After 30 years from the original and two years of COVID-19 delays, Top Gun: Maverick finally released to theaters to much deserved fanfare. The sheer hype surrounding the film should be enough to revive the theater industry, not to mention its record breaking $153 million opening weekend American haul (Almost double its analyst projected $80 million goal).
But does it fulfill the viewer’s need for speed? The Conservative Critic asks: is it entertaining? Does it have artistic/intellectual value? And is it liberal propaganda?
The Conservative Critic Meter Check: Top Gun: Maverick
Overall Rating: Full speed amazing
Top Gun: Maverick (Maverick) has a lot to live up to. Its original film the 1986, Top Gun is a certified classic and on top of that, the movie has been anticipated to release for more than two years. So the build up has been really extraordinary.
As always, Maverick delivers. It is a pitch perfect sequel that manages to combine nostalgia with something fresh. Rather than outright stealing plot lines and repeating famous lines from the original as many long-term sequels tend to do, Maverick creates the same energy as Top Gun and repeats scenarios from the first film without directly copying. Tom Cruise brings everything we love and more to Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell including a healthy dose of realistic maturity which would naturally come to a military man of his caliber and experience. The new cast has brilliant chemistry with not a single weak link.
The cinematography is not only innovative, but beautiful. Actors forced into high G scenarios flying – for real – in military aircraft creates a stunning, exciting and realistic (because it’s real) film going experience and was truly a genius way to help the film live up to its predecessor.
Film’s with the level of craftsmanship in Maverick do not often come with the cheese and feel-good of a 1980s American Military Hero flick. What the film achieved is a once in a 100 years bullseye that so easily could have fallen apart.
Is it entertaining?
Rating: Great balls of fire it was fun!
Even with the significant character, technical and situational plot development, there is only fun all the time in Maverick. The film kicks off with footage from a Naval carrier, introduces new planes, old planes, and great music. Viewers are treated to the same sort of harmlessly irreverent wise-talking Naval aviators as the original but with all new call signs and hang-ups. Maverick sucks us into the idealized culture of elite fliers and the American armed services. Its young, beautiful people with a set of impressive skills and the egos to go with them plus older, wiser and also beautiful people here to take them down a peg or two.
But of course the main feature, the funnest of the fun, is the flying. From drills to illicit runs to a high stakes enemy scenario the flying is quite simply the coolest. There is nothing boring about Maverick so expect to be very engaged at the theaters.
Does it have artistic/intellectual value?
Rating: Writing checks their film COULD cash
Maverick made sure it would be good and spared no expense. The filming took place at the real Top Gun location which is actually Fallon, Nevada not San Diego as the film would have you believe. Fallon is a very special place with unique landscapes. Anyone from Northern Nevada or familiar with the area will recognize it in every scene with a flying sequence. Real life Naval airmen flew the actors around in jets (don’t worry the taxpayers were compensated – there is a whole branch of the military dedicated to movie activities) and the reactions audiences saw of the actors pulling high Gs were actually real. The used new camera technology that would function appropriately with high def capabilities up in the air pulling major G force. So all of the beautiful flight sequences were filmed practically by our nation’s finest, it was not CGI. I personally am a sucker for practical cinematography and while CGI has an important place in modern film, it can really take away from the art form (like play review in baseball).
Beyond the unmatchable cinematography, the plot was very well constructed. Playing on old heart strings and bringing in some new ones, the story was written to capture all the irrational angst of the young and the long term hang ups of the older. It had a lot of levels including plenty of self-awareness and humor.
The cast was great. Tom Cruise literally is Top Gun and he carried Maverick on his shoulders as he should and he did it very well. But the new flyers included Miles Teller (Whiplash) as call sign “Rooster,” Glen Powell (Hidden Figures) as call sign “Hangman,” and Monica Barbaro (relative newcomer) as call sign “Phoenix” as well as the rest of the supporting cast were extremely dynamic. They all had an uncanny ability to steal their scenes but never fight for the spotlight. Jennifer Connelly (Labyrinth) and John Hamm (Mad Men) as two new adults in the room were perfect additions and it was a treat to see the iconic Val Kilmer reprise his role as “Ice Man.”
A truly well thought, and well done film worthy of all the accolades it’s already getting.
Is it liberal propaganda?
Rating: Mostly just defense spending propaganda
The film doesn’t seem to have a particular party bend but it’s definitely propaganda…it’s actually officially literal propaganda. The military has a branch run by civilians which is dedicated to working with filmmakers and works all the logistics necessary to make Hollywood depictions of the American military happen (that’s a simplification but essentially). In order to get all the cool things that Maverick had like real planes, filming on base, using real airmen, the film has to be signed off on by the American military and the military coordinates the publicity alongside the studio.
So at opening events across the country, for example, Navy recruiters set up shows and signed folks up after they got out of the films. Every screening included advertisements for recruitment for both the Navy and the Airforce. After the first Top Gun, Naval recruitment was said to have jumped 500% the summer of release.
Additionally, the film had several easter eggs that an untrained ear wouldn’t know to be lobbyist propaganda from the Defense Department. On a few occasions, the characters would say things about the U.S. military not having the top equipment and technology like we used to. They’d imply that enemies have a generation of fighter planes that the U.S. does not have yet. The truth to this is complicated (sometimes new isn’t better for example and also if a defense contractor simply keeps inventing new planes obviously there will always be a new one) but it is a line often repeated by the leaders at the Pentagon when budget season comes up. What is more motivating to Congress to give the Pentagon more money for more planes than a high flying adventure about being behind on war technology?
Overall the film promoted a rather patriotic idea of the military industrial complex and I suppose that’s fine by me.
Top Gun: Maverick really couldn’t have been much better and you should definitely get to theaters (or even Imax) to see it.