Why we’re lining up for Top Gun: Maverick this summer

I was in no rush to see the sequel to a 36 year old film that was an old favorite of mine. And for the same reasons I wasn’t looking forward to seeing other sequels to American pop classics: Think Jaws: The revenge, Little fockers or Wall Street: Money never sleeps. That’s because movie sequels are generally uninspired commercial ventures and generally go down badly with both studios and fans.

I thought I would wait Top Gun: Maverick making its way into the streaming world and watching it from the comfort of your home. But soon the reviews from friends started pouring in. They kept telling me the film wasn’t just good, it was very good. That it was full of real emotion and excitement. That it was an old-fashioned, crowd-pleasing blockbuster. Some friends told me it was better than the original, something I hadn’t heard about a sequel since Francis Ford Coppola The Godfather Part II.

So we queued – and are still queuing – to see Top Gun: Maverick. Because week after week our friends tell us we need to see the movie. And that’s the best thing ad money can’t buy.

Also, my friends pushed me to do something I hadn’t done in a long time—watch the movie in a theater. You know, those relics in malls and cities across America where people gather in the dark, overpriced popcorn and soda in hand, and watch the magic happen. Huge screens can’t fit our homes and no home theater can replicate them with sound systems. Watch after Top Gun: Maverick on my couch would have been a sad substitute for the original.

That’s why we keep queuing Top Gun: Maverick. Because Americans miss going to the movies. And don’t miss out on summer blockbusters that don’t feature robots or cartoon characters.

Tom Cruise at "Top Gun: Maverick" premiere
Tom Cruise attends the Royal Film Performance “Top Gun: Maverick” in London’s Leicester Square on May 19th.
Photo by Neil Mockford/FilmMagic

We stand in line for Top Gun: Maverick because the film is an uncompromising celebration of a certain kind of masculinity that Americans still crave and love. The characters, especially the young ones, are not stupid or weak men who put off adult responsibilities forever. They’re not dark or cynical men, or worse, the kind of men Hollywood seems to have had a crush on for the past decade or two: men who seem lost in their own lives, goofy and not particularly competent or serious men who are dominated by their more accomplished wives. They were competent, competitive male characters on screen, characters willing to give themselves – and even risk their lives – in service to a country they loved.

None of the men in the film agreed when asked to volunteer for a mission with a high probability of casualties. And nobody knelt when they saw an American flag, not the white or black naval aviators. These men were too busy fighting for the ideals that our flag represents. The women, too, were strong and competent, and equally drawn to the ethos of military life. They too were warriors with warrior hearts.

That’s why we line up Top Gun: Maverick. Because Americans love our men and women in uniform. And we love strong, courageous men and women. We have a lot of both in this film.

We line up Top Gun: Maverick because the American military was not the bad guy in this film, but the good guy. And the good guy trying to destroy a nuclear site in a far, nasty place – probably Russia, but it could just as easily have been Iran. The implication, of course, was clear: some countries should have nuclear capabilities and others should not.

We line up Top Gun: Maverick because we love standing up for the underdogs and despise the soul-crushing nature of bureaucracies of all kinds. The film opens with Tom Cruise’s character Pete Mitchell, 35 years into his career, working on the fringes of military aviation. His career as a captain has stalled because clinging to his superiors to climb the military chain of command is not his gift. There’s no political bone in Maverick’s body and we love him for it. He is always fully committed to the mission. And his team.

In an early scene, he is challenged by one of his superiors, an admiral played by Ed Harris, who takes great pleasure in letting Maverick know that flyboys like him are a creature of the past because sophisticated drone technology makes them obsolete. But it turns out that there is no drone technology for the mission at hand. It takes real pilots to take out a real nuclear site. In steps Maverick and his flyboys and flygirls to fill the gap.

We line up Top Gun: Maverick because there is no waking moment in the film. There are no messages about inclusion, privilege, white supremacy, or gender fluidity. The men are men and the women are women in the film, and the only romantic relationship in the film between Cruise and his lover Jennifer Connelly is electrifying. When the two finally get together, there are no sex scenes. The film spares us this outrage.

The other love on display is the brotherly and sisterly diversity, the kind of intense bonding that close-knit groups experience under pressure. The friendly experience of police officers, firefighters, sports teams and doctors and nurses in the emergency room.

Finally, let’s line up Top Gun: Maverick for the great adrenaline pumping action sequences, from the dazzling low-altitude scenes to the dogfights.

Some of the most technologically sophisticated aircraft ever made, manufactured by major American companies, are also on impressive display. Aircraft like Boeing’s F/A-18E and 18F Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II. A well-known fact in the military aviation world, but less well known in the civilian world, is how dominant our military aircraft and pilots actually are: Since the 15 war. That means when our soldiers on the ground hear the sound of a supersonic aircraft overhead, they know it’s one of us. Which is no small thing in war. And peace.

We line up too Top Gun: Maverick because of the stars. The aforementioned Ed Harris, John Hamm, Val Kilmer (he appears in a brief scene that made the entire theater cry) and Cruise himself, who with this performance proves that 60 isn’t the new 50, it’s the new 35 The man doesn’t just age well. He doesn’t seem to be aging at all.

The last weekend, Top Gun: Maverick fought with elvis to top-grossing over $30 million in its fifth weekend, an unheard-of number for a film. The film’s domestic total has surpassed $500 million and surpassed $1 billion on the global market, proving that the international community also loves a good, old-fashioned, patriotic American blockbuster.

Everyone who works at Netflix, Disney, Hulu, and the Hollywood studios should be tasked with watching — and studying — this film that Americans are still lining up for. With any luck, they may understand what the American public is looking for in entertainment.

And what we long for.

https://www.newsweek.com/why-were-lining-top-gun-maverick-this-summer-1719534 Why we’re lining up for Top Gun: Maverick this summer

Rick Schindler

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