Is Top Gun: Maverick yet another overhyped homage to an 80s classic? No, it’s not. It is superior to the 1986 box office hit.
Top Gun: Maverick Synopsis
Decades after the events of the first movie, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is still just a captain. Respected for his legendary skills but despised by various commanders for his personality. When Iceman, now an Admiral, orders his return to NAS North Island as an instructor, Maverick is hesitant to accept the appointment for one of the trainees is none other than Goose’s son. Moreover, the mission he is to prepare the young pilots for is nigh impossible. The challenge begins with the United States no longer enjoying any technological advantage with their fighter jets.
Here’s what I remember about Top Gun (1986), which by the way, I’ve never watched in one full viewing.
It’s a glamourous take on American military training, one that was so beautiful and attractive, actual recruit campaigns were put to shame.
It was, as expected, also testosterone-charged. The beach volleyball and locker room scenes were positively homoerotic in appeal/tension.
It furthermore popularized the F14 Tomcat, at least in Singapore. I don’t know about the West but back then, every other boy in my school wanted to “fly” a Tomcat, because it was what the good guys flew. And then we squealed in delight because we discovered Macross’ Valkyrie had the same sweep wings.
In case I’m not clear enough, I’m not exactly a fan of the ’86 movie; even at that young age, I thought it was too glamourised. Because of this, I kinda rolled my eyes at the news of a sequel. I certainly wasn’t at all affected by the various delays too. I didn’t see what’s the purpose of a sequel beyond box-office milking. Especially one that’s released THREE decades later.
Well, I’ve watched it, and I have to swallow my earlier opinions. This sequel completely got me. The euphoric, almost impossible aerial stunts had me wide-eyed and cheering throughout. I also emerged from the cinema feeling hopelessly uplifted by the incessant optimism. This, despite me being long aware that the US armed forces aren’t necessarily the good guys in armed conflicts. And that they seldom completely win.
More amazingly, the numerous tributes to the first movie did not make me grimace. From Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone to the Great Balls of Fire reprisal, to romantic motorcycle rides and Ray Ban Aviators, normally, so many would have made me scowl and wag fingers. But they didn’t. I can only explain this as, because these homages have a deeper, more solemn purpose?
It took a while to hit and I admit I didn’t immediately notice. Top Gun: Maverick isn’t so much a revival of one of Tom Cruises’ most popular characters but a swansong for. It’s about a wild gun who secretly wants to move on beyond the military but is unable to, because of circumstances he can and cannot control.
These struggles, when presented in full, inject the story with a depth that puts the movie way beyond an aerial thrill show. A depth that I suspect many viewers can resonate with too. Thanks to this, I agree with popular reviews that this sequel is indeed one of those rare, super rare masterpieces that is better than the predecessor.
The golden ending is, moreover, a perfect conclusion. Cliché, “retro” as it might seem, for once, I do not mind. Flying into the sunset has never been more satisfying.
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