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“Top Gun: Maverick” is making its way to theaters this week, 36 years after the 1986 original. That’s a lot of time to ask a lot of questions about the new movie and its relationship to its predecessor — and we’ve got answers.
Hasn’t this already come out?
You would think! Thanks to complex production, the Covid-19 pandemic, and Paramount’s insistence on sticking to a proper theatrical rollout, “Top Gun: Maverick” has set and missed five previous release dates: July 2019, June 2020, Christmas 2020, the fourth edition of 2021 of the weekend of July, Thanksgiving of 2021 and then finally the current Friday berth.
How similar are the stories?
Terribly. Both movies begin with Maverick (Cruise) engaging in a display of hot-dogging that gets him called on the carpet — but not really, as he’s sent to Top Gun, essentially promoted, by his conclusion. (This time, he will instruct a class of young aviators on a dangerous mission.) The goings on at the Navy’s flying school include dogfights, philosophical conflict, and a love story. Moreover, a devastating loss is followed by a crisis of conscience for the ultimate victory.
The primary conflict of the original film was between Maverick, the arrogant risk taker, and Iceman (Val Kilmer), a pilot who by the book finds breaking Maverick’s rules dangerous. The sequel replicates that dynamic between adrenaline junkie Hangman (Glen Powell) and the more conservative Rooster (Miles Teller), whose propensity to play it safe in the sky is rooted in the untimely death of his father: Maverick’s longtime flight friend Goose (Anthony). Edwards).
Only one actor, apart from Cruise, returns: Val Kilmer’s Iceman, now the commander of the Pacific fleet. Teller didn’t play little Rooster in the original film, but the character was there, bouncing on a bar piano as Maverick and his old man sing and play “Great Balls of Fire”; here Rooster leads a piano sing-along of the same tune, and the director Joseph Kosinski flashes back to that scene (just in case Rooster’s costume, mustache and airmen, identical to Goose’s, aren’t enough to give away) .
And, like the film critic Alison Wilmore noted:Maverick’s love interest, Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly), though not seen in the first film, was mentioned in an early scene.
Who is noticeably absent?
That new love interest means Kelly McGillis, who played the instructor Charlie Blackwood in the original, won’t show up — she’s not even mentioned. Neither is Meg Ryan, whose brief but memorable turn as the widow of Goose was an early career highlight, or Rick Rossovich, who played Iceman’s flight buddy Slider to memorable effect.
Do we hear “Danger Zone”?
Do we ever. The opening minutes are a meticulous iteration of the same piece in “Top Gun”: Harold Faltermeyer’s signature “bong” and synthesizer score accompany the exact same opening lyric that explains what Top Gun is and what it does (with one notable change: it now notices that the school trains a “handful of men” and women‘), before watching planes take off from naval carriers and take to the skies howling as the score gives way to Kenny Loggins’ pulse-pounding hit “Danger Zone.”
The details of the replication are meticulous, approaching the level of Gus Van Sant’s shot-by-shot “Psycho” remake. But it turns out to be a master fake, framing “Maverick” as exactly the kind of empty nostalgia game it turns out to be not to be.
What about “Take My Breath Away”?
Surprisingly, the Berlin love ballad (the soundtrack’s other big hit) is nowhere to be found, although Cruise and Connolly’s love scene initially mimics some compositions of the original scene when it was used. But their foreplay quickly ends for a tasteful close to the afterglow, as Kosinski seems more interested in (gasping) what they have to say to each other than what they want to do to each other.
This is in line with the film’s general approach to romance, replacing the all-physical appeal of the first film with a solid, complicated relationship between two adults who have lived a life and shared a history. But yes, she rides on the back of his Kawasaki and her hair looks great in the wind.
How homoerotic is it?
Hardly, unfortunately. The man-to-man overtones of the original film were so pronounced that they became part of the picture’s lore, articulated by none other than a pop culture expert than Quentin Tarantino (in a cameo appearance in the comedy “Sleep With Me” from 1994). But this one usually plays it straight, so to speak.
OK, but is there at least a beach volleyball scene?
There is a beach american football scene, but it’s relatively chaste – the skin is bare and the muscles are flexed, but it feels like the series is actually about the game they’re playing, and not, you know, other stuff.
How propaganda is it?
The original “Top Gun” was such an effective piece of rah-rah flag-waving that Navy recruiters notoriously placed outside screenings to answer questions from potential Mavericks. The new film isn’t quite as chaotic (although it was remade with the full collaboration of the Department of Defense), with an emphasis on personal over political conflicts. But its central mission, to bomb the “unsanctioned uranium factory” of an unnamed enemy that threatens “our allies in the region,” has some disturbing historical analogies.
Will I like it if I loved the original?
Probably. The culture war propensity may frustrate the film’s inclusivity (aside from the text change in the beginning, the flying crew is more racially and sexually diverse), but “Maverick” ticks all the expected boxes: thrilling action, shades and leather jackets galore, and Cruise at his coolest.
Will I like it if I hate the original?
Speaking as part of this demographic: yes. Cruise and the screenwriters make the conscious (and frankly risky) choice to make Hangman, the character most reminiscent of Maverick in the first film, the most unlikely character in this one. It proves a really thoughtful and effective method of grappling with what “Top Gun” was, what it said and what it represented at that point in history – and in this one.
Audio produced by Tally Abecassis†