Yeah, that’s right. Top Gun is a classic.
The problem with talking stunt something that everyone has seen is that everyone has seen it and everyone already has an opinion, and Top Gun is certainly a polarizing film among my circle of friends. In case you hadn’t already guessed though: I love it.
In case you haven’t seen it Top Gun follows Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a US Navy fighter pilot as he competes to be the best of the best at what he does at Top Gun, the navy’s elite fighter wining school. He shows up cocky, gets beaten, endures some loss, falls in love, and in the end is the hero. When you lay it out on paper it’s a fairly straightforward formula action movie. It’s that way on screen as well.
That is to say that the movie is pretty shallow, especially by today’s standards, but it does make a cursory effort to be more than the shallow testosterone fest it seems to be. Two thirds of the way into the film when a beloved supporting character dies it shows the main character reeling and vulnerable from survivors guilt and regret. If it breaks from the mold at all it’s that in the age of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone churning out movies like Predator, First Blood, and Commando it dared to actually show it’s hero mourning instead of just shedding a single tear before throwing his head back and screaming at the heavens, invoking super human power to overcome the ridiculous odds he’s about to face.
Yes, I’m saying that the hero of Top Gun is in fact human whereas most 80s heroes were not.
Tom Cruise was 24 in 1986, he’s hardly at best form here, but he’s better than the movie needs him to be, especially when it comes to the switching back and forth between the ultra cocky public persona that Maverick cultivates and the unsure private persona you see when it’s just him and Goose, his best friend.
But then there is the rest of the movie. A movie with awesome exciting dog fighting, with dude-bro alpha male rivalry, with 24 year old Tom Cruise falling in love with 29 year old and taller than him Kelly McGillis, with a zillion catch phrases and and awesome high five/low five when the main characters score a point in volleyball. And yes, the volleyball features men oiled up and playing in the sand.
There’s a lot of people in this world that will tell you Top Gun is shallow. That it’s thinly veiled homoeroticism. That it’s stupid. They aren’t wrong (well, they are wrong about the homoeroticism, the intended audience for that was the girl friends of all the dude-bros that went to see it), but none of that matters. At the end of the day it’s well executed and fun.
Recently I had the chance to see it in 3D IMAX in the lead up to its Blu-Ray re-release and it holds up pretty well. There’s something to be said for the shared movie experience, when everyone in the theatre is there and completely into the movie. Only a few times have I truly experienced this, but it’s amazing. The 3D, well, I could write a whole other article on 3D but it was OK, but blown up to IMAX proportions the film was amazing.
And all this is fueled by Kenny Loggins 80s pop rock anthems.
So is the whole thing cheesy? Yes. Shallow? Absolutely. Fun? Beyond a shadow of a doubt. If you’re one of the few people who hasn’t seen Top Gun, or more likely someone who hasn’t seen it in years, now is the time. Grab the Blu-Ray (or go to a screening if they are still happening near you), have a few beers, crank the sound and take highway to the danger zone.
Yeah, I went there.