We’ve started our summer schedule at work meaning I have Fridays off for a couple of months. I was up bright and early this morning and trying to figure out what to do with my day. Something productive? It’s not like there’s a shortage of home projects. Instead, I went and caught a 10:00 a.m. movie; the new Top Gun: Maverick film starring the king of action films himself, Mr. Tom Cruise. No high-brow viewing here, but I had to go as I saw the original back in 1986. I’d grown up on air bases and was a fighter plane geek as a kid and loved Top Gun, though I picked holes in its plot and the fact they used U.S. fighters as enemy MIGs. So, I kind of knew what to expect going in to the sequel. Anyway, I figured I should get out of the house and I haven’t being going to the movies as often as I used to, so why not on a Friday morning?
Proceeding forward, there may be some minor spoilers, so read on at your own peril.
When I arrived at the multiplex, I have to say, I was expecting to be the only person there, but it was doing a brisk business for a Friday morning. Mostly older people with a few middle-aged and younger people to round out the crowd and many were there to see Top Gun — nostalgia was obviously doing brisk business. I got my pretzel and soda and sat down in a theater about a third full.
So how was the movie? Well, it’s Top Gun, so what do you think? Lots of exciting aerial action, a few laughs, some plot silliness, and not a lot of realism when it comes to the combat situations, though the aerial cinematography was spectacular. Here’s a checklist for Top Gun fans of what to expect:
- Callbacks to the original movie? In spades, though some subtle.
- Opening title sequence of air operations on a carrier? Rodger.
- Cameos from the original? Welcome back, Iceman.
- Maverick breaking rules? He’s still called Maverick.
- Spectacular aerial maneuvers? You betcha.
- Lack of real military procedures, policies, tactics? Of course–it’s Hollywood.
- Fighter pilots in a bar singing golden oldies? Isn’t that what they all do when they’re not flying?
- A shirtless, homoerotic ball game on the sand? Duh.
- Ejection-seat peril? Scrunch down, Goose!
- A nameless enemy nation? No geopolitical considerations here.
- An unexpected appearance by the venerable F14 from the earlier movie? Had to.
- Gratuitous tower fly-by? Check.
- Death Star style attack run? “This is Red Five. I’m going in.”
- An Iceman/Maverick-esque postcombat bro moment on the flight deck with new fighter pilot characters ? It wouldn’t be Top Gun if it didn’t.
- Silly, summer blockbuster fun? Yep.
The vast majority of the aerial sequences were shot with the actors flying tandem in real F18s, thanks to the Navy, who will get great mileage out of this film. I think the studio paid the Navy $11,000 per flight hour per plane. Tom Cruise, to his credit, loves to use practical effects, so his films look good without tons of CGI. He’s a trained pilot and flies jets, but still, the Navy wouldn’t let him at the controls.
Maverick’s original love interest, played by Kelly McGillis, doesn’t make an appearance. Not a surprise since her character was older than Maverick and Tom is just shy of 60. So, they did go younger, as they usually do in these Hollywood movies, but I was surprised that the new love wasn’t in her 20s, 30, or even 40s. No, she was played by 51-year-old Jennifer Connelly, so kind of a refreshing change.
Overall, Top Gun: Maverick is what it is. An action movie with a few dark moments of drama and a dip into the shallow end of impending mortality. It follows the formula for the earlier hit though it tries a bit too hard at times. It has stretches or enjoyability and earns some laughs and cheers, but lacks the effortless, trashy 80s sublimity of the original. However, as a former fighter plane nerd, overall, it wasn’t a bad way to spend a couple of hours and I’m sensing it’s going to be a summer blockbuster.