Top Gun (1986)


It’s hard to believe that Tony Scott’s “Top Gun” was not only a pop culture milestone, but very influential for its time. It’s such a ridiculous and silly testosterone laced fantasy based around sexy women, war machines, and a military comprised almost exclusively of sweaty Caucasian young men. It’s tough to take it as anything other than an absurd cartoon that’s valuable for its laugh out loud camp value, and bold faced homoeroticism it embraces and yet ignores like the elephant in the room until the very end. You can argue that it’s a cool movie, but is “Top Gun” a good movie? I’d definitely say “Hell no,” topped with “Are you kidding me?”

Going in to “Top Gun” you have to respect it for the interesting parts that make up the cheesy whole. The soundtrack is pretty fantastic with “Danger Zone,” and “Take my Breath Away” dominating much of the decade of the eighties, while Scott’s directorial style is almost a template for future Michael Bay productions. The almost predominant red and orange tint that permeates throughout the film is distracting, but really helps induce this idea that the movie is one big jingoistic fantasy. “Top Gun” is set in the breakneck world of Navy Aviation where we meet Maverick. He’s a reckless douche bag who breaks rules and risks lives, but he’s Tom Cruise so it’s okay to root for him. During an interception of enemy air ships, Maverick’s wingman Cougar is emotionally shaken by a missile stand off.

This prompts Maverick to bring Cougar back to base, despite the violation of rules and regulations instilled by his commanders. Cougar takes himself out of the crew from trauma, and Maverick is now sent to attend the Navy’s Fighter Weapons School (also known as “Top Gun”), with his new wingman Goose (Anthony Edwards) to be educated in new weaponry and regulations. While there, Maverick begins romancing a gorgeous woman named Charlotte who he discovers is one of the instructors of the school. And also begins posing as his intellectual rival in knowledge in warfare. Not to mention she finds Maverick’s jump suit and pilot’s glasses impossible to stay out of, for most of the film. To offset the inherent sexual tension between Maverick, Goose, and the film’s resident antagonist Iceman (Val Kilmer), Scott and the writers work overtime on really forcing the sexual romance between Maverick and Charlotte.

There are endless moments of sexual tension between the pair, including their memorable love scene. Much of it is so forced, as Cruise and Kelly McGillis have no real chemistry as potential lovers or a couple at all. But McGillis does bring the film full circle in its love letter to America depicting young Caucasian military men flying war weapons, and bedding sexy but intelligent blond women. All that’s left is for Maverick to ride a motorcycle instead of a car to accentuate his rebelliousness. Oh wait, Scott includes that, too. “Top Gun” is such a goofy and convoluted ode to America that’s never sure if it wants to be a male oriented military action film, or a romance between two people with vastly differing ideals in a military backdrop. In the end, it’s an inadvertent comedy, and one I’m shocked was ever taken even remotely seriously. At least Kenny Loggins’ theme song is still pretty bad ass.