Looking back over the articles I’ve written this past week I think that the recurring theme in all of my printed words has been one of nostalgia: An article on the return of Kevin Smith and his View Askew Universe of characters got the ball rolling, followed in quick succession by a short bit about not one, but two upcoming sequels in the Halloween horror series that will feature the return of Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter. Hey, why not make it a trifecta of warm and cozy familiarity and welcome back Maverick (AKA Tom Cruise) and his assorted flying buddies in the three plus decade in the making sequel to the 1986 phenomenon Top Gun?
The first official full trailer for Top Gun: Maverick was hand delivered by Tom Cruise himself to a mass of fans at this year’s annual San Diego Comic Con and what a doozy it was: Full of death-defying aerial maneuvers, a booming soundtrack and the return of everyone’s favorite, er, maverick pilot, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, this two plus minute sneak peek at June of 2020’s guaranteed summer blockbuster was a guaranteed buzz builder and the true definition of the old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words.” For the plot synopsis to the new Top Gun is straight to the point in its very simplicity; ready for it? Maverick returns to the screen to mentor a new generation of fighter pilots. And full stop.
When the original Top Gun premiered back in the summer of 1986 there was no escaping it. It seemed to permeate everyone’s conversations and it was the one movie that everyone had to see. Up to and including my own father who was a staunch member of the military and, one could surmise, the exact audience original director Tony Scott and uber-producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer were hoping would go see their movie. My old man loved the flick and, may be because of that and maybe because I was adverse to liking anything my parents were into, I never quite caught the Top Gun wave along with everyone else in the country that long ago summer. Instead, I gravitated to the sleeper hit of that particular year, Rob Reiner’s coming of age period drama Stand By Me. It was with great relish that I pointed out to my father that it was this little film that supplanted his new favorite movie and Tom Cruise off the number one spot at the box office. I felt as if I’d won some heretofore undeclared war against my father. Looking back, I was a real snot nosed brat. Because Top Gun, whether I wanted it to be or not, was a damn good movie that just happened to look like a very shiny and sleek commercial for a new car. Beneath that glossy veneer lurked heart and soul, though.
Watching it on home video (as in video tape, boys and girls) with my father was fun and I could not deny that the movie had some sort of indefinable something that made it crackle. I was a young teenager so the things I responded to were obvious ones that teenage boys around the world also got from it: I wholeheartedly allowed myself to crush on Kelly McGillis and thought it was cool that Cruise seemed to be championing the laid back jeans and tee military look (something that seemed almost obtainable to this military brat) and surely it was the one and only time in my life I found myself even remotely curious about motorcycles. Top Gun gave me my first real introduction to Otis Redding and to this day I can’t hear (Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay without getting a mental image of McGillis and Cruise, both awash in Magic Hour sunlight and both impossibly young. The film introduced me to brilliant actors such as Val Kilmer, Tim Robbins and Anthony Edwards and gave me a vague hint that this Tom Cruise guy (whom I had only seen in the movie Legend prior to this) might just have some serious acting chops. But man, what really meant the most to me about Top Gun was that it allowed me and my father a point of relation that extended beyond him telling me to get better grades in school or else. It raised our conversations to a level that wasn’t just a few alienated grunts as we passed one another on the way from the bathroom or as we attempted awkward banter around the dinner table. It brought both of us back to a level of discourse that we hadn’t had since I had been in the fourth grade, before I had gotten too cool for school and begun metamorphing into a strange creature known as a teenager. In short, Top Gun was the neutral bridge my father and I would meet on to get a handle on our relationship and so it has always been impossible to write anything objective on something that temporarily brought the two of us closer together (um, full disclosure to my editor on that salient point).
And so we have a genuine trailer for a new Top Gun movie. And I’m sorta happy about it. Things like Top Gun, Halloween, Kevin Smith movies and the upcoming Bill and Ted sequel are like pop cultural comfort food to many of us, recalling a perhaps imagined golden age when things seemed clearer, less convoluted than they do now. Scanning the trailer I’m disappointed to see no Kelly McGillis but I’m assured Val Kilmer is back which gives me some hope for Western Civilization. Thinking about it, I’m sure my father sees it the same way. Who knows? Perhaps Top Gun: Maverick will revive that neutral bridge for us, reminding us that we have more in common than not. Not a bad legacy for a movie that looked like a very shiny and sleek commercial for a new car.