TOP GUN: MAVERICK zoomed across the landscape of lowered test scores in 2022, a sleek, slick comet of gung-ho, adrenalin buttressed by enough Defense Department cooperation that it may as well have been titled “Sign Up and Kill Someone”. Like the horrendously costly, death-dealing (and okay, admittedly cool) weapons it boosts, this flight to fight took a dozen years to get off the ground, a full thirty-six (or five wars and endless ‘interventions’) after the original Top Gun added its recruitment rally to Reagan’s arsenal of movie agitprop. Back then, when his minions weren’t tormenting Central America, Ronnie the Regressor was re-gearing us for a showdown with ‘The Evil Empire’. Today, in the raucous recess playtime of the 2020’s, after pulverizing a large chunk of the Middle East (blessed by Freedom via Lockheed), we’re being rush-groomed to go toe-to-atomic-toe with, yep, our eternal ogre Russia and sleeper bully China. Gosh, maybe we can invite Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Mexico and San Francisco and party like it’s The Day After. So bring on the jets, crank the soundtrack, strip down the photogenic pilots, add a few hot chicks, ignore orders, prepare to kiss civilization goodbye! Wave that flag, the one made in a factory in Beijing.
Relax, we know ‘the enemy’ in this post-mid-life crisis sequel aren’t specifically identified (a c.s. way out of responsibility—talk about target-marketing) but you don’t need geopolitical wonk to aim your hate darts at some suspiciously big spaces on the map. A ‘uranium enrichment plant’ (boo, hiss) must be destroyed, but its box canyon location has more missile protection than a Bush ranch, and a fresh crop of fighter jocks need the keenest mission prep possible. Cue terminally insubordinate ‘Pete Mitchell’ (Tom Cruise), whose aerial skills rival a bat but whose cocky persona has kept him stalled as a captain after three decades in the Navy. Bonding ensues, a score needs be settled, a lost squeeze must be rekindled, foreign fiends will burn. The damsel in question is Jennifer Connelly, reason enough to watch even if the spectacular flying and explosions don’t suffice.
Directed by Joseph Kosinski (Only The Brave), it does look like a million bucks—make that something around $175,000,000—and the airborne action is hot stuff, a mix of the real deal with guided precision help from 2,400 effects shots. In all technical zones, it’s a winner. And the actors are fine, including Miles Teller as the shoulder-chipped son of the deceased ‘Goose’ buddy played by Anthony Edwards in the first movie. Cruise is assuredly Tom-confident, Connelly soulful as ever.
But the script is just claptrap, crayoned by-the-numbers courtesy of Ehren Kruger (responsible for three of the ‘Transformers‘—thanks a lot), Eric Warren Singer (good writer, but not here) and Christopher McQuarrie (veers between mostly excellent and occasionally awful). That design flaw didn’t stop it from reaping a box office whirlwind, becoming the controlled Cruise’s highest grossing picture ever (so far). Chords of various sorts were struck to the drumroll of $1,493,000,000 worldwide, more than half of that outside the States, proving that rah rah muscle-flexing US-of-kickA-warporn is eagerly gulped down by other populations who ought—but obviously don’t—know better. Globally, just behind Avatar: The Way Of Water, in the States it was #1. Another of the year’s Best Picture nominees, a deserving one, the stunning remake of the adamantly anti-war All Quiet On The Western Front, jammed with realistic combat scenes and freighted with the actual humanity that this exercise fakes, was at the bottom of ticket count. Why do those clouds on the horizon look like mushrooms?
The near-universal critical adulation is harder to grasp. Peer-wise, it strafed an Academy Award win for Best Sound, which was plausible, and the nominations for Visual Effects, Film Editing and Song (Lady Gaga acing the rouser “Hold My Hand”) were warranted. But how in the holy halls of Montezuma did it seize a nomination for Screenplay, let alone Best Picture? The list of nominations and wins from other film societies is daunting and depressing. Is everyone fifteen?
130 minutes of expert eye-filling emptiness, with pro work from John Hamm, Glen Powell, Monica Barbaro, Bashir Salahuddin, Charles Parnell, Lewis Pullman and cameos from Ed Harris (why?) and—returning from the original—Val Kilmer. It is better than its gaudy predecessor, which also captured the #1 position back in
the more stoned age 1986, a feat likely helped by the howling sonic bong “Danger Zone” on its soundtrack.
One thought on “Top Gun: Maverick”
As the boom operator on TG:M (all fourteen months!), I found your brief review a hoot. I just finished working on another long project with Jen and I read your appraisal aloud to her a few weeks back between setups. She laughed, I laughed… I’m pretty sure even the crabby COVID guy laughed.
Keep up the stellar work. 😉
By the by, Joe Kosinski is one of the nicest people anyone could ever be lucky enough with whom to work. Very smart, very sharp, very talented… and a pretty snappy dresser, to boot!