My friend Jimmy texted me and said it was $7 night at the Spectrum and did I want to go to the movies.
What film did he want to see? Top Gun: Maverick.
Uh, no. Not my kind of movie. But my friend said his son saw the movie and it was incredible and the action sequences were some of the best he’s seen. Plus, it’s got a 99 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s almost unheard of.
Okay, why not. I had nothing else pressing going on. Harriet was visiting her mom, Owen out with friends, Julia at work.
The movie turned out to be everything I expected it to be: as formulaic as possible with every plot point hammered multiple times so even the dumbest among us get it, obvious twists, emotional pandering, cheesy dialog sequences (“Don’t think about it, just do it!”)—and mindlessly entertaining. It was the essence of a summer blockbuster that only Hollywood can produce.
The plot, very briefly: Fighter jets streak across the skies.
The plot, plus one: Maverick (Tom Cruise) races against the clock to get a detachment of Top Gun pilots trained to take out an enemy nuclear installation before it goes live. But there are complications. One of the pilots, Rooster (they all have call names), is the son of Goose, who died in the first Top Gun movie while flying with Maverick. So there are some ghosts of the past to deal with for our hero, which makes for a not-terrible subplot. The other complication is that the mission itself has very little chance of success (I won’t tell you if they succeed!).
However, don’t confuse complications with complexity. There is nothing complex, ambiguous, or thought-provoking about this film. What there is instead is nonstop momentum.
What I liked best about the movie was Tom Cruise. I’ve never fully appreciated him as an actor. He is the definition of a movie star because he is the box office draw and carries the movie, with a lot of help from the stunning action sequences. The always-pleasing Jennifer Connolly plays Maverick’s love interest, since there has to be one, but her role is blandly written and their relationship predictable. The actors playing the other Top Gun pilots all perform well. But you’ve seen all of these characters before, in other movies, straight from central casting. They just happened to put them all together in this movie.
I feel bad about the actor John Hamm, who plays the admiral in charge of the mission. His role is to be the foil to Maverick by challenging Maverick’s training approach, disciplining him, threatening him, etc. A lot of frowning. A lot of head-shaking and glares and dressing down of Maverick. Several times during the movie I said, “Poor John Hamm.” He was so sublime as one of the most compelling characters ever created for television—Don Draper in Mad Men—and I think he’ll never find that perfect fit again.
I made some snarky comments to my friend during the movie and cringed at a number of scenes, but admit I was entertained by the action and the pace. Because this movie was playing at my neighborhood theater and not at the mall cineplex, I didn’t have to walk past a Navy recruiting table on my way out. Hollywood + Military = America.