Tom Cruise: Maverick

Robert Redford uses the term “popcorn movie” to describe films intended principally as big, blockbuster entertainment. The term definitely describes Top Gun: Maverick and most of Cruise’s recent filmography.

The original Top Gun made a superstar of Cruise. A two-hour MTV, Navy recruitment music video, equal parts adrenaline and jet fuel, and a precursor to video gaming, the film stands a primer on 1980s, frat-boy culture. I watched this film recently, yes it still retains the chest-bumping, high-octane bravado. This film helped usher in the now standard requirement of films needing every second of screen-time occupied by mood music or potential Top 40 songs.

Once again, you’ve entered the Danger Zone.

Maverick returns Cruise, of course, and the Iceman, Val Kilmer. Other characters did not return, like Meg Ryan and Kelly McGillis.

“Clearly, [Ryan and McGillis’] spirits hang over the film in certain ways. … But it was important that we wanted to make sure we were telling a new chapter of Maverick’s life. We didn’t want to be looking back the whole time,” said director Joseph Kosinski.

According to Kosinski, it was always the plan for Kilmer to play Iceman in Top Gun: Maverick. “That was a requirement from Tom, from Jerry (Bruckheimer, who produced both the original Top Gun and the sequel), from myself. You had to figure out a way to bring Iceman in. We met with Val. He had the idea of how to integrate Iceman in a really authentic way.”

There is plenty out there about how Kilmer’s voice was recreated and Iceman’s character mirrors Kilmer’s own health experience, or the other way around. Was it satisfying to see the reunion of Maverick and Iceman, if only briefly? Sure. The subject of mortality is a central theme of the original film and this one. These are flesh and blood pilots, not video game characters or superheroes. Okay, they are really movie characters, not real people, but you get what I mean.

Since most people will or have seen this film, I’ll not not bother with story details. I will reveal that Maverick does win the war, finds a cure for male pattern baldness, reverses climate change and gives Donald Trump a soul.

This would not be 2022 (or whenever you are reading this) if there failed to be alternative theories. Out there in cyberspace is the suggestion that Maverick did not survive his test pilot experience at the beginning of the movie and that everything you saw after that was not real. Although the mission was harrowing, the good guys prevailed and relationships mended.

Maverick is not a bad film, it’s a popcorn movie with extra butter. It will make Tom Cruise even richer, put Kenny Loggins back in the public eye, in time for publication of his memoirs (Still Alright!), and help the Navy recruit more pilots.

As of this writing, Maverick has earned about $400m domestically, and it not done. Worldwide box office is approximately $750m, against a budget of $170m. The original film earned $357m, but consider a production cost of $15m, making it highly profitable.

My comments are intended to be irreverent or possibly even irrelevant. It’s a condition I cannot help and there is no known cure.

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