Top Gun 2: Maverick
Pre Covid, I had stated that the movie-going experience for those going to the movies the past three decades will be entirely different for the next generation. As we have seen, the streaming wars have begun, with significant film content being released at home. Going to the movies for the next generation will be like what going to the “live theatre” was for you and me, 90% of the content we will watch at home. However, from time to time, a major blockbuster that needs to be seen on the biggest and loudest screen possible will come. We often think of this as Disney/Marvel movies, but in this case it’s the current Tom Cruise spectacle, Top Gun 2: Maverick. That’s right thirty-six years after its release, Top Gun film fans can finally see the sequel. If anyone can keep the hype going that long, it’s none other than Tom Cruise. Love him or hate him, what he has done for Hollywood will most likely never be duplicated. He is approaching the age of sixty and still brings it every single day and for every single film.
One would be doing Maverick a disservice by watching it at home or in a smaller theatre. Whether you end up liking the movie or not, the fans must give it a fighting shot. The production company did the moviegoer a service by striving for “realism” from a stunt and cinematography point of view. The favour should be repaid by seeing the film in IMAX. To be clear, I am saying see this movie for the cinematography and not necessarily for the story. In Hollywood, we have often seen that it is extremely challenging for a sequel to live up to its predecessor, and it remains true here, even with almost forty years to think up a viable story, but in this case, they waited too long. I rewatched Top Gun last week, and honestly, that movie stands the test of time. Maverick will as well, from a visual point of view and the writing team put a lot of thought into the characters and the story, but it falls short.
They should have called the film Maverick and not Top Gun 2; because it is not a Top Gun movie. Top Gun is a fighter pilot academy for the U.S Navy, where pilots go through rigorous testing to see who the best pilots are. This movie takes the winners of many of the past Top Guns putting them head-to-head to see who will be selected for a suicide mission. This is where the main problem of it all arises, taking place in the present day where the American military, as we all know, holds a vastly superior technological advantage in the geopolitical world. So, the writers had to write a story where technology wouldn’t be a factor, and pilots would have to rely on pure skill. It falls way short of my expectations, but I give them some credit for trying to say why the mission parameters were as such. The mission, if they chose to accept it…oh wrong Tom Cruise franchise, involves four aged F-18 aircraft to fly at 100 feet above the ground, down a canyon for two and a half minutes, at breakneck speeds, to avoid radar detection, where they will eliminate the target, which is pretty much in an empty volcano, If detected at any point, the seemingly infinite amount of SAM missiles would overpower them, but if that wasn’t bad enough the enemy aircraft in the area would overpower them as well, which in this case would have homefield advantage and are far more advanced than the F-18’s. So, wait, is this Mission Impossible? It sure is, but from a military point of view. The writers tried to explain why the technologically superior F-35 couldn’t do the mission. But I am of the belief that a simple UAV or “drone” strike from one, two, or even four predator drones would have sufficed and been a fraction of the cost as 3 F-18s are downed during training and the actual mission itself, and that’s at least $90 million of taxpayer’s money, gone for a mission which should have been a “NATO” mission, and not a U.S Military mission. I get it, its all about America. But the idea of an illegal mission just doesn’t hold up in today’s world I know, I know it’s a movie, I must suspend my belief. To that I argue I shouldn’t for this type of movie, because I didn’t for the original in 1986.
The story goes overboard when one of those downed F-18s is replaced by a retired F-14 fighter jet, which must go up against two “Russian” versions of the F-35, known simply in the film as a “fifth-generation fighter”. The movie hammers home that the F-18s stood virtually no chance against these fighters, so how am I expected to believe a cold war relic survives against these advanced fighters for any period of time. Still, it was fun to see that idea playout, as unrealistic as it is. This is where Top Gun, the original, got it right, the F-14, albeit disadvantaged to the MiG fighter of the ‘80s, stood a fighting chance by pilots and their abilities because the technological gap wasn’t so big between those two aircraft. That’s what the Top Gun Academy was about, closing the technological gap with skill. But in 2020, its not just a gap, it’s a chasm, when comparing these two planes which face off, and no amount of skill would suffice.
The opening sequence was a thing of beauty. albeit taken right out of the opening and the ending of the true-to-life movie known as The Right Stuff. The tributes they give to the original are also fun, with Val Kilmer reprising his role as “Ice Man,” Of course, the female love interest drives a classic Porsche, as did Kelly McGillis in the first one.
Maverick was filmed between three and four years ago, being first delayed so they could do some reshoots to make the experience more authentic. Then, of course, it was postponed three times during the pandemic. So, it will be interesting to see how it performs over the next month at the global box office, being relatively unchallenged, until Jurassic World. It has also used a different style of marketing strategy, where many of the trailers are behind the scenes footage of what all the actors went through. Overall, it’s a visually fun and stimulating ride, with characters as complex as you could get from a story like this. But for a movie professing true to life with the stunts, it falls well below my expectations for true to life with the story.
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