Top Gun: Maverick

I once worked in a small department of six people that was isolated from the rest of a large corporation; because no one could hear us (or find us, for that matter), we played records all day long on an old phonograph with a tinny speaker. Our music selections came from a few boxes of vinyl left over from the 80s that had been donated from someone’s basement. 

We had several favorites—Flashdance, Saturday Night Fever, Oklahoma!—but the one that got played almost every day was the soundtrack from Top Gun. For reasons I can no longer remember, we all took nicknames from the film. I am proud to say that I was Maverick; although I bear absolutely no resemblance to Tom Cruise, I liked to think that I could fly an airplane upside down if I absolutely had to. Also, last person to pick ended up as Goose.

Sitting in the audience for Top Gun: Maverick and hearing those first twangy eight notes of the Top Gun Anthem, I was immediately transported back to a time when toxic masculinity was fun and a skintight white t-shirt was all you needed to make a girl swoon. The original movie wasn’t really that good, but oh, that shirtless volleyball game.

I’ve read a few reviews that have mentioned you don’t need to have seen the original 1986 Top Gun to be able to appreciate the new one, but I disagree. If you’re there for the airplane fight sequences, you’ll enjoy it because they are spectacular; however, how can you understand the complicated relationship between Maverick and Rooster without knowing how Goose died? Or get a lump in your throat when Iceman finally shows up, remembering how cocky he always was?; or recognize the parallels between the sunset football game and the shirtless volleyball on the beach? Or understand that of course Tom Cruise doesn’t wear a helmet when he rides his motorcycle because he wouldn’t be Tom Cruise if he had helmet hair.

This is about as nostalgic a summer movie as there is; completely escapist and fun, filled with beloved characters who have aged far better (or have better plastic surgeons) than we have. Flight sequences are thrilling and inexplicably did not make me nauseous, even though there was a lot of swooping in loops and g-forces contorting faces. 

I should probably note that the Hollywood patriarchy is in full macho mode here, erasing the Kelly Willis and Meg Ryan roles from the original and giving Maverick a new girlfriend and an ethnically ambiguous female pilot; this film would definitely NOT pass the Bechdel test. Also interesting that they never name what country is supposed to be the villain here. It is much more convenient for global film distribution if you’re not offending China or Russia or whoever might have a hidden stash of nuclear weapons. 

But somedays I’m too tired to protest and just want to give in to airplanes and cute boys and popcorn and forgetting that the world is blowing up around us. I know, I know—I’m a bad feminist and Tom Cruise is a Scientologist and I’m a terrible pacifist for supporting this love letter to the military complex. Just give me this two hours and eleven minutes of the skintight white T-shirts and I swear I will do better next time.

The Popcorn Kernels of Truth give this film Three Kernels. I may need to create a new category called GuiltyPleasures.

Categories: FlicksThatYouShouldPick, FlicksIWantToLick