Top Gun is the type of the movie that sounds awesome – and it is. A bunch of aviator-wearing, karaoke loving, cheeky yet charming naval officers going by names like Iceman and Cougar? It’s the best of the best here, the coolest of the cool, The Mighty Ducks of fighter jets, and as if things couldn’t get any better, Tom Cruise is soaring through the skies and speeding down the streets. What’s not to love about that?
Tom Cruise is probably one of the coolest guys to jump onto the big screen, and we love to watch him work. Building needs scaled? Cruise is already reaching the top. Jumping out a plane? Casual Sunday for the Hollywood hero. He’s an action man through and through. In fact, Fight Club rules apply when talking about Tom Cruise; the first rule of Tom Cruise discourse? Never talk bad about Tom Cruise.
Top Gun, on the other hand, well, Top Gun’s fair game. Don’t get me wrong, I love Top Gun. It’s total 80s galore. A guilty pleasure at its finest. Nothing warms my cold, dark heart more than Maverick (Cruise) and Goose (Anthony Edwards) crooning off-key to The Righteous Brothers, but the film is a complete cringe-worthy catastrophe.
Maverick’s entire arc is conveyed as the broken bad boy without a paternal figure to guide him away from breaking all the rules; he’s an egotistical d-bag who really should’ve been fired for misconduct at one point or another.
But we’re not here to call out Mav’s entitlement, the guy’s a great pilot! We’re here to talk about the 109 minute cheese-fest that features an overtly uplifting score mixed with extreme bro-bonding, an uncomfortable love scene, odd declarations of appreciation and admiration, and a group of denim-clad, sweaty dudes being dudes during an intense volleyball montage. It doesn’t matter how cool you are, jeans and sports are not a fashion statement.
Let’s give Top Gun the benefit of the doubt; it is the 80s after all, where every film haphazardly becomes a music video (looking at you Rocky IV); the precedent for riveting action movies around this era tends to be very low. Though I’m afraid the line has to be drawn at volleyball.
This scene is serving absolutely nothing and yet everything all at once; there’s no reason to include the sequence other than to give Kenny Loggins a chance to flaunt those husky vocals as the male leads pose and flex for the camera.
Speaking of quality guy time, how about Maverick and Iceman’s (Val Kilmer) redemption at the end of the movie? Yes, Goose dies and it’s very sad for the whole of two minutes; Maverick no longer has his sweet-natured best bud to share jokes with; Iceman shows human emotion for the first time in his life, and as celebrations are underway and the undisclosed enemy is defeated, Maverick and Iceman clutch their victory together. An undeveloped hatchet is buried all for the sake of lov- I mean friendship.
Forbidden love is a recurring theme throughout. Charlie (Kelly McGillis) catches Maverick’s wandering eye from across the bar so naturally, he plans to seduce her with the flick of his tongue. If there’s one thing that’ll get a girl going, it’s an entire bar of strange men hitting the chorus of ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ in unison.
To be fair, it is an incredible scene, and I’m not critiquing it by any means. It’s supposed to be cheesy, and if the chemistry between McGillis and Cruise wasn’t legendary, this movie would be the definition of a crash and burn.
Their love story actually plays out quite romantically, no faults given there. The close ups whenever they have a tiff or are plainly in a scene together adds tension, you can practically feel the elastic band about to snap; besides, how else are we meant to know about Maverick’s deep inner conflict without studying his tight jaw and brooding looks of undeniable lust.
Plus, the film markets the hell out of ‘Take My Breath Away’ which builds up to the moment they finally make their move – a bit like John Williams’ Jaws theme. One thing’s for sure though, I’d rather see the great white jump another boat than silhouette-style love making again.
Top Gun isn’t perfect. There’s enough secondhand embarrassment to go around for everyone. The plot is bland, stretched out to fulfil a soundtrack that’s just one hit after another. Characters aren’t given enough momentum other than to make dubious quips, gaze longingly, parade their chiselled physiques, and get extremely sweaty for no reason.
We’re left with more questions than answers. It’s a whole mess but what a glorious mess indeed, and I hope Maverick lives up to its legacy, flaws and all.
Maybe the real Top Gun is the wing-men we made along the way.