Top Gun (1986) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Top Gun (1986)

Top Gun is part machine porn, part music video and all 80’s excess.  Uber-producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer had bigger hits before and after this one, but Top Gun seems to be the perfect example of their films and of 80’s action spectacles in general.

The story is as flimsy as they come, revolving around the best naval pilots competing in a flight school to see who is the “top gun.”  Sprinkle in a love story, a tragic death (Goose RIP) and a couple of cold-war baddies and you have one of the biggest films of the 80s and a movie that will forever be associated with a certain time in our culture. I have only ever seen bits and pieces before and when I sat down to watch it this weekend it was the first time I watched it from beginning to end. After it ended I had a few questions about the movie that I will try to answer now.

Has a movie ever been such a love letter to the armed services before?  This movie could and did become a recruiting video for the Navy.  All the pilots are cool and sexy and look like they are having a blast. Plus the film goes out of its way to say flying very expensive, very fast planes is AWESOME!!!  Yet, the funniest thing I find with the whole presentation is the long shots and montages of seeing planes take off and land. The credits of the film is a long continuous scene of planes from the front taking off, planes from the back landing, planes from above flying, planes from below flying and so on.  Someone in the film, whether it be director Tony Scott, producers Simpson and Bruckheimer or the crew fell in love with these machines and didn’t know when enough was enough in terms of footage of them.

Has Tom Cruise ever been in a movie that is more suited for him than this? My favorite performance by Cruise is in Jerry Maguire but Top Gun is the film that perfectly suits his personality and star power.  It is very evident that Cruise himself is an adrenaline junkie.  He is a man drawn to movies that deal with stuff going fast and crazy stunts or very brash characters.  In Top Gun, Cruise gets to do all these things.  He goes fast, he flies planes, he drives motorcycles and he gets to flash his smile in numerous occasions and just be charming.  I can’t think of a movie that balances his 2 personas better than this film and that is probably why he is most closely associated with this role over any other.

Can Michael Ironside play anything other than a military man? Ironside plays Jester, a flight instructor in this film and it is one of numerous roles of his that consists of him growling out orders and saluting. I think the man has worked his way up the actor military command structure and is now playing high ranking generals.  The only place left for him to go in his fake military career is get into fake politics.  I feel the need to see Ironside play the commander in chief sometime soon.   I would also love to see him play like a wimpy tax accountant or something like that for a change of pace, but maybe that is just me.

Am I the only one who really notices that Iceman makes some good points? Val Kilmer plays Iceman and the movie frames him in a light that he is supposed to be the “bad guy.”  As was popular in the 80’s all villains were cut from the same cloth of being good looking, dull and an equal to the hero.  Yet, can someone tell me what Iceman really does or says that makes him an asshole?  He does a good job as a pilot, doesn’t take risks and is always looking out for him, his team and his country.  He doesn’t like Maverick because he is cocky, reckless and could get someone killed.  Let me ask this, is he wrong with any of this?  Goose, Maverick’s closest friend and partner says the same thing many times through the movie, yet we are supposed to boo and hiss Iceman because he doesn’t like it?  I will agree that his co-pilot seems to be a prick for no good reason, but there is nothing that Iceman does in the film that paints him as a bad guy.  He doesn’t cheat in the competition, he doesn’t steal anyone’s love interest and he isn’t a suck-up.  If you flipped the movie around, made Iceman the central character with the love interest and sad back-story about daddy, Maverick would make a much more believable bad guy for the story.

Am I the only one who wants a book/companion piece that explains how and why everyone got their nicknames? Maverick, Goose, Iceman (we get that one), Cougar, Wolfman, Jester, Viper, Slider, Merlin, Hollywood and many more nicknames are thrown about in this film and they, for the most part are pretty cool. I would love backstories on how they received those nicknames and I also want one.  But I would be afraid that mine would be something closer to Goose (poor Anthony Edwards dies in the film and is saddled with the worst name) than Viper.

Am I the first person to talk about this movie in the past 10 years and not mention the Volleyball scene of the homoerotic subtext of the film? No comments or applause needed, I did it for all of us.

All in all, Top Gun is an empty calorie type of film that did not change the film landscape drastically.  If you want to see Tom Cruise with old 60’s music, smile his famous smile and fly fast planes then this movie is totally serviceable.  If you are looking for a movie that will both entertain and stimulate some thinking or discussion then this is not the movie for you.  I am not at all surprised that this movie was the biggest of 1986 because it is everything that people wanted in movies back then and it came at the perfect time in Cruise’s career.  But for me, it is not one of the decades best or one that I will fondly remember in the years to come.  Maybe the rumored sequel will do more for me, but I seriously doubt it.

Posted by Ryan

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