“Top Gun: Maverick,” A Movie Review

 

No major spoilers below. 

Just saw “Top Gun: Maverick.” In 2D.

No spoilers. Well, maybe a tiny one. And one big unanswered question.

Five stars. A must-see. A clear candidate for the Oscars.

Tom Cruise has traded his F-14 Tomcat from the first movie some 36 years ago for an F/A-18 Hornet. But an F-14 makes an implausible if timely reappearance toward the end. Again, no spoilers.

The storyline is terrific, even somewhat realistic, and all the actors were excellent. Good scripting. Multiple climactic scenes, all good. Well paced. There’s nothing to dislike. Those concerned about diversity and inclusion should be satisfied (although they never are, really), at least on racial and gender grounds. They shield who the “bad guys” are – not very identifiable, but the “mission” is kind of a dead giveaway. It doesn’t matter here. Lots of allegoric references to the first movie, from the plotline to many of the lines and scenes.

In the opening previews, the Air Force has a commercial. Smart! We have both military and passenger aircraft pilot shortages. The first movie inspired careers. I hope this one does as well. And dare I say it, it inspires more investment to keep up with the “bad guys” and take out their newest “toys.” My friends at Boeing, Lockheed, and Raytheon will like that. It also takes a few swipes at those in the military who think real pilots and human engagement are a dying breed, in favor of “pilotless” aircraft (think drones) and artificial intelligence. I sense a channeling of Captain Kirk and Star Trek.

I do have two questions. The F/A-18 used in the movie was a two-person crew, a pilot, a weapons expert as well a second pair of eyes (not unlike Apache helicopters). And do the bad guys really have “fifth-generation” fighters? I really don’t think so, although they are clearly closing in.

I want to know what happens to a couple of second-seat crew members towards the end of the movie. If you’ve seen it, you should know what I’m talking about.

My spouse, a Kenny Loggins groupie, was happy that Kenny Loggins’ title song from the first movie (Danger Zone) was reprised. But she was Not Happy that he didn’t make the credits until the Very End. Lady Gaga sings the closing song. It is forgettable. And that’s all I have to say about that. Go see it. I’ll see it again in IMax, 4X, or whatever they call it. But 2D works very well. There’s a good reason it will probably gross $150 million this weekend, if not more.

We older guys like this a lot. I’ll end it there.

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  1. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Only one was  a two seater. 

    • #1
  2. Bunsen Coolidge
    Bunsen
    @Bunsen

    Took Mrs. Bunsen and our Butler Bulldog to see it today.  I am still buzzing!  I stood up and clapped and yelled as the credits rolled (did not hear Gaga at all).  Couple of questions but nothing that took away from the awesomeness that is Top Gun.  Definitely going again several times.

    Local critic gave it 2.5 stars, he is a loser.  Seriously, Miles Teller and Jennifer Connelly (also in Only The Brave together) are excellent with Cruise whose Mav has grown in the only way that Mav can grow.  I really felt like we jumped right back into the Top Gun universe 30 years later.  Script did a great job giving enough back story without unnecessary filler.  

    Must see multiple times!!

     

    • #2
  3. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Kelly D Johnston: The F/A-18 used in the movie was a two-person crew, a pilot, a weapons expert as well a second pair of eyes (not unlike Apache helicopters).

    The point was the F/A-18 flew in pairs.

    Each pair was led by a single-seat F/A-18E, followed by a two-seat F/A-18F. The rear seater in the trailing aircraft used a laser designator pod to illuminate the ground target to guide in a bomb dropped by its lead aircraft.

    The need to use laser designators was the movie’s justification for not using F-35. In reality, the problem was the Navy not allowing high resolution filming of the F-35.

    • #3
  4. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Kelly D Johnston: And do the bad guys really have “fifth-generation” fighters?

    The aircraft used appeared to be based on the Su-57. Russia has not yet exported it.

    https://www.flightglobal.com/fixed-wing/russia-teases-foreign-interest-in-su-57e-stealth-fighter-but-potential-buyers-are-elusive/144668.article

    China has the smaller J-31 in the pre-sale stage:

    https://www.janes.com/defence-news/news-detail/china-to-promote-fc-31-for-export

    Both are flying with 4th generation engines while awaiting the 5th generation engines for actual mass production.

     

     

    • #4
  5. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    Kelly D Johnston: But an F-14 makes an implausible if timely reappearance toward the end.

    The Iranians? They’re the only ones still flying them.  It’s why there aren’t any in DM’s Boneyard, so parts don’t find their way over there. Just a few on display at museums. 

    Kelly D Johnston: And do the bad guys really have “fifth-generation” fighters? I really don’t think so, although they are clearly closing in.

    It’s sometimes assessed to be fourth plus. Not all the parts to be considered fifth gen, but some features beyond fourth. 

    • #5
  6. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    Kelly D Johnston: But an F-14 makes an implausible if timely reappearance toward the end.

    The Iranians? They’re the only ones still flying them. It’s why there aren’t any in DM’s Boneyard, so parts don’t find their way over there. Just a few on display at museums.

    Kelly D Johnston: And do the bad guys really have “fifth-generation” fighters? I really don’t think so, although they are clearly closing in.

    It’s sometimes assessed to be fourth plus. Not all the parts to be considered fifth gen, but some features beyond fourth.

    The irony is that a big hokey part of the first film was the use of the T-38 (F-5) as the Soviet “Mig-28”. But, Iran has lots of F-5 including some home-made variants.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HESA_Kowsar

    Thus, the T-38 from the first film would have been useful here.

    • #6
  7. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    I can’t remember from the original movie how ‘Maverick’ got his handle, but here’s a piece from the late F-18 pilot Carroll LeFon, who blogged as Neptunus Lex, on how naval aviators really get their call signs.

    • #7
  8. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    It’s the most Hollywood movie I’ve seen in years. The archetypes, the character arcs, the beats – it’s like a textbook.  And it all works, because those movie rules were there for a reason. I haven’t had a theater experience like that since Star Wars, which was completely different because Han showed up before Maverick used the force and bombed the exhaust vent.

    The entire movie is a rebuke to CGI, too. There’s some make-believe computer stuff – there had to be – but the amount of practical effects and in-cockpit footage is what makes it work. You have to admire Cruise, for all his peculiarities – the guy is committed to making something work, and it shows. I think I’ve liked every movie he’s done in the last ten years.

    Anyway,  10/10. More of this, less capes-and-powers and Dark Gritty Reboots. 

     

    • #8
  9. Marjorie Reynolds Coolidge
    Marjorie Reynolds
    @MarjorieReynolds

    I saw it Friday night too. I had intended seeing Downtown Abbey with my friends, but we got the time wrong so Top Gun was our only option. I wasn’t going to watch it but they persuaded me to stay. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. I didn’t even like the first Top Gun much but I was getting all nostalgic for it watching this one. 
    About their bombing mission, doesn’t Don Draper say it’s Iran at some point? I watched the Critical Drinker review afterwards and he seemed to think it was unnamed but meant to hint at Russia. 
    Also, is Lady Gaga one of the most over rated performers of all time? All I could make out was this bullock like bellowing as everyone made for the exit.

     

    • #9
  10. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Bunsen (View Comment):

    Took Mrs. Bunsen and our Butler Bulldog to see it today. I am still buzzing! I stood up and clapped and yelled as the credits rolled (did not hear Gaga at all). Couple of questions but nothing that took away from the awesomeness that is Top Gun. Definitely going again several times.

    Local critic gave it 2.5 stars, he is a loser. Seriously, Miles Teller and Jennifer Connelly (also in Only The Brave together) are excellent with Cruise whose Mav has grown in the only way that Mav can grow. I really felt like we jumped right back into the Top Gun universe 30 years later. Script did a great job giving enough back story without unnecessary filler.

    Must see multiple times!!

     

    Butler? Like Indianapolis? Bunsen, I’m from Monpelier, up near Fort Wayne and attended Wabash and IU. My brother went to Butler. 

    • #10
  11. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    I saw the trailer.  I haven’t been this pumped up to see a movie in years . . .

    • #11
  12. Kelly D Johnston Coolidge
    Kelly D Johnston
    @SoupGuy

    My post has one glaring omission – the failure to mention Val Kilmer’s terrific cameo as an Admiral dying from throat cancer. Kilmer, of course, played Cruise’s nemesis (until the end) in the first Top Gun movie. In real life, Kilmer has battled throat cancer through multiple surgeries, including a tracheotomy. It makes the scene not only remarkably realistic, but inspirational.

     

    https://nypost.com/2021/08/25/val-kilmer-gets-candid-about-surviving-throat-cancer/

     

    • #12
  13. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Marjorie Reynolds (View Comment):
    About their bombing mission, doesn’t Don Draper say it’s Iran at some point? I watched the Critical Drinker review afterwards and he seemed to think it was unnamed but meant to hint at Russia.

    A strange Iran-Norway hybrid.

    When the first trailer with an F-14 came out, I assumed a plot point was Maverick stealing an Iranian F-14. Notoriously, Iran was the only operator of F-14 other than the USN and all US F-14 are destroyed except for non-flying museum airframes.

    When the spy shots of a museum* F-14 being filmed in the arrestor net on the carrier bearing the strange markings came out, I started to call the country “not-Iran”.

    The movie refers to the operation as being run by the mythical “Nordic Command”. The unnamed “fifth generation fighter” that not-Iran is clearly a Russian Su-57**.

    Clearly not Russia because Russia could never have been an operator of a post-WW2 US aircraft let alone an F-14 (other than the one Iran gave them, but that’s another story).

    *Note we have a production agreement between the producers and US government:

    https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21111568-foia-20-f-0552-release

    **There has to be a backstory. That aircraft was CGI. They could have used a more fictional design. The Su-57 is quite distinctive. They could have made something that looked more generic like a morphing of an F-22 and a Chinese J-31. Was there a product placement or other license deal with the Russian maker of the Su-57? Did recent sanctions cause a change (e.g., was the Su-57 specifically identified in the original cut and the identification got edited out)? 

    • #13
  14. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    ctlaw (View Comment):

    Kelly D Johnston: The F/A-18 used in the movie was a two-person crew, a pilot, a weapons expert as well a second pair of eyes (not unlike Apache helicopters).

    The point was the F/A-18 flew in pairs.

    Each pair was led by a single-seat F/A-18E, followed by a two-seat F/A-18F. The rear seater in the trailing aircraft used a laser designator pod to illuminate the ground target to guide in a bomb dropped by its lead aircraft.

    The need to use laser designators was the movie’s justification for not using F-35. In reality, the problem was the Navy not allowing high resolution filming of the F-35.

    The real, real reason to use the two-seater trainer was to get videos of the movie actors in the fighters during live flight.

    • #14
  15. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    David Foster (View Comment):

    I can’t remember from the original movie how ‘Maverick’ got his handle, but here’s a piece from the late F-18 pilot Carroll LeFon, who blogged as Neptunus Lex, on how naval aviators really get their call signs.

    My husband was called Fish, based on last name. I was Red, based on hair color. A friend in my husband’s squadron was Hook because the tail hook of his F4 dropped when he taxied onto the runway in his F4. There are all sorts of triggers that lead to a callsign. Some are boring but many are interesting.

    • #15
  16. Bunsen Coolidge
    Bunsen
    @Bunsen

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Bunsen (View Comment):

    Took Mrs. Bunsen and our Butler Bulldog to see it today. I am still buzzing! I stood up and clapped and yelled as the credits rolled (did not hear Gaga at all). Couple of questions but nothing that took away from the awesomeness that is Top Gun. Definitely going again several times.

    Local critic gave it 2.5 stars, he is a loser. Seriously, Miles Teller and Jennifer Connelly (also in Only The Brave together) are excellent with Cruise whose Mav has grown in the only way that Mav can grow. I really felt like we jumped right back into the Top Gun universe 30 years later. Script did a great job giving enough back story without unnecessary filler.

    Must see multiple times!!

     

    Butler? Like Indianapolis? Bunsen, I’m from Monpelier, up near Fort Wayne and attended Wabash and IU. My brother went to Butler.

    Like Hinkle, yes!  I have friends who went to Wabash and IU.  Personally I went to THE Miami University (Redskins Forever!) and know Indiana fairly well.  Spent 3 summers at Culver Military Academy (Black Horse Troop).  

    My daughter loves Butler and I would not be adverse to my son getting a baseball scholarship there.

     

    • #16
  17. J Climacus Member
    J Climacus
    @JClimacus

    *** SPOILER ALERT ***

    Sorry, but there is no way I can make this point without a spoiler. I saw the movie this past weekend in IMAX and thoroughly enjoyed it.

    But something struck me as obvious: This film rips off a lot from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. You’ve got the young talented pilot (Rooster), with some issues, and haunted by a dead father figure (in this case, a real father).  He’s got to amp up his fighter pilot skills pronto to take on an existential threat, under the tutelage of a mentor (Mav) who is skeptical of his abilities. The climax of the film is a highly dangerous attack through a valley, dodging AA emplacements, ending with a nigh-on impossible shot at a small opening that is the one and only weakness of a world-changing weapons system.  Where have I seen this before? And our hero thinks too much, according to Mav (or is it Obi Wan?) and is urged by his mentor to feel, not think.  The only thing missing was Mav saying “Use the Force, Rooster.”  Oh, and we have Phoenix and Payback joining the attack instead of Porkins. Even the faceless villians in the enemy planes look exactly like Darth Vader in his TIE fighter.

    That said, it was a thrilling ride and they did a helluva job making a sequel.

    EDIT: I see above Lileks picked up on the Star Wars influence.

    • #17
  18. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Red Herring (View Comment):

    David Foster (View Comment):

    I can’t remember from the original movie how ‘Maverick’ got his handle, but here’s a piece from the late F-18 pilot Carroll LeFon, who blogged as Neptunus Lex, on how naval aviators really get their call signs.

    My husband was called Fish, based on last name. I was Red, based on hair color. A friend in my husband’s squadron was Hook because the tail hook of his F4 dropped when he taxied onto the runway in his F4. There are all sorts of triggers that lead to a callsign. Some are boring but many are interesting.

    On the sub, we didn’t have call signs, but we did have nicknames.  I was R-Squared, and we had other crewmembers like Secret Agent OOK, Bottom Feeder, Z-Man, Hapless, Pop ‘Em, and several others I can’t print due to the CoC . . .

    • #18
  19. The Great Adventure Coolidge
    The Great Adventure
    @TGA

    I really detest Tom Cruise.  But I can’t honestly think of anyone else in that role.  It was the original Top Gun, updated to more current times.  And it was FANTASTIC!  It must be seen on the big screen.

    • #19
  20. Foghorn Coolidge
    Foghorn
    @Dave Rogers

    The original was ok but being that my last sea duty assignment was a carrier I really wasn’t a big fan. It did have some memorable music though.

    Maybe because I’ve been retired from active duty for over 20 years now it’s coloring my opinion but I really liked this one. 

    Ok movie & memorable music to great movie and forgettable music. I’ll take the trade. 

    Funny too that Maverick gets the same line that I was given shortly before I retired. You’re a fossil, your kind is extinct.

    • #20
  21. Foghorn Coolidge
    Foghorn
    @Dave Rogers

    The Great Adventure (View Comment):

    I really detest Tom Cruise. But I can’t honestly think of anyone else in that role. It was the original Top Gun, updated to more current times. And it was FANTASTIC! It must be seen on the big screen.

    Couldn’t agree more. Definitely not a Tom Cruise fan but he really was good in this one. 

    • #21
  22. The Great Adventure Coolidge
    The Great Adventure
    @TGA

    Foghorn (View Comment):

    The original was ok but being that my last sea duty assignment was a carrier I really wasn’t a big fan. It did have some memorable music though.

    Maybe because I’ve been retired from active duty for over 20 years now it’s coloring my opinion but I really liked this one.

    Ok movie & memorable music to great movie and forgettable music. I’ll take the trade.

    Funny too that Maverick gets the same line that I was given shortly before I retired. You’re a fossil, your kind is extinct.

    At least 70% of the music was the same as the original!

    • #22
  23. Nathanael Ferguson Contributor
    Nathanael Ferguson
    @NathanaelFerguson

    I was a kid when Top Gun was released. I loved everything about it. Top Gun: Maverick is everything I hoped it would be. If I must have a quibble, I would say that the music (the new music) is underwhelming. The original soundtrack was epic. Maverick could have been improved simply by using only music from the first film. It’s only a minor quibble if it can be called a quibble at all. 

    • #23
  24. Gary Robbins Member
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    A truly great movie.

    • #24
  25. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    Haven’t seen it yet but not sure what to expect from my husband. Might wait until theaters are empty so we don’t get kicked out if he starts critiquing the flying scenes if lots of people are in the theater. 

    • #25
  26. The Cynthonian Member
    The Cynthonian
    @TheCynthonian

    Saw it yesterday and really enjoyed it.

    My additional quibble is the opening plot line where Mav is working on an aircraft development program that will reach Mach 10.   Having been exposed to military development programs during my career, the test pilot(s) doesn’t run them.   Their role is to execute scripts written by the engineering and test functions.  And they’re VERY scripted.

    • #26
  27. The Cynthonian Member
    The Cynthonian
    @TheCynthonian

    Quibbles and trivia:

    1.  In 1986, the state of CA didn’t yet have a mandatory motorcycle helmet law.  It passed in 1992.  Thus, in the current movie, Mav and Penny are violating this law.   Shocking, I know.
    2. In the 1986 movie, Goose’s son (seen sitting on the piano in one scene) looks to be around 3-4 years old.   In the current version, set 35 years later, that boy would be nearing 40 years old.   Not only would he not still be flying F-18s (neither would Mav), but the actor playing him looks too young.  
    3. Trivia:  part of the movie was filmed in Washington state, with the snowy Cascade Mountains standing in for the never-named enemy locale. https://www.kuow.org/stories/highway-to-the-danger-zone-passes-through-the-pnw.   Nice story about it.
    • #27
  28. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    The Cynthonian (View Comment):

    Quibbles and trivia:

    1. In 1986, the state of CA didn’t yet have a mandatory motorcycle helmet law. It passed in 1992. Thus, in the current movie, Mav and Penny are violating this law. Shocking, I know.
    2. In the 1986 movie, Goose’s son (seen sitting on the piano in one scene) looks to be around 3-4 years old. In the current version, set 35 years later, that boy would be nearing 40 years old. Not only would he not still be flying F-18s (neither would Mav), but the actor playing him looks too young.
    3. Trivia: part of the movie was filmed in Washington state, with the snowy Cascade Mountains standing in for the never-named enemy locale. https://www.kuow.org/stories/highway-to-the-danger-zone-passes-through-the-pnw. Nice story about it.

    Some of us see Washington as the enemy, well at least Seattle.

    • #28
  29. The Cynthonian Member
    The Cynthonian
    @TheCynthonian

    Red Herring (View Comment):

    The Cynthonian (View Comment):

    Quibbles and trivia:

    1. In 1986, the state of CA didn’t yet have a mandatory motorcycle helmet law. It passed in 1992. Thus, in the current movie, Mav and Penny are violating this law. Shocking, I know.
    2. In the 1986 movie, Goose’s son (seen sitting on the piano in one scene) looks to be around 3-4 years old. In the current version, set 35 years later, that boy would be nearing 40 years old. Not only would he not still be flying F-18s (neither would Mav), but the actor playing him looks too young.
    3. Trivia: part of the movie was filmed in Washington state, with the snowy Cascade Mountains standing in for the never-named enemy locale. https://www.kuow.org/stories/highway-to-the-danger-zone-passes-through-the-pnw. Nice story about it.

    Some of us see Washington as the enemy, well at least Seattle.

    My dear @redherring, the state itself is beautiful.   It’s the leftist overlay that makes it hard to live there, especially the Seattle area.

    • #29
  30. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    The Cynthonian (View Comment):

    Red Herring (View Comment):

    The Cynthonian (View Comment):

    Quibbles and trivia:

    1. In 1986, the state of CA didn’t yet have a mandatory motorcycle helmet law. It passed in 1992. Thus, in the current movie, Mav and Penny are violating this law. Shocking, I know.
    2. In the 1986 movie, Goose’s son (seen sitting on the piano in one scene) looks to be around 3-4 years old. In the current version, set 35 years later, that boy would be nearing 40 years old. Not only would he not still be flying F-18s (neither would Mav), but the actor playing him looks too young.
    3. Trivia: part of the movie was filmed in Washington state, with the snowy Cascade Mountains standing in for the never-named enemy locale. https://www.kuow.org/stories/highway-to-the-danger-zone-passes-through-the-pnw. Nice story about it.

    Some of us see Washington as the enemy, well at least Seattle.

    My dear @ redherring, the state itself is beautiful. It’s the leftist overlay that makes it hard to live there, especially the Seattle area.

    That is why I added the Seattle caveat. Was on the peninsula last fall. They had more Trump flags than we have in SC.

    • #30
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