PG-13 for premarital sex (mostly implied), one f-bomb per the PG-13 rule, some death, and violence. This one, for all of its ramping up of the dogfighting action, seems to be one meant for everyone to see. There were decisions made to allow this movie to be as nearly family friendly as possible, with the exception of the f-bomb that I have to imagine was left in for the emotional resonance of the moment. It feels like a summer action movie, so go with that as your guide. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Joseph Kosinski
Bar the doors shut. Burn the building. My entire family has a bad case of the pukes that I had earlier in the week and it won't go away. We have kids on day X because we've lost all track of time. We pray for sweet relief, however it may come. Anyway, my father-in-law (you see that seamless segue?) has been begging for the boys to see this movie for weeks. I'd like to stress that there has been Covid floating through our extended family for weeks and calm minds suggested that we simply delay seeing this movie until we were through with Covid. So post-my-Covid, I agreed to go see it. Part of me really wanted to see this movie. I have my reasons, which I hope I can fit into this blog. But out of all of the suggestions to do a guys' night, Top Gun: Maverick seemed like a great idea.
But the weird thing is, it really shouldn't have been the movie that we all thought would be a bonding night of men. I mean, I'm aware of this and I would have loved to see Downton Abbey 2 almost more than Top Gun. But if the goal was to see a movie that a bunch of dudes could regress to, I find it really weird that Top Gun has earned the reputation it has in 2022. I say this because I was obnoxious at the theater about it. All of us dudes were grunting about "The need for speed" and here I was, making fun of the fact that a bunch of guys were going to see a sequel to one of the most romantic movies of the '80s. Yeah, that's the takeaway I have of the original Top Gun. And I'm going to cut to the chase and give you the short version of my epiphany: the OG Top Gun was a movie that appealed to both the die-hard romantic and the action super-film. After all, this is a Jerry Bruckheimer production, so it's not totally insane that people forgot that the big musical success story that came from this movie was "Take My Breath Away."
I was robbed, by the way. It didn't play once during the movie. When I said that all these guys should walk into the theater in slow motion to the musical touchstone of the film, people loudly rolled their eyes when I tried blasting "Take My Breath Away." Sure, Kenny Loggins deserves a lot of praise for "Danger Zone" and the instrumental from Top Gun is a bop in its own right. But I can't deny that there's a reason for this disparity. When I was a kid, I watched Top Gun a billion times because of the cool plane sequences. Every time we visited my uncle in Chicago, he'd throw in the VHS of Top Gun before bed and I was always disappointed when he shut it off after ten minutes. I was wired to think that Top Gun was a movie about planes versus a movie about a handsome pilot seducing his instructor. The reputation exists for a reason. Sure, there are those of us who will always cite the beach volleyball sequence or ask "What happened to Kelly McGillis?"
But I think that Top Gun: Maverick actually thrives by choosing to remember a selective history (Remember how I said that I would make the intro short and I totally lied?) Yeah, Maverick does have a romance story, but one that feels like a strong B-or-C-story to the main A-plot, that would have actually benefited to play the Mission: Impossible theme during the briefing section more than anything that would have come from Hans Zimmer. That's not surprising because Christopher McQuarrie has his hands all over this movie.
Christopher McQuarrie is the new Mission: Impossible guy. I have the feeling that he fundamentally gets Tom Cruise and what Tom Cruise wants to do, especially when it comes to building franchises. For as good as Maverick is as a standalone film, the way it even exists is because of the elements that make sequels entries that are meant to be forgotten. The first Top Gun movie dealt with a dogfighting sequence where the Top Gun team has to fight in real world combat scenarios. It is really secondary to the whole piece, which is again about seducing instructors and pissing off the higher brass. But then the film almost starts with this "Your mission, should you choose to accept it" moment, where we get a CG breakdown of this nuclear device that only an impossible mission force could handle. Like, if IMF flew jets exclusively, this feels almost more like a Mission: Impossible sequel than anything else. Thank God it had the drama of dealing with Goose's kid or this would just be a straight up action movie.
I'm going to talk about the action for a second because it's really good / kind of stupid at times. There's this thing that is about Maverick being right. (Cool, that is tied to character. I support it.) The film swears that the only way to win this impossible mission (cue Lalo Schifrin theme) is to take this Death Star trench run, shut off your targeting computers, and pull out as the Death Star blows up. (Trust me, I made these jokes during the film too. "Rooster, you've switched off your targeting computer.") But no one really had the conversation about what to do once the mission ended. I mean, that whole thing fell apart and everything went right. One of the major beats that Maverick is pushing for is bringing everybody home. It's why Jon Hamm's character comes across as a little callous. He's willing to sacrifice lives for success rate. But even he shifts his perspective when Maverick proves that it can be done, only to have a bunch of jets shot down by surface-to-air missiles at the end? It's because the movie wanted to be even more action. I'm one of the five people who enjoyed the film Behind Enemy Lines when I saw it. I would also like to establish that the last time I watched that movie, I was in college and watching Moulin Rouge! weekly, so there's no necessary accounting for taste. But if you take Mission: Impossible, Star Wars, and Behind Enemy Lines, you get the action of Top Gun: Maverick.
But that's why we have the Rooster storyline. It's a really nice extension of the consequences that Maverick learned to deal with. Like most franchises, Maverick has forgotten almost all of the lessons of the first film and is dealing with a disappointing career because of that. To a certain extent, he has grown up. While the first film deals with Maverick thinking of himself as divorced from consequence, he understand that consequences exist and are fine, as long as he is the one who faces said consequences. It's a bit much, especially considering that he is selfish enough to crash and survive a Mach 10 jet (I imagine that he actually died in this sequence because it is absurd that he survived and the rest of the movie is just fan fiction). But there's almost learning a lesson in isolation and the value of mental health that is being discussed. After all, Rooster is the physical embodiment of consequences. He's in Maverick's face, reminding him of the importance of taking everything into consideration. I mean, he's not that cold about it. He loved Goose and is mostly responsible for Goose's death. (Okay, debatable.) So as much as this film is an action movie, I really like that the movie decided to focus on character through this story and it mostly works. Yeah, the beach football sequence is a complete misstep when it comes to solving Rooster and Maverick's problems. Also, the movie kind of craps on the idea of two guys being vulnerable with each other and talking out problems. But that's what makes film a fun medium.
So yeah, I enjoyed it. I almost liked it because it forgot that it was a sequel to a romance movie and simply embraced what forty years of history has imbued on the film. Normally I would hate that, but it created something worth watching. Now, should I give Behind Enemy Lines another chance? Probably not.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.