Tales from the vault of unpopular views – ‘Not my Top Gun’
I recognise this is a pro military, nationalist propaganda tool and I planned on ending my virtue signalling here as I did not want to get political about the film. Unfortunately this will not be the case.
It was 1986. I had just turned 16 and there was this American fighter plane film at the cinema. ‘Top Gun’ was a film that I can’t deny had a massive impact on me. I had a super hard crush on Kelly McGillis and the soundtrack was tailor made for a white boy teenager. I had the soundtrack which I wore to the nub on my chunky Walkman with fat buttons. Berlin’s ‘Take my Breath Away’ still scratches a caveman part of my brain that had yearnings for Kelly McGinnis’s character, Charlie. I even had the VHS tape. By 1995 I was at Uni. I had a new love, ecstasy and speed and ‘Top Gun’ was way back in the rear view mirror. Today I can barely remember the characters and the plot. The knowledge they were making a sequel interested me in no way at all. Then all the reviews from all across the spectrum of reviewers started coming out and they dragged me back in.
‘Top Gun Maverick’ is not my ‘Top Gun’. It starts with the Paramount logo and the chime from the ‘Top Gun’ anthem before the uplifting electric guitar solo and I thought this is ‘Top Gun’. There was this piece with this experimental stealth plane, with Tom Cruise as Maverick flying it and Ed Harris playing some sort of military brass and I thought, ‘interesting, some kind of homage to ‘The Right Stuff’. We get a remix of Kenny Login’s ‘Danger Zone’ which was cool. As I said my ‘Top Gun’ is ‘Take My Breath Away’ but this is not my ‘Top Gun’. It then goes in to the film proper. There is plenty of reviews and synopsis around for this film and I’m not really interested in doing that here. I mostly want to analyse it and to give my totally biased, selfish reasons why this is not my ‘Top Gun’.
The demographic of people who went to the cinema to view this film on the opening weekend were mostly around my age, maybe a decade younger. It was all about the nostalgia. Right from that first chime at the introduction with the Paramount logo. I have no problem with that. I don’t think it did it bad. Unfortunately I had forgotten most of the 1986 film and have no intention of going back to see it, which kind of blunted the nostalgia for me. Also the most important elements for ‘ME’ from the original were missing from this film. Kelly McGillis’s Charlie, or at least a character like her. Kelly Mcgillis had equal billing in the original ‘Top Gun’. Charlie was a well-developed character, who stood toe to toe in the power dynamic with Maverick. In this film Jennifer Connelly was fine as Penny Benjamin, bar owner, mother who sails and had, had a past relationship with Maverick. Penny the love interest. Not my ‘Top Gun’. To be honest this is quite symbolic of the difference in most trajectories for careers depending on gender within the Hollywood machine.
‘Top Gun Maverick’ had all the tropes you would expect from a film like this, competitive characters, one’s an arrogant hot shot. A higher up person who doesn’t like the protagonist and puts up obstacles to interfere with their goals. The journey from failure to success, blah, blah, blah. Which is fine. They are tropes for a reason. They work. They press the right buttons in our reactionary brain. This ain’t high art. I did however have a problem with the emotional beats. Reviewers were saying how it brought them to tears. Unfortunately I forgot most of what the 1986 ‘Top Gun’ was about and again, had no intention of re-watching it. Rather than invest in developing these new characters, this film more relied on the nostalgia of characters from the 1986 film which I mostly forgot and so when something feely happened it just didn’t impact me. They even did the offspring of the tragic character in the original trope, ‘Goose’ who I had mostly forgot. Mainly because he wasn’t played by Kelly Mcgillis. This is not my ‘Top Gun’
The other thing is the soundtrack. 1986 ‘Top Gun’, my ‘Top Gun’ had some really strong music. There was the ‘Top Gun’ theme, Kenny Logins ‘Danger Zone’ and ‘Playing with the Boys’ and of course the chart topping ‘Take My Breath Away’. ‘Top Gun Maverick’ seemed to rely on the nostalgia of the theme, it threw in ‘Danger Zone’ and the stuff for this movie just wasn’t memorable. I’m probably biased because it isn’t my ‘Top Gun’.
The mission itself was a bit computer game like. It was fine. The ariel stunts were fine. The last act was the most fun for me. It fed the action hungry part of my brain and gave me some thrills. I don’t think it’s a bad movie it’s just not my ‘Top Gun’
I’m going to end with the villains. The film carefully avoids stating any country, or group are the villains and avoids specific geographic locations. The only differences between the heroes and the villains is, the machinery, the villains use is all black stuff and we are told it’s more advanced than the American machinery (Hand over mouth laughing.). Even though the American machinery is not as advanced, the Americans have pluck and beat the villains through sheer skill. The villains are faceless, just fodder to be killed and sploded. The Americans have cool names and colourful equipment and we see their faces. There is even a part with Maverick and Penny riding a motorbike without a helmet. I was a bit fuming. Brain injury is real, wear a helmet unless you’re Nathan Hunt and you have to make a quick getaway. The villains did not attack these American heroes or America, or anywhere. The Americans made a pre-emptive attack on the villains who used their black equipment to defend themselves. What did the villains do wrong? They were building a facility to store Uranium. Something the American Heroes with inferior equipment would never do. It seems just being American makes you the hero and justifies any offensive action.
Anyway on that note back to ‘Stranger Things’ season 4 which I’m enjoying a lot more because… that was not my ‘Top Gun’
Until next time this is Whakapai signing off.