Top Gun: Maverick

Aggressively Patriotic Yet Shamelessly Nostalgic

Review by Louisa Chen

A sequel that embodies the dated, aggressively patriotic undertones of its original 1986 film, yet, despite this, is still able to hold cultural relevance in our current social and political context.

⚠️ Heads Up! This review contains spoilers for Top Gun (1986) and Top Gun: Maverick (2022).

The Important Themes

It’s been 36 years since Tony Scott’s “Top Gun” was released in 1986 and now, we have been gifted with a sequel directed by Joseph Kosinski titled “Top Gun: Maverick”. The original 1986 film was a shameless endorsement of the aggressively patriotic values of Reaganism in 1980s America, making it a cultural relic of its time. To characterise the film's appeal to patriotism, the US Defence even had booths for signing up to the navy outside the original movie screenings. The sequel addressed these problematic undertones by making playful nods to this aggressive manifestation of patriotism, suggesting we shouldn’t take this film too seriously. Through its simple narrative and messaging, it provided a form of escapism for us as we indulged in some good old-fashioned 1980s sentiments, temporarily allowing us to forget the complexities of modern-day society.

A Nostalgic Return to the Original Film 

“Top Gun: Maverick” was a sequel designed to pull at your heartstrings, with numerous nods to the original 1986 film. The opening scene was practically a frame-by-frame rework of the 1986 original with the same orange-hue shots of American fighter jets and the same synthwave soundtrack playing in the background. Notably, Miles Teller played the character “Rooster” introduced wearing a familiar Hawaiian shirt, while playing the piano and singing Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire”. – clearly a reference to the iconic scene from the original 1986 film that featured Rooster’s father and Maverick’s wingman, Goose, played by Anthony Edwards (see below an iconic Tok of Miles Teller)

@homeschoolertypebeat tom cruise did not disappoint us. definitely one of my favorite movies. go watch it now #topgunmaverick #topgun#milesteller#daddy ♬ Great Balls of Fire - Jerry Lee Lewis

Goose was famously remembered for dying in the first film, traumatising Maverick and leading to his ultimate fall from glory as he attempts to reclaim it. “Top Gun: Maverick” expanded on this narrative by exploring Maverick’s guilt over Goose’s death and how it had negatively impacted his relationship with Rooster, forcing Maverick to come to terms with his past.

The Gun, The Legend, Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise was evidently the main spectacle of this film as he reprised his role as the unorthodox, charming hero, Maverick. Tom Cruise is one of the few movie stars left whose intense dedication to his craft continues to make his blockbuster films enjoyable cinematic experiences. Amongst fans, there is much respect for Cruise and the ensemble cast due to the sheer technical display of the actors performing their roles in genuine U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornets. Cruise’s devotion to realism through his participation and performance in these complex action sequences were incredibly mesmerising to watch. It was clear that through the shots of him cruising down the road on his motorbike, donning the original 1986 bomber jacket with the classic Ray Ban aviators, Cruise still had the star power to pull this role off effortlessly.

Similar to the 1986 film, “Top Gun: Maverick” saw Maverick face off with an “unknown” enemy – knowing Hollywood, we can assume the enemy was Russia – but now, as the leader of a group of Top Gun graduates. He devises an absurd flight plan to bomb a uranium enrichment facility that we can’t be sure is humanly achievable. Despite this, it doesn’t matter in the end. All we need to know is Cruise’s “need for speed” and his imminent success that would allow him to heal past traumas. In fact, the appearance of Val Kilmer as “Iceman” in the film leads to a touching reunion between these two former rivals, enabling Maverick to confront his past and move on, which was deeply satisfying to watch.

Overall Thoughts

“Top Gun: Maverick” was a sequel that deeply respected its source material with the enjoyable homage to the 1986 film, making it stand out amongst the numerous forgettable blockbuster sequels released each year. Sure, the plot trajectory was fairly predictable and cheesy at times, but the nostalgic value it offered enhanced its appeal. Nonetheless, it’s a film worth viewing in cinema due to the sheer exhilaration of its action sequences and the spectacle it provides.

Blitz Editor

Anandi Ganguly

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