Directed by Tony Scott, Top Gun is an incredibly cheesy action/bromance movie that catapulted Tom Cruise to mega-stardom and was the highest grossing movie of 1986 with total US take-in of $177 million. People who remember how great the action scenes were and how badass the characters may have been probably haven’t seen the movie in a while. The fact that the movie airs on US cable channels such as Oxygen points to the fact that this film hasn’t aged too well and in my view, it is now a barely watchable film which is intermittently cringe-worthy.
Tom Cruise plays gung-ho Navy fighter pilot “Maverick” who, along with his NFO “Goose” (Anthony Edwards) are chosen to undergo training at the Navy’s Top Gun program. There, the two encounter machismo-driven rivalry with fellow pilots such as Iceman (Val Kilmer). Maverick also becomes attracted with one of the civilian instructor (Kelly McGillis) and struggles to separate himself from his father’s legacy.
There isn’t much going on in Top Gun and viewers with low attention span will quickly lose track of the story although there isn’t much to be missed anyway. The best thing about the movie are the action scenes involving the awesome F-14 Tomcats which were made available by the US Navy. Unfortunately, even in some of those scenes, the planes don’t really do anything fancy like firing missiles, blowing stuff up or even doing difficult maneuvers. Right in the opening sequence of the movie, there is a pretty significant goof with the supposedly “enemy” MIG-28 enemy aircraft obviously some old American F-5 Tigers that just about anyone who knows a little bit about military hardware would recognize instantly. Also, there is no such thing as a competition or hardware to be won at the real Top Gun program, that was completely fabricated to introduce some conflict to drive the light-as-feather plot. No big deal though, just watching those awesome jets fly makes for a very good spectacle.
On the negative side, well just about everything else is mediocre at best. The plot is shallow, very straightforward and simplified down so even a degenerate hillbilly can understand every single aspect of the movie. The dialogue is downright embarrassing and contrived. The romance between Maverick and Charlie is forced and the chemistry between the two actors is nonexistent. The homoerotic banter between Val Kilmer and Cruise is hilarious in a bad, bad way and has become a staple for derision ever since.
Top Gun also suffers from archetypal characters and it all starts with the main character. Maverick is a hot-shot ultra-confident pilot that recklessly risks his life and others’ just for the sake of thrills. Of course, instead of being disciplined or sent to some desk job like he would be in real life, the Navy sends him to Top Gun. You have the trash-talking arrogant rival pilot in Val Kilmer, the tough-as-nail instructor in Michael Ironside, and best of all, the supposedly pretty civilian astrophysicist in Kelly McGillis (there is no such thing, anyone who has been to an engineering/scientific program knows that!)
A fancy homoerotic US Navy commercial, Top Gun has aged very poorly and is one of those movies that you can easily pass on even when it’s on TV. I once thought long ago that this movie was pretty damn cool! What was I thinking?
Notes: 110 min