Top Gun is a great title for a mediocre film. The film begins with text introducing the audience to what Top Gun is. It’s the school for training the best of the best to learn aerial combat. I’m excited. These are all the right words. But that’s not really what the film is about.
The film follows a young man, call sign Maverick (Tom Cruise), as he makes his way to Top Gun and learns to be a better pilot. He’s already a good pilot at the beginning of the film (second best) and he continues to be second best at Top Gun.
I found myself rooting for Maverick to be better or pull off some amazing stunt that makes him the best, but he never does. Even when he does something amazing, the instructors tell him it was probably the wrong thing to do. After loosing his best friend in a plane crash he almost quits flying. (Side note: I was really surprised when Goose died, because I thought Goose was the one rescuing Maverick from the water.) During the climactic scene Maverick starts to leave the battle (a life and death situation) behind. I begin to think that perhaps this is a brilliant strategic plan or all part of his genius idea, but no. He really was going to leave and then decided not to.
As the credits rolled I found myself a dissatisfied audience member. The fighting scenes always felt a little empty to me. Cutting from the inside of the cockpit where very little is happening, to see the planes flying in formation, failed to convey the excitement and fast paced action of aerial combat.
While the planes had slightly different silhouettes, I often found myself confused about which plane was the good guy and which was the bad guy.
In terms of a relationship drama, Top Gun was bland. I didn’t feel the characters had much depth. I really liked Iceman (the best pilot in the movie), but I was never sure if he was supposed to be the antagonist or not. He had some really good “wise mentor” lines, but I got the sense Maverick just ignored them.
At the end of the film everyone was happy and friendly, but did Maverick learn anything? Did he change? No, they still did an unauthorized flyby, only for some reason this time it was maybe okay.
The last battle was really the only one that felt like it had any stakes, the rest were just training exercises. Even though I knew Maverick was going to save the day, I had given up on him, because he still seemed like he had given up. The film ends with a scene signaling the continuation of the romance between Charlotte and Maverick, but honestly, I think she could do better.