MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Whenever a sequel to a popular film comes out, one of the first questions that is often asked is whether or not it is important to have seen the original film prior to viewing the new movie. Since Top Gun was released in 1986 – over 35 years ago – this is a valid concern, but a problem easily solved by Top Gun: Maverick. After an opening prelude in which an older but still cocky Capt. Peter “Maverick” Mitchell (Cruise) pushes the envelope with a supersonic jet prototype, he is disciplined and given orders to serve as an instructor for the graduating class of Top Gun pilots. The film’s first act is nothing more than a remake of Top Gun with real jets instead of cheesy special effects. If you have seen the earlier film, you will remember that Maverick’s best friend Goose (Anthony Edwards) perished during a training flight. As fate would have it, Goose’s son is now one of the Top Gun pilots, Lt. Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), and there is some real rancor from Rooster towards Maverick. This new group of younger Navy pilots have distinctive monikers with customized logos on their helmets. Say hello to Hangman, Hondo, Phoenix, Warlock, Payback, and Bob. I haven’t seen this many nicknames since National Lampoon’s Animal House.
Maverick has a love interest in this film, but his relationship with Penny (Connelly) is a contemporary one, filled with mutuality and respect. She is a single mom who can take care of herself and knows how to pilot a sailboat through choppy waters. (The kinky, overheated sex scenes from the first film are replaced here with warm hugs, parenthood, and smiles.)
There is time for Maverick to check in with another old friend, Adm. Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer). Iceman is dealing with cancer that has affected his ability to speak, so he and Maverick send text messages back and forth to keep in touch. Their reunion scene is nicely filmed, providing just enough nostalgia to appeal to the fan base.
Finally, after several scenes of training, the elite flight crew is ready to go on a secret mission (and if you are familiar with Star Wars, you will recognize not only this plot twist but also a later development that borrows from the Star Wars franchise).
What keeps Top Gun Maverick entertaining is an enthusiastic 58-year-old Tom Cruise combined with real jet pilots flying real jet planes doing real jet stunts around treacherous terrain. It’s just fun to see so much action on a big theater screen.
So much of this movie is unbelievably stupid, but the film is self-aware enough to include this line: “You think up there, you’re dead. Believe me.”
Let’s also remember the wise cynic H. L. Mencken who once wrote “Nobody ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the well-known human race.”
Top Gun: Maverick sold over $126 million in tickets during its first weekend. I’ve seen it once, I think it’s dumb, and I just may see it again on a bigger screen.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Two halos: Looking out for your wingman.
One pitchfork: PG-13 swearing; reckless piloting.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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