Top Gun: Maverick tones down the sexual tension while amping up the military propaganda

click to enlarge Despite dazzling stunts, Top Gun: Maverick takes a nosedive.

Despite dazzling stunts, Top Gun: Maverick takes a nosedive.

In 1990, Tom Cruise gave an interview to Playboy magazine promoting Born on the Fourth of July, his anti-war film from Oliver Stone that seemed to quite literally fly in the face of his 1986 box office hit, Top Gun. Telling the story of a group of elite Navy pilots, the lasting legacy of Top Gun is as a thinly disguised military recruitment advertisement. (Oh, and for having lots of sweaty men hanging out.) When asked if he saw any tension between these two works, Cruise said that Top Gun was not supposed to be reality” and to make a sequel “would have been irresponsible.”

Flash forward 36 years, and we now have the sequel Cruise said he wouldn’t make — Top Gun: Maverick.

Setting itself about the same amount of time later, the story picks up with a less youthful Cruise as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who still has a twinkle in his eye and, you guessed it, a need for speed. He has seemed to avoid any opportunities for advancement, instead opting to stay in place and spend his days fixing up an old plane while testing out the newest technology the military has to offer.

That is until he is called back to the Top Gun program to train the next generation of pilots for an intentionally vague yet dangerous mission. While preparing, he’ll reunite with an old flame in Jennifer Connelly’s Penny, play football on the beach, and do a whole bunch of daring fighter pilot stunts. He’ll also come face-to-face with Miles Teller’s Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, the son of Maverick’s old flight officer/best friend Goose, who tragically died in a training accident in the first film.

This is the grounding emotional conflict of the high-flying story as Maverick will have to reckon with his past failures that led to his friend dying and try to avoid a repeat this go-around. He still is a loose cannon who the top brass have been essentially coerced into bringing back by his rival-turned-pal-turned-admiral, Tom “Iceman” Kazansky. This is all part of a trite story, ostensibly about growing up, that is set against the backdrop of airborne fighter pilot spectacle, which is what will be the real draw.

That spectacle is quite something to behold, blowing the stunts of the first film out of the water. As the planes fly around and perform incredible maneuvers you can feel the G-force in every single frame. It all is quite amazing as a technical achievement. However, there are moments where its tone becomes more akin to a videogame than a tense cinematic depiction of war. When compared to the masterful yet restrained air sequences in a film like Dunkirk, Top Gun: Maverick feels more like a child smashing planes together and zooming them around the sky.

If a more cheesy sensibility is what you are looking for, then you’ll likely enjoy the hell out of this film. If you are looking for something a bit more to grasp on to, then you’ll find what would be largely empty pageantry even if it didn’t also play as even more of a propaganda film than its predecessor. When you learn the details of the mission and what it entails, it is impossible not to see how it becomes an extreme endorsement of the military might of the good ol’ USA. The fact that the enemy is kept comically ambiguous, with dialogue fading into background noise when any details are mentioned, might exist to soften this explict nationalistic feeling.

Unfortunately, it ends up doing the opposite as it makes it clear that this enemy can be anyone and justifies force against whoever fits the bill. It is a drag to take a silly film like Top Gun: Maverick this seriously, though it leaves little choice when it becomes so blatant in its jingoism. A legacy sequel like this needn’t have so fully embraced the cry for war as most of the aspects that work best in the film have nothing to do with that. Instead, it leans into its own worst impulses, leaving a lingering sense of gloom that dampens the whole high-flying experience. ♦

One and a Half Stars Top Gun: Maverick

Rated PG-13

Directed by Joseph Kosinski

Starring Tom Cruise, Jennifer Connelly, Miles Teller

Article Source: Inlander