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Top Gun: Maverick Wants You

Posted by January 24th, 2023 1 Comment »

Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
Directed by Joseph Kosinski
Starring Tom Cruise, Jennifer Connelly and Miles Teller

36 years is a long time. Things change, people change. Once the money is all tallied up, though, it looks like American filmgoers’ tastes haven’t changed all that much.

In 1986, slick upstart filmmaker Tony Scott delivered a box office hit and cultural phenomenon for his first big studio, big budget film, Top Gun, using basically music video level production. Top Gun was a good film but it was even better at functioning as clever propaganda for the US military. We’d all seen the “Be All You Can Be” commercials, but what did those five words really mean? Apparently, they meant that you too could be a young heartthrob who gets all the girls. They meant you could be the absolute best of the best. They meant you could have a whole lot of fun and camaraderie on your path to glory while representing the good old US of A.  

These days, we have a new set of heartthrobs to lead the way and show us its cool to shoot missiles at vague, unnamed national enemies. In 2022’s Top Gun: Maverick, its Miles Teller as ‘Rooster,’ Monica Barbaro as ‘Phoenix,’ Glen Powell as ‘Hangman,’ Jay Ellis as ‘Payback,’ and Danny Ramirez as ‘Fanboy,’ along with at least five other actors portraying young fighter pilots. This time around they aren’t all white men, either. (“See kids, you can be any color or gender to kill for Uncle Sam!”) Back for a second tour of duty is Tom Cruise as aging military man Capt. Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell. Val Kilmer even makes a heartfelt appearance as “Iceman,” assumedly to pull at our heartstrings given his real life two-year battle with throat cancer.

One lead from the original Top Gun who doesn’t make a return, or even get so much as a cameo, is Kelly McGillis, who played Cruise’s older love interest. This suggests that, in 2022, people of every color and gender can be fighter pilots, but a lead actress in a Hollywood film has to be 13 years younger than McGillis (65) and in “screen shape.” (When asked why she wasn’t in the film, McGillis quipped, “They didn’t ask, I’m old and I’m Fat, and I look age-appropriate.”) Instead, we get the age-defying Jennifer Connelly as Cruise’s love interest, that way even us Gen X-ers are reminded to “Be All We Can Be” again.

Top Gun: Maverick is basically the exact same film as the original, but now Hollywood has the technology to accurately and breathtakingly show everyone who isn’t “being all they can be” what it feels like in the cockpit of a multimillion-dollar tool of destruction. Seeing it in IMAX on the big screen helped the 130-minute runtime breeze by despite the familiar, predictable storyline. It was 2 hours and 10 minutes of escapism, nostalgia and a riveting, albeit somewhat confounding, final act.

Adjusted for inflation, Top Gun domestically made close to $800 million 2023 dollars and Top Gun: Maverick is echoing that financial success 36 years later. Films like The Godfather Part III (1990), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) and Tron: Legacy (2010) took 16, 19 and 25 years to follow their predecessors. Each was a huge disappointment, both financially and critically. I guess the key is to wait a bit longer, have a more diverse cast and NEVER EVER bring back the female lead. That way the film can really ” Be All It Can Be” – a profitable and a critical darling.

If The Godfather Part IIIKingdom of the Crystal Skull and Tron: Legacy are a C, D and F then Top Gun: Maverick is a B.

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