TG Back to Basics   TOP GUN

There are a small handful of you reading this, who have known me for more than thirteen years. Those of you who have known me that long, will remember that in my younger days, people used to call me by a particular nickname. For those of you who remember this humorous time in my young life, you might be surprised to know two things about the fact that I am about to write about TOP GUN for the 1001 Movies Club.

The first is that no, I was not the person who chose this movie. The second, is that as I watched it, trying to think like I’d never seen it before, I have to admit…TOP GUN…kinda sucks.

My full about-face can be found below.

Allow me a brief bit of back-story. As I alluded to in the intro, there was a time where Young McNeil swore by this film. He called it his all-time favorite and managed to earn himself a dubious nickname for his mind-blowing opposite-sex-inadequacies. He could quote every line, wore out copies of the soundtrack, and annually paid to see it on an IMAX screen. While it still holds a particular place in his heart, it’s pretty safe to say that he has left TOP GUN behind in the same pile as his Doc Martens and Sony Discman.

When it was suggested that the 1001 Club watch and write about TOP GUN this month, it actually gave me an opportunity to look back in a somewhat unfamiliar way. I own the dvd of course, but haven’t watched it in a good five years easily. I tried to put myself in the place of someone who has never seen it before…and I can’t say for sure whether that person would have made it past the “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” scene.

Don’t get me wrong, there are things about this movie that are still cool and/or funny (especially the jokes surrounding flipping a Soviet fighter pilot the bird). Unfortunately though, most of that is drowned in a pond of cheesiness, obviousness, rah-rah Americanism, and homoeroticism. The relationship between “Maverick” (Tom Cruise) and “Goose” (Anthony Edwards) seems to hold up pretty well. However, anytime the story turns itself to the rivalry between Maverick and “Ice Man” (Val Kilmer), it just feels like a pair of douches trying to out douche each other, and not having a ruler to settle the argument.

There aren’t a whole lot of special effects at play to date the movie, but there is one visual bit that leaves me puzzled. For a film about dogfighting fighter planes, why is it that more often than not, we only see one fighter plane in the shot? True shooting these sequences couldn’t have been easy…but wasn’t there one camera that could really give the audience a sense of the death defying acts?

The twelve year old who once was wowed would be ashamed to see the amount of questions he’d be asking himself twenty years later. Like why is the rebellious Maverick still allowed to fly? Who introduces themself to civilian by their call sign? Who plays volleyball in jeans? Why is this movie so morose in the final act? And finally – and perhaps most importantly – how is spinning a pen between your knuckles an intimidating gesture?

I could go on forever, especially since I haven’t even touched on how most of the guys in this plot don’t seem to get as ramped up by the women around them so much as they do with each other in the locker room. However, I believe I have driven the stake into my teenage enjoyments quite enough for one post. What I will say, is that watching TOP GUN reminded me of the reaction I have given to Lady Hatter when she has asked me to watch so many of her eighties favorites:

If you didn’t see it the first time around, there’s no way it’s gonna do much for you now.

But Ryan, Is It List-Worthy?… Not on your life. This movie, while fun for some of us, has not aged well at all. It is not much more than a two hour recruitment informercial for the U.S. Navy, with an overbearing score, and every hot-shot cliché you can think of. It’s a relic of The Cold War and too stereotypical for it’s own good.