaws” star Roy Scheider. How could a film made 7 years earlier offer more convincing aerial combat sequence compared to "Fire Birds" which benefits from all the learning combined in the making of these three earlier films aside from the improvements in film making technology it has as advantage 7 years hence in its release?

As the critics had been circled on Nicolas Cage performance on this film it might be part of statistics that being a busy actor with lots of top grossing  films in his favour,  Fire Birds just happened to be one among a number of less successful movies he had to live up with.

“Firebirds” gained a 10% rating at Rotten Tomatoes and unfortunately had to compete with “Back to the Future Part III” from which it shared the same date of release. “Total Recall” which was released a week later made matters worse which had the moviegoers chose between the latter two and the former (Fire Birds) ultimately lost more viewers it deserved.  


©2013, Demet Wilfred Flores –

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Comments (3)

I don't even remember this movie! Although I do remember seeing Back to the future 3. Maybe the success of MJ Fox drowned this one out. Had a major crush on him back then :)

Excellent article on this topic!
Great writing as always about interesting topics. I have not been writing for quite some time hear and can not find where to go to start one