• Ryan ANTIART

Against All Odds, Top Gun: Maverick Fucking Rocks

Updated: Jun 28

Film Grade: C-

Movie Grade: FUCK YEAH

CAUTION: SPOILER DANGER ZONE


The past five years of cinema have marked the twilight of the modern action hero. Last year, James Bond got bombed to bits in the nearly perfect No Time To Die (ironic title), Special Agent Dale Cooper was reduced to a mute for the majority of Twin Peaks: The Return and Iron Man sacrificed himself for the greater good. The era of cis male bravado is coming to a close, and with a bang. Perhaps the last living vestige of the action-figure-as-man archetype is Tom Cruise, an actor who is carrying this dying genre on his back. Like Neil Armstrong pushing over and over again to get sent into orbit, Cruise is still continuing to sacrifice everything for his job by doing his own stunts and standing up for realistic action in 2022. Whether it be his infamous COVID rant, breaking his ankle on set in 2018, or his heading of MGM’s United Artists wing, he has made it abundantly clear that it’s his way or no way. Despite how clowned he is due to his ties to Scientology, his short stature or all those deepfakes of him doing absurd shit, Cruise’s genuine pursuit of keeping blockbusters practical is extremely admirable.


This may come across as crazy considering how iconic it is, but I still have never seen the original Top Gun. A brief synopsis by my father right before the screening made all the references to the original more clear, as did the very obnoxious flashback and parallel scenes throughout this new sequel. From what I understand, Maverick (played by Cruise) is a bit of a rebellious bastard who climbs his way up the ranks of the Navy’s F-14 program. He fucks on base, plays some homoerotic volleyball with his boys, and at one point his wingman/best bud Goose (played by Anthony Edwards) gets killed during an ejection sequence (which is Maverick’s fault perhaps?) Iceman, played by Val Kilmer, is the cocky hothead archetype who opposes Maverick and proves to be lesser than him despite eventually outranking him.


The first act of the Top Gun 2 plays out like those unofficial Lethal Weapon sequels from It’s Always Sunny. We get the same fonts, heatwave ‘80s nostalgia and same opening music with Kenny Loggins and Giorgio Moroder’s “Danger Zone” and as well as the fiery “Top Gun Anthem”. It feels like pure fan service to the point of self-parody. The dialogue is a bit awkward, Maverick is wearing the same jacket and riding the same motorcycle, and yes, he’s still being a little bastard, bucking orders within the first 10 minutes. From a critical perspective, it’s sloppy, jarring and downright stupid at points. As the film progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that this is literally military propaganda too (there was even an Air Force ad right before the film). As someone who has made it my mission to pick apart art and assign value to it, I innately look for flaws and see many in this movie. However, as the credits rolled, my response was automatic. This movie fucking rocks.


If you want to watch a “film”, go see The Northman or some arthouse flick at Angelika or something. Nothing is wrong with a winding, thinking person’s film like last year’s Drive My Car, but that made me face harsh realities like child pneumonia death and spousal cuckolding. The realism of Top Gun: Maverick lies strictly in the detailed flight physics, use of real fighter jets, and the hammering home of the logistics pertaining to the climatic bombing mission. The anatomy of the world is set up so the skin can be as unrealistic as possible. In the first scene, Maverick essentially steals a state-of-the-art jet, pushes it way past its limits, explodes, and somehow walks out unharmed looking like Wile E Coyote post-TNT mishap. He puts the lives of the flight trainees at risk multiple times (ok, kind of realistic) while vouching for their humanity and individuality throughout (unrealistic). The film is chock full of Deus ex machinas, “because, movie!” conveniences, and probably enough plot holes to make Cinema Sins bust in their pants (fuck them btw). Yet, these are not complaints. As a matter of fact, my brother made an excellent point in saying the entire thing feels like a ‘90s movie. I think what’s so special here is that Tom Cruise, the director Joseph Kosinski and all parties involved are able to capture that old school cartoon logic and fun without totally relying on nostalgia. Again, some of the flashback sequences really do push the limits in that regard, but never enough that it ruins the new elements brought to the table.


Stacking this against anything but other multi-million dollar dumb action movies is a fool’s errand, but head-to-head with literally any Marvel movie there is not even any competition. Even though this is not a new IP, at the very least it’s not a fucking bland world-building CGI snoozer like Shang-Chi, Avengers: Endgame, or Eternals. While films like those make my eyes glaze over and my brain rot, Top Gun: Maverick kept my attention from start to finish. Are the soft reboot tropes glaring? Absolutely. Do those shredding ‘80s solos still hit? ABSOLUTELY. IT FUCKING ROCKS PUSSY. Suspend your disbelief and this will be one of the best cinematic experiences you will have in 2022, especially in the company of people you care about. To come full circle with my original point, the dawn of the traditional action hero is upon us, but Top Gun: Maverick bluntly asks “why?” And my only real response to that is: “yeah, why?”


(Some spare complaints: the “sex scene” with Maverick and love interest Penney was laughable. Hangman was the obvious choice over Goose’s son (played by Miles Teller). At least one of the new pilots (or Maverick) should’ve probably died to add a bit of gravity to it all. Some of the music choices were kind of trash.)