This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Top Gun.”
The Movie: “Top Gun”
Starring: Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer
Director: Tony Scott
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) As students at the United States Navy’s elite fighter weapons school compete to be best in the class, one daring young pilot learns a few things from a civilian instructor that are not taught in the classroom.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 56 percent
Brown: With the end of Sports Month last week in “Eight Men Out,” I had the need.
THE NEED. FOR SPEED.
Actually, I had the need for testosterone-driven ACTION. With big machines. And hot women. And no plot.
So, it was time to visit an old pair of friends in Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson. And it was time to take a deep dive into one of the ‘80s most beloved movies, “Top Gun.”
If there’s anything I’ve learned from watching Bruckheimer/Simpson movies here on the JOE-DOWN, it’s that the duo know how to make big moments on screen. And there are plenty of memorable moments that come from “Top Gun.” But I’ll be damned if I remembered what actually happened in this movie before revisiting it for the blog.
So Froemming, what are some of your initial thoughts about this
110-minute Kenny Loggins music video movie before we head into the DANGER ZONE.
Froemming: What the (REDACTED) did I just watch?
Going in, the only thing I remembered about this film was the soundtrack. And there is a reason: This movie has no real plot, no real antagonists and feels like a bunch of scenes shoehorned into a bunch of kick-ass shots of jets shooting at one another and dog fighting to the rockin’ tunes of Kenny Loggins.
Not since we watched “SLC Punk 2” was I this lost in a plot. I kept asking “Wait, what just happened? Why is that going on right now?” I felt like Abe Simpsons talking about the time he put an onion on his belt.
Good luck, Goose, on getting us started on this rabbit hole that should probably give “Cocaine” a screenwriting credit.
Brown: I’m Goose?! (REDACTED) you.
So even before this movie starts, the credits roll and we get our main actors like Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis and Val Kilmer. Then all of a sudden, names like Michael Ironside, Tim Robbins and Meg Ryan show up? What the actual hell? I remember so little about this movie that I didn’t recall that the ‘80s greatest antagonist, Andy Dufresne and … Meg Ryan, were in this!
And it starts slow for a Bruckheimer/Simpson movie. It takes 2 minutes, 34 seconds before we get our first flame. But once the jets start taking off from a runway in the Indian Ocean, we get Kenny Loggins over the speakers and all my concerns melted away.
Now that we got that whole pesky credit things out of the way, we hop right in the middle of a dogfight.
Froemming: The dogfights in this movie are pretty (REDACTED) awesome. We meet Maverick and Goose, a duo made up of hit stars Tom Cruise and “ER’s” Anthony Edwards?….Yup, I will just forge ahead here.
We learn that Maverick plays by his own rules with $30 million aircrafts, to the point where he pulls a stunt that has him and Goose flying upside down taking polaroids and flipping off one of their targets. We learn here that Maverick is really good at what he does, so good that our heroes qualify to go to Top Gun school.
We also get some foreshadowing here, which I credit as a goof because it is one of the few times this movie does anything resembling storytelling: During this dogfight, Cougar, the one they were chasing, hangs up his wings because this is dangerous work and he has a family to look after.
Brown: Well, in the first dogfight, there’s a pair of MiGs in the air that our pilots have to intimidate. Which begs the question: Who are the bad guys in this movie? I had to Google MiGs to find out they are Russian planes, and contextually, this took place during the Cold War, which makes sense. But you’re making a mass appeal action movie… maybe explain MiGs are Russian!
And yeah, Cougar starts freaking out, which is shown to us by massive amounts of sweating. As someone nicknamed “Sweaty Joe” in high school, I understand Cougar’s plight.
They’re trying to land both jets and Cougar looks like he’s in the middle of a Timothy Leary LSD trip or something with all his sweating. I don’t blame him: If you played “Top Gun” on NES, that jet was next to impossible to land.
Cougar was the best pilot they had, but now that he “lost the edge” and quit, Maverick and Goose are now the top and are being sent to Top Gun school to become the best of the best.
So off to California.
Froemming: And much like you and I in college, Maverick and Goose hit the bar before their big first day at Top Gun school.
Brown: There’s a quick orientation the boys go through first, explaining the rules of Top Gun school.
Froemming: Was there? Because, again, this movie felt like random scenes vomited up in between our kick-ass dogfights. I lost any sort of coherence with this movie rather quickly.
Anyway, these two head to a club, where they aggressively sing Righteous Brothers tunes at strangers as a form of flirting. Never tried it. Might have to give it a chance next time I am out.
Brown: I did write in my notes that I needed to learn “You Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” for karaoke.
Before we break out into song, we get a brief meeting between Maverick and Goose and the presumptive top flight team at Top Gun in Iceman (Kilmer) and Slider. What did you do in a previous life to be named after a burger that gives me terrible gas, Slider?
Also, a theme that kept coming up for me throughout the movie: Why are people surprised when Tom Cruise’s character acts like a cocky jerk? His call sign is Maverick. What would you expect?!
Froemming: With a call sign being Slider, I am really starting to wonder what these names mean. One guy is called Hollywood. We know Iceman gets his name because he is cold and calculated when he flies. Hollywood must be a show off and Slider gives Joe Brown terrible gas?
I looked into some of the trivia of this film, and found out Kilmer did not want to be in this movie at all. I also happened to watch “Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau” last week and found out — surprise — Kilmer didn’t want to be in that either. Was there any movie this guy actually wanted to be in?
Brown: Now it makes sense why Iceman wore sunglasses indoors at the bar. He didn’t want to be seen.
Froemming: No, that was “cocaine eyes” that he was hiding. Let’s add “Cocaine” an actor’s credit in this film why we are at it.
Brown: After “Scarface” and every ‘80s movie ever, I’m sure “Cocaine” has a SAG card.
The girl that has supposedly lost the lovin’ feeling is Charlie (McGillis), who plays off Maverick’s advances. And for good reason: Turns out, she’s a civilian flight instructor at Top Gun. With Mav and Goose’s encounter with the MiG, Charlie takes an interest in Maverick now.
And because this movie seems to be Tom Cruise vs. higher education, we get our first simulated dogfight for Maverick and Goose against their instructor, Jester.
Man, they go overboard with the call names in this movie. It’s like being in a pro wrestling locker room where people call each other by their gimmick name instead of their legal names.
The test goes well as Maverick goes tit-for-tat with Jester and “shoots” him down. Two problems: They didn’t quite follow the parameters of the test. And, Maverick does a fly-by on the tower and pisses off some of the higher-ups. Again, HIS NAME IS MAVERICK. Quit being surprised when he does (REDACTED) like this!
Froemming: I am starting to see a trend here at the JOE-DOWN: A lot of Simpson/Bruckheimer films and a lot of Michael Ironside. Not that I’m complaining, it’s just something I’ve noticed.
Brown: Quick question: How weird was it to see Ironside in a non-villainous role?
Froemming: Well, we did have him in a similar role here in “Starship Troopers.” But he really shines when he plays a bad guy. With those eyebrows, he was destined to be an (REDACTED) on film.
Well, Maverick is getting a lot of attention. From Jester. From American Treasure Tom Skerritt. From Iceman. Hell, he even angers the principal from “Back to the Future” with his antics and reckless flying.
Brown: It’s not Maverick’s fault that no one can handle being in the DANGER ZONE.
Froemming: This film, I think, tries to make Maverick’s antagonist himself. But since this movie pushes our NEED FOR SPEED over PLOT, we get this instead.
Iceman is concerned because in Top Gun school, it is all practice. What is Maverick going to do when they are in the theater of war? Probably get them all killed because he has daddy issues and needs to prove something(?) to the world.
Well, before we get to more thrilling action, let’s talk about LOVE here. Because we see a budding romance between Maverick and Charlie. We also get a thrilling game of volleyball!
Brown: The volleyball scene strengthens my theory that this movie is a giant Kenny Loggins music video.
Now, I’ve played shirts vs. skins basketball with my friends before (I’m usually shirts, because obesity) and NO ONE that’s skins flexes every time they check their watch like Maverick and co. do. And, to drive home the point that Goose is the dweeb of the duo, Goose is the only one playing with a shirt on.
However bizarre this volleyball scene is, it shows the Bruckheimer/Simpson school of filmmaking where moments are more important than a fleshed-out movie. They are the quintessential guys to have to make a trailer. You’ll remember moments, but you sure as hell won’t remember the entire product.
After volleyball, Maverick goes to stalk visit Charlie. He also asks to use her shower, which I found off-putting. Dude, shower then harass her.
Froemming: Only weirdos ask to use other people’s showers. Was Maverick raised in a barn or something?
Charlie and Maverick have a nice dinner and some wine. Then we cut from this to Maverick in an elevator wearing only a towel. This was a really (REDACTED) weird cutscene to me. While we are at it, let’s give “Cocaine” an editing credit to this movie.
After some weird flirting in said elevator, there is some doubts sprinkled here and there as to Goose’s faith in his partner. Goose, like Cougar before him, has a family and probably doesn’t want to be killed because Maverick is cocky. And much like an abusive spouse, Maverick keeps calming Goose down and saying he won’t do it again. But he does.
Back to the thrilling dogfights, during one of them we see that Viper (Skerrit) is out there in a MiG and Maverick is getting cocky and reckless in his pursuit of the guy.
Brown: After trying to tame Maverick, we do get a glimpse of Goose’s family where Meg Ryan was his wife. I mean, she’s a ‘90s icon, so to see her here as some screeching wife was just weird.
Froemming: That’s just her natural voice, Brown.
Brown: And before we get to more dogfights, we get more lover’s quarrels with Maverick and Charlie where she criticizes his way of combat. So because we can’t choose an antagonist in this movie, they go haphazard in a rebel-vs.-conformity storyline. But as it turns out, Charlie was critical but sees genius in Maverick’s ways. She can’t reveal that, because somehow everyone will know she’s fallen for Maverick that way.
Umm, sure. No one remembers this anyway because they go into one of the most iconic love scenes in the ‘80s. One that we shouldn’t show here because Froemming and I wish to remain gainfully employed.
Froemming: Let me add, this is a PG film.
Brown: What a time to be alive!
Froemming: After this, we get Maverick and Goose losing a dogfight because of Maverick’s hubris. And we get Goose, because again he is a dweeb, sitting at a piano afterward singing “Great Balls of Fire,” making me think that these two men have not listened to an album that came out after 1963.
Brown: To be fair, this movie came out in 1986, the same year where Eddie Murphy’s “Party All the Time” was a top-10 song. I don’t blame Maverick and Goose for ignoring the songs of their decade.
Froemming: But alas, the movie demands a sacrifice that is bigger than forcing the viewer to listen to that Murphy/Rick James tune. Because up to this point, there has not been anything really happening in the film, and I’m guessing someone realized this so we get that sacrifice: We get the death of Goose. Goose is cooked in a dogfight, because of engine trouble and Iceman kinda being a jerk and not letting Maverick take his shot at the enemy.
Brown: While acting as Iceman’s wingman, Maverick and Goose get in trouble as they’re in Iceman’s jetwash, which causes the engines to burn out. As the jet spirals out of control, they eject the cockpit, only for Goose to launch right into the canopy head-first, killing him.
Now, after seeing your co-pilot and best friend die in your plane, you’d expect the Top Gun school would allow Maverick even a second to grieve. NOPE!
That was so (REDACTED) up about this movie. Like, they just saw Goose die and Maverick has a commander up his ass saying “You have to let Goose go.” GOOSE’S BLOOD IS PROBABLY STILL ON MAVERICK’S FLIGHT SUIT!
Froemming: I never served in any of the armed forces, so I have no idea if this is what it is like in Top Gun school. But Viper has a point: This is not the first time, nor will it be the last time, something like this will happen. It is a hard truth, I guess.
Well, they get Maverick back in the sky again, but like “Sweaty” Cougar before him, Maverick is freaking out. Of course, this is PTSD and guilt rampaging through his system. He is cautious to the point he is not willing to engage the enemy.
Brown: No, this is the ‘80s and Maverick is a MAN. Grieving is for wimps! You need to fly big machines, shoot guns and sleep with beautiful women!
And yeah, I get it. Like Cougar before him, Maverick lost the edge. And like Maverick said in the class, “If you think, you’re dead.”
I’d feel much, much worse for Maverick if he hadn’t shown throughout the entire movie that he has a death wish. Dude doesn’t even wear a helmet on his motorcycle and he was swerving through city traffic.
One more thing I want to ask: How weird was it when the movie went through a stretch where they called Maverick by his real name: Pete Mitchell? To me, it’s like seeing a friend’s dog that you’ve known for a long time without it’s collar. It’s just weird.
Froemming: I was thrown off by it. It would be like if you suddenly told me to call you “Joseph.” I would be filled with confusion and anger.
But we now learn about Pete Mitchell’s father, a pilot like Pete, who died during an accident years before, but because of government, it has been classified. Well, Viper let’s Pete in on what happened, which would infuriate Jeff Sessions to no end on this kind of leak! It is CLASSIFIED, Viper, that means you don’t flap your gums to some kid about his father’s horrific death.
Brown: I’ll give this movie credit for at least explaining something like that. Lord knows I’ve seen enough Spider-Man movies that are extremely vague about what happens to Peter Parker’s parents.
Brown: Dude, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” was my favorite movie of the year. You shut your MOUTH.
Froemming: *cough, cough* dork. *cough, cough*
Brown: (REDACTED) you.
Back to “Top Gun,” Maverick is told that he can either quit without disgrace or he can graduate with the rest of his class since he has accrued enough points to do so.
The graduation ceremony takes place at what I can only describe as the outdoor pool at the Doubletree Hotel, and Iceman is named top of the class because he was studious and succeeded within the confines of the rules. In this universe, that makes you kind of an antagonist.
But bully to the rules! Maverick shows up late and graduates as a result. Everyone knows he’s one of the top, if not the top pilot in Top Gun, so everyone is cool with his tardiness.
And there’s (apparently) a war to fight, as Iceman, Hollywood and Maverick are called in to a “crisis situation.” Because this movie refuses to do it’s homework, we have no (REDACTED) clue about where they’re headed or who the enemy is.
All they say, eventually, is a Navy ship has wandered into “foreign territory.” And if ‘80s pro wrestling taught me anything, it’s that foreign=evil.
Froemming: All we know is there is an emergency in the Indian Ocean. The enemy is flying MiGs, so I guess they are Russian or Russian allies? Who the (REDACTED) knows? I do know we get a scene that is more thrilling than the volleyball scene earlier.
Brown: Reading this movie’s Wikipedia, I just realized the name of the ship they’re aboard is the USS Enterprise. Enjoy, “Star Trek” nerds.
Froemming: Iceman and the guys are in trouble, though. There are five MiGs to contend with, and Pete Mitchell is on his way to help out. Now, he hasn’t been ready for something like this since Goose bonked his head and died. Also, he has Tim Robbins with him. But Peter has Goose’s dogtags on him, giving him the power to confront his own fears and help with killing some commie bastards.
Brown: Things don’t go well to start as Maverick is jetwashed again and almost crashes. But he’s able to get control back… only to start sweating bullets and decide on retreat.
However, Iceman is out there alone and unless you’re every ‘80s action star ever, a single man is not enough to defeat the Russians. So, Maverick decides to finish the fight and aids his one-time adversary.
Together, the duo shoot down four planes while the final one flees. Maverick and Iceman return to the Enterprise to a boat full of fanboys. Maverick can always be Iceman’s wingman! No, Iceman can be Maverick’s wingman! Whatever!
With his fear conquered, Maverick clinches Goose’s dogtags one more time before tossing them into the ocean. Umm… Goose had a son. Pretty sure Goose would want his dogtags to go to his son and wife, Maverick, you overbearing ass.
Froemming: Pete Mitchell only has time to think about himself, Brown. Why are you surprised by this? They call him Maverick throughout this movie!
Well, Pete is offered any position he wants, as he is now a hero! So, where does this freshly-minted grad of Top Gun school want to go? The world is his oyster!
He decides to be that guy and go work at his former school. He keeps getting older, but the recruits stay the same age, ammiright?
Brown: You just made me think of a middle-aged Maverick playing beach volleyball with new recruits. Damn you, Froemming.
Froemming: They are making a sequel, so anything can happen!
Anyway, we see Pete drinking at a bar, and someone pops in the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.” Surprise! It was Charlie who decided to throw her future and new promotion away to hang around this guy! Way to go, I guess?
Unless you want to add anything, I say we pop our shirts off and play some volleyball over in recommendations!
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: Yes I would. It’s not the infallible ‘80s milestone that everyone seems to remember it as. But it’s a fun action movie and I’m a sucker for most things Bruckheimer/Simpson. Like I’ve said all along, the moments make this movie great… and help you forget how incoherent this movie can be. Finally, I can never get sick of hearing “Danger Zone.”
Froemming: Nope. This is not a very good film at all. The soundtrack is great, we get some some great action scenes with the dogfights, but man this movie has no real plot. The only reason anyone should really watch it would be to get some of the jokes in “Hot Shots!”