My husband and I finally broke away for date night this past week to see Top Gun Maverick, which means by the time I am writing this there have already been a pile of reviews and articles telling you what a great summer movie it was.
As someone who was always luke warm about the first Top Gun, I’m here to tell you something: the audience is right. This is a fantastic summer film.
Sure, you have to suspend your belief a little in some scenes, and the dialog could get a little cheesy. Remember, it is intended as a summer popcorn film for the sheer pleasure of feel-good escapism.
However, instead of talking about all the elements that made this moving a blast, I’m going to quickly list some things it did not have that made it even better:
It didn’t paint the US as “the bad guy”.
There was a phase in war and action films where we are always reminded how complex war situations are, and we can be as horrible as anyone else at committing war crimes and killing young soldiers. Nope. This was a clear cut story of U.S.A. military members stopping an unsanctioned uranium plant from getting completed. We got in and got the job done. End of story.
There was no “Bait and Switch”.
Top Gun: Maverick didn’t have the overused method of making the film all about the newer, better, more diverse next gen of characters showing the old guys everything newer is better. Yes, the young pilots were a diverse group, but like in the real world, who cares? People are people. They were all just pilots, as it should be. There was some good-natured ribbing between them, but no girl showing the “toxic males” who was boss or everyone having to acknowledge what color their skin was. All they cared about was ability. This made them equals. This made them family.
More specifically, they all had to listen, follow and learn from Maverick if they wanted to succeed. He understood he was getting older, and needed to help prep the newer pilots for their future, but he didn’t step back or step down.
He led, and did it well.
It didn’t make things awkward in the love scene.
As a happy member of the Gen X age group, I am always impressed how well some of us age. Both Tom Cruise and Jennifer Connelly look really good, but their one big romantic scene was handled with respect. It didn’t just indicate a sexual relationship, is showed genuine affection and friendship. That element was just a small part of the film, but I appreciated how it was done — especially since I usually feel romantic scenes in action films are usually the low point and unnecessary.
It didn’t skimp on the flying scenes.
This was always my big complaint about the first Top Gun movie (too much “talky talk” not enough action), but they took us into the sky plenty of times. This included a brief revisit to an old school F-14. Seeing it on a big movie screen with the chairs practically vibrating and the surround sound cranked was almost like being in a simulator. I don’t have any more eloquent way to put the feeling other than: “Damn! That was badass!”
It wasn’t embarrassed to be American
Ultimately, this film didn’t give a rat’s patootie how it would play in China. When the first trailers and images for this movie were released, Maverick’s jacket patches were altered to not offend China. I mean how dare Taiwan and Japan exist? Bad move, and the powers that be realized it. The original design featuring both these countries were returned, and those who have trouble with either of these flags can suck the ass-end of an F-35 Lightning II.
Lastly, and I hope this is the case:
It didn’t set up for any more sequels or spin-offs.
This film can only remain as cool as it is if its ends here. Maverick has found his peace with Goose’s son, Rooster, and went out on top. There was a completion and contentment to his character in the end, and the audience felt the same way. Rooster isn’t a bad character, but I don’t want to see any movies about him, or any of the other pilots.
No “trilogy”, no television series, and no more feature films.
The Top Gun movies are about Maverick and his life. He’s been treated well. Let him rest and let the Top Gun films that exist now not be spoiled or cheapened by the overexposure other popular movie franchises have experienced.
Fly away into the sunset, Maverick. You deserve a rest, and thanks for the wild flight.