Top Gun redux

F-18 fighter jet in a steep climb. Photo by Darren Nunis.

I watched Top Gun: Toppest Gun[1]OK, fine, Top Gun: Mav­er­ick. last night. The movie, once it got going[2]It was 25 min­utes late start­ing; at least three dif­fer­ent peo­ple, myself includ­ed, went to ask when they planned to start the movie., was—

Well, it was a Top Gun movie, that’s for sure.

(For con­text, I was in Air Cadets as a youth in the 1980s, and so I was legal­ly oblig­at­ed to see Top Gun approx­i­mate­ly 6.02×10²³ times.)

There was Tom Cruise fly­ing planes worth qua­jil­lions of dol­lars. There was Tom Cruise charm­ing a lady. There was Tom Cruise rid­ing a motor­bike with no hel­met because that’s what heroes do. There was Tom Cruise, being brash and break­ing all the rules. There was Tom Cruise grin­ning boy­ish­ly, end­less­ly. (“This is my only look,” indeed.)

Aside from Tom Cruise, there were oth­er items in this movie. There was Val Kilmer in the Admi­ral­ty now. There was a shirt­less game with balls (more oval this time). There was a smirk­ing jerk pilot and an elite fight­er pilot who need­ed glass­es (wait what)[3]If they explained why his call­sign was “Bob”, I missed it.. There was a very very tight time­line that they still inter­rupt­ed for an impor­tant funer­al. There was dog­fight train­ing and a bar­room sin­ga­long and some very very hand­waved geopol­i­tics. There was a trench run with a tar­get not much larg­er than a womp rat[4]Wait, that might be a dif­fer­ent fran­chise with a sequel 30+ years in the mak­ing.. There was dogfighting—good thing they trained for it.

There were jet planes. Oh my word, there were jet planes. Some of them were fifth-gen­er­a­tion, what­ev­er that means; bet­ter than F‑18s in every way, appar­ent­ly, though (spoil­er alert) it sure did­n’t end up seem­ing like it. There was a sin­gle, incred­i­bly con­ve­nient F‑14.

There were tail­hooks and cat­a­pults and mis­siles and chaff and “out of mis­siles, switch­ing to guns”. There was a yel­low-tinged mon­tage of fight­er jets depart­ing a car­ri­er to the dul­cet tones of Ken­ny Log­gins’ “Dan­ger Zone”.

I went into this movie with a bad atti­tude, I’ll admit it. Most of the mol of times I watched the first movie weren’t my choice; at Cadet camp, the first per­son to get to the staff lounge got to pick the movie for the night, and most every­one else want­ed to watch Top Gun again[5]And again and again and again..

The movie deliv­ered in a lot of ways. I can see where peo­ple and crit­ics like it. The actors are all very very good, the bit of nec­es­sary expo­si­tion when we’re intro­duced to The New Crop of Top Guns is han­dled about as well as it could be[6]Expo­si­tion is always a tightrope between eye-rolling “as you know, Bob” dia­logue vs. the audi­ence lat­er say­ing “OK, now who’s this per­son?”, and the stunts are breath­tak­ing. I admit I laughed a few times (the “What were you think­ing?” “You told me not to think!” “…Touché.” exchange was well-played, I thought).

I got what I expect­ed. I got a Top Gun movie. I still don’t know if that’s what I wanted.

Cov­er pho­to by Dar­ren Nunis on Unsplash. This is not one of the F‑18s in Top Gun.

Foot­notes

Foot­notes
1 OK, fine, Top Gun: Mav­er­ick.
2 It was 25 min­utes late start­ing; at least three dif­fer­ent peo­ple, myself includ­ed, went to ask when they planned to start the movie.
3 If they explained why his call­sign was “Bob”, I missed it.
4 Wait, that might be a dif­fer­ent fran­chise with a sequel 30+ years in the making.
5 And again and again and again.
6 Expo­si­tion is always a tightrope between eye-rolling “as you know, Bob” dia­logue vs. the audi­ence lat­er say­ing “OK, now who’s this person?”