Tom Cruise film poster for Top Gun

Top Gun. Is it still any good?

By Lauren Edwards

Last Saturday we settled down as a family of five for a rare ‘movie night’ together. Rare, because it always starts with a lengthy argument where we try to agree on a film we all want to watch. My eldest son will only watch a film that is rated an 8/10 or above on IMDB, my youngest son will try and persuade me to watch some kind of scary clown film, my daughter will only watch something in the romantic comedy genre, and my husband will offer up three options: Rocky, Rambo or Top Gun.

After watching too many trailers, and in a bid to get the evening started, the kids agreed to give Top Gun a go. As a film I have seen more times than I can count during my 19-year relationship with hubby, I was more than prepared for the cheesetastic 80s classic. However, watching it with the cynical views of my Gen Z offspring, it was a very different experience.

For those of you who haven’t seen it (of which there can’t be many), it centres around fighter jet pilot ‘Maverick’, played by (a pre-dentistry work) Tom Cruise. The film commences with Maverick being victorious in a bizarre unexplained air battle with a Russian fighter jet (referred to as the ‘Migs’) which results in an impossible feat of Maverick’s jet plane flying upside down on top of the Migs plane so he can give him ‘the bird’.

Maverick and his co-pilot Goose are then invited to take part in ‘Top Gun’ training, which I think doesn’t mean any improvement in their rank as pilots as such, but that they will take part in training exercises in order to win a fairly inadequate wooden trophy. It does feel like you are watching two hours of what appears to be a promotional video for the US air force, but considering it was made in the 80s, it does have some slick action scenes when the cast are airborne. Cruise’s performance is a little too smug but still manages to be engaging enough.

I am being harsh I know and with hubby shushing the kids every five minutes to point out the ‘poignant moments’, there is something nostalgic about Top Gun that draws you in, plus you get to see a very young Val Kilmer play Maverick’s biggest competitor Iceman. However, there is a lot of odd and outdated stuff too. For instance, why are they always so sweaty? Because they are. Practically, throughout the film, even after showering whilst comparing muscles in the locker room.

Maverick’s love interest Charlie is played by Kelly McGillis. She is the flight instructor at Top Gun and meets Maverick at a bar frequented by Top Gun pilots. Whilst she is there on a date with someone else, and unaware of who she is, Maverick and some friends awkwardly serenade her with ‘she’s lost that loving feeling’. Maverick then follows her into the ladies toilet and awkwardly appears to suggest that they have ‘a quickie’ in one of the cubicles. Thankfully, she declines, yet this does not seem to deter Maverick.

The following day, Charlie arrives at the training camp and introduces herself as their Top Gun instructor. Again, as qualified pilots, I’m not really sure what skills they are honing here. After class, Maverick corners Charlie in the lift and despite telling Maverick that she doesn’t date students, he continues to pursue her. I think, at this point, I might have arranged a restraining order, but he eventually wears her down and she agrees to go out with him.

Now, maybe with Charlie working in a male dominated job, she might be feeling a little lonely. However, I am really concerned about her clear desperation for a boyfriend. On their first date, after inviting Maverick to her house, he immediately asks for a shower on arrival, who does this? Then, after only talking about himself over a very casual dinner of a few lettuce leaves and wine, he promptly leaves, telling her ‘he needs to take a shower’, without even a goodbye kiss. Perhaps Maverick has some sort of glandular disorder?

The very long-awaited sequel; Top Gun: Maverick, is due for release once cinemas reopen so if you are yet to see the original, I would urge you to do so. It is a bit cringey, the story is a bit weak, but at times it is visually stunning (and I’m not just talking about the beach volleyball scene). Plus, it has an impressive 80s soundtrack. Although, I propose that you watch it as a drinking game. The rules are that each time Tom Cruise shouts ‘Woo!’, which is pretty much throughout the film and often coupled with a fist pump, you take a shot of an alcoholic beverage of your choice. You will probably very drunk by the end of the film, but it may make it more enjoyable to watch!

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