Sequels are always a risk and even more so 36 years apart, you can imagine then my trepidation when going to see Top Gun:”Maverick” . I was 15 years old when in 1986 which was a good year for big screen movies, releases like Aliens, Short Circuit, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home were released, the year I went to see Top Gun.
This reckless hero who lived, flew and acted on instinct captured my young imagination. Maverick, unable to articulate how or why his course of action was taken was able to take on the world by intuition and talent. He made mistakes and faced them,loosing one friend tragically and making another through facing crises together. For him life was a playground of opportunity and privilege, we see a person who has found his niche in life and is confidently living it to the max. But enough about Top Gun suffice to say that my expectations of being let down in this next movie were high given the historical place this story its in my life journey.
Fast forward to 2022 and the credits roll for this new chapter. The sights and sounds of the opening credits are almost identical, an incredibly intense sound track is heard and is recognizable even to those who have not seen the first movie. The tolling sound of the those first notes of the sound track to the guitar riff of Kenny Logins Danger Zone, the images of the planes and the carrier its all so nostalgic. Tom Cruise is now 59, so we can assume that the now Captain Pete Mitchell is as well, he is still pushing the limits, breaking the rules and “his ego is writing checks his body can’t cash” as a test Pilot for new aircraft. We quickly move through a history of continuous insubordination and rule breaking and discover that Ice Man (Val Kilmer) has been looking out for Pete Mitchell all his life, bailing him out each time the boundary breaking Maverick found consequences for defying systems and power. As the movie unfolds we see an almost symbiotic relationship has developed between Ice Man and Maverick. Ice gains power and position in the system and and is able to make space for Maverick to challenge the system, try new things and be generally reckless. This relationship between the rebel and the regal while on the surface seems to be only about about rescuing from discipline is also about rescue from stagnation.
The mission: wow! where have I heard this before? Only a small band of light fighter planes can successfully navigate the narrow valley leading up to the tiny exhaust port that must be hit exactly if the WMD processing base is to be destroyed, an extra threat is that enemy fighters might be launched to engaged the thwart the mission. The fighters have to keep fast and low to avoid the missile batteries on the valley peaks. I was half expecting old Tom Cruise to turn off his targeting computer and use the force. I have to say it was a great adaption of the Death Star mission to a modern context and the tension about this mission impossible was well executed and portrayed by the pilot ensemble. Maverick proves once again that he is far more of a do-er than a teacher and accidentally removes the confidence of the team through his lessons.
The addition of family history tension adds complexity to the narrative as Son of Goose, call sign Rooster, is in the Top Gun team. The tension in this relationship which involves grief, shame, ego and entitlement is dealt with in complex ways, I was pleasantly surprised that it was not just “you got my father killed and I will never forgive you” issue but one that held in tension the layers of emotion that generational trauma can evoke. I found that there was believable continuity in the story that also doubled well as plausible back story and that we were part of that history because of our possible preexisting relationships with the characters. This was portrayed with extreme effectiveness by the use of flashback scenes from the original film.
The ending while seriously straining the credulity bone (thanks Captain Raineway) was unexpected and alive with tension and tension breaking moments. multiple lines of possibility and consequence sprang forth from the choices made which kept us both doubting and predicting the eventual outcomes. a beautiful moment of reconciliation as Maverick and Rooster see each other for the first time and learn from each other a new way to be was delightful.
Sure there was a love story as well but it was back ground and complementary and all in all I really enjoyed this movie which gave me sense of closure to the original narrative.