This part of the world is reeling under rampant inflation, stock market crash, political and social polarisation, and effects of climate change. This is the right time for a dose of nostalgia in form of a Movie like Top Gun: Maverick. When was the last time you heard the audience clapping, cheering, and laughing at the multiplex? If we’re being honest, it’s been a while.
Tony Scott’s Top Gun (1986) is full of 1980s pop culture. It was different America then as many locals say. People feel immense nostalgia while reviving old nostalgia now at the start of the summer of 2022. For example, seeing Tom Cruise’s Maverick and Val Kilmer’s Iceman texting each other is amazing. These 80’s youth icons adapting to today’s lifestyle somehow resonate with the audience. People have seen technology change, and people change. The then Youth icons are now portrayed as old men with ailments. This change of imagery somehow causes uneasiness as we acknowledge the windmills of God.
When the TopGun was finally released in India, it was Oct 87. The movie was released in the US in may 86. Now times have changed. We see all movies released simultaneously all across the world. 86 was when Maradona made the World Cup his own. Ronald Reagan was the US president and Rajeev Gandhi was the Indian PM. We had good old Doordarshan entertaining us through some very good serials. In 2022, despite Netflix, Prime Videos, Apple TVs, and numerous channels in India, we still yearn for quality entertainment a nostalgia film as Maverick provides. Top Gun had entertained me then and Top Gun Maverick entertained me now.
I remember seeing the movie as a std 9th student. My dad took me to Alka Theatre in Pune which was one of the two theatres which released Hollywood movies. The flying planes, bikes, cars, and whole imagery of the US west coast, and US lifestyle then kind of dazzled me. And of course, there was the presence of Tom Cruise. I still remember awkwardness set in when there was a ‘typical’ Hollywood romance scene between Hero and the Heroine in presence of my Dad. We were a different nation then. As they say, history repeats itself as I saw Top Gun Maverick with my daughter. Netflix and other sources have advanced our younger generations on these matters so hardly there was any awkwardness for the similar scenes now.
The movie starts with an Admiral telling Tom Cruise character, code-named Maverick, that his career is over, thanks to new technology and that pilots like him are obsolete especially due to drone warfare. Though the film doesn’t discuss this aspect more, it raises the issue of AI replacing human skills during extremely challenging situations. But then Maverick still has a job to do in the film. As a paradox, movies like these are obsolete as you can binge tons of episodes of web series without leaving your couch. In 86, Cold War was at its high, but “Top Gun” wasn’t really a combat picture. It was, at heart, a sports movie decked out in battle gear, about a bunch of guys showboating, trash-talking, and trying to outdo one another. Meanwhile Maverick had many combats in Bosnia, and Iraq. In 2022 there is no mention of the enemy, a mysterious enemy who is in possession of super-high-tech aircraft and is building an “unauthorised” weapons facility in a mountainous region wherever. Maverick has to train young brash pilots for this mission. There’s just something inherently old-school pleasure in watching Maverick whip this group of brash pilots into shape. The film spends a lot of time in the air with either Maverick going on terrifying solo runs or teaching his charges what it takes to successfully complete a mission while also coming home alive. The central act of destroying the nuclear plant has such a difficulty level that it keeps you on edge, thanks to brilliant movie-making. The cast and acting are great. The naval trainees are great. The only cast which repeats apart from Cruise is Van Kilmer: Iceman. Kilmer’s brief appearance has a special poignancy. Apart from the 2021 documentary “Val,” he hasn’t been onscreen much since losing his voice to throat cancer, and seeing him and Cruise in a quiet scene together is as sad and stirring. Tom Cruise is immortal. He can ride anything that can move. Name it a plane, yacht, car, or bike. Only this time, Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is quite a bit older — and out of his league — compared to the younger Navy pilots he’s recruited to mentor. Tom Cruise brings the same swagger and bravado to the character he originally portrayed over 30 years ago, infusing the role with the same energy and spirit of the original film while giving the newcomers their time to shine as well.
One personal major difference for me was the fact that I was seeing this movie in the US. When as a 9th grader, I had seen this movie: US was a different planet, especially in the pre-liberalisation era. Kit was full of glamour and awe. Add to that the stark difference in movie viewing experience in Alka theatre Pune in the 80s and the AMC experience here in the US. The world has turned flat since then. In India, we have the same movie viewing ambiance now as in the US. The glamour and glitz of the US had turned into everyday humdrum thanks to familiarity.
In some sense, what this movie takes most seriously are concepts like friendship, loyalty, romance, and okay, bromance. Everything else that surrounds those notions—like patriotic egotism—feels like playful winks just like in an old-school action movie. Top Gun: Maverick is a necessary trip down memory lane that kicks off the summer movie season on the highest of notes. Only this time, I traveled more than three decades across the flat earth between Pune and the US at Mach level speeds.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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