Top Gun is a classic blockbuster, released in 1986 to great acclaim. Recently, cinemas welcomed a long-awaited sequel, entitled Top Gun: Maverick. The two films are memorable in their own ways, and this prompted Cineworld to recently release a double-showing of both. Gareth David attended this double-dose of Tom Cruise, and reviews.
Movies are an interesting phenomenon. Some are watched, enjoyed and forgotten about, others are discussed for their brilliance, and elevated to works of art, only to be relegated to media studies discussions, and various top ten lists. Some, however, thunder into the pop culture zeitgeist to be copied, lampooned and fondly rewatched, decades after they are released.
Top Gun is one such film. Unapologetically bombastic, the film opens with Harold Faltermeyer’s anthem played over an aircraft carrier; planes being slowly moved into position as various deck hands prepare for take-off. Then, as the engines flare at the rear of one of the jets, the film explodes with the roar of flight, and ‘that’ song, and the audience are headed into the danger zone.
Jets, motorbikes and beach volleyball
Thus, the tone has been set. The parts of the film that are short on dialogue but long on action, all set to classic rock, are played out like a series of adverts. Top Gun sells the audience jets, motorbikes and beach volleyball. It isn’t surprising, considering director Tony Scott was previously known for his work in commercials. The whole affair is a screenshot of 1980’s americana up there with Budweiser beer and Marlboro cigarettes: unhealthy and problematic but full of balls to the wall, machismo, and sex appeal.
In fact, the American military were so supportive of the film’s original idea, that they ploughed millions of dollars into it, providing aircraft and allowing filming on base. The American Navy saw it as one big recruiting advert, with booths in the foyers of many cinemas letting young men leap from their seats into the navy, every one of them expecting to be the next fighter ace. This should give you an idea of how Top Gun handles the themes of war and international conflict: like a star-spangled bull in a freedom-hating china shop.
However, it makes this brand of one note heroism look so good. Practical effects are the order of the day, with cockpit cameras and actual missile fire. Model planes are blown to smithereens, but are shot in such a way that the audience truly believes that the enemy fighter is as good as dead. In an era where CGI makes everything look perfect, there is a lot to be said for ruggedly handsome practicality.
This beauty does not stop at the technology, as the main cast are a mixture of the following adjectives: chisel-jawed, breath-taking, rugged, beautiful, and handsome. The men, going by testosterone-laden names like ‘Maverick’ and ‘Iceman’ are almost Spartan in their physique and relationships.
The barely contained homoeroticism of shower rooms, and beach volleyball matches, are barely masked by the two female actors in this movie, with Kelly McGillis spending half of the film dressed in male military attire. If the actors must talk to each other, it is often in pseudo-military philosophy or outright innuendo. However, the audience are most likely still on a come down from the last set piece, so it doesn’t hamper the film too much.
An experience I was glad to have
Recently Cineworld screened a double bill of Top Gun and the sequel Maverick, and being able to watch the original in the cinema was an experience I was glad to have. Top Gun on the big screen is a moment in time, captured perfectly as a turbo-charged, chrome covered, 80’s rock music video. Whenever the plot falters, it is carried by the perfect smile of an up-and-coming actor called Tom Cruise, and a multi award winning album that sounds like the American flag picked up a guitar. Top Gun deserves to be watched, studied, and enjoyed for the flawed wonder it is.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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