'Top Gun' Sucks

I’ll admit it, I thought Top Gun was an incredible feat of filmmaking when I first saw it. Of course, I was probably 10, but all the stunts and tricks and the incessant replaying of Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” really spoke to there was that volleyball scene.

Fast forward almost two decades and the rose-colored aviators haven't come off. When Top Gun would come up in conversation, I would stake my reputation on its excellence as a masterpiece and defend it from naysayers with the same intensity Maverick has behind the controls of his F-14. So naturally when my girlfriend suggested we re-watch it for the first time in 18 years, I said yes. This was a mistake.

Everything I felt about my beloved Tom Cruise movie completely changed. Guys, I hate to say it...but Top Gun kinda sucks.


The movie lacks a clear plot

What are we watching here? It’s basically a collection of air stunts set to Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” coupled with painfully awkward and occasionally confusing scenes of courtship and pseudo-drama. As Roger Ebert put it in his original review from 1986—”Top Gun settles fairly quickly into alternating ground and air scenes, and the simplest way to sum up the movie is to declare the air scenes brilliant and the earthbound scenes grimly predictable.”

As Roger Ebert put it: "The simplest way to sum up the movie is to declare the air scenes brilliant and the earthbound scenes grimly predictable.”

As for all the awkward love scenes? He saw right through the cheesy music and blinding blue lights, “Cruise and McGillis spend a lot of time squinting uneasily at each other and exchanging words as if they were weapons, and when they finally get physical, they look like the stars of one of those sexy new perfume ads.”

But what are truly watching? It isn’t a movie about war and it’s not a “slice of life” film, it’s just stunts.

Maverick is a total dick and a loose cannon

Like many of the high-octane sports/action films (Point Break, Days of Thunder, Teen Wolf) from the late '80s/early '90s, Top Gun truly lacks a vital part of the typical formula to make it a “good” movie: a real hero. As screenwriting teacher/famed curmudgeon Robert McKee put it, “True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure.”

Sure, we all get that Maverick comes through at the end and grows up—but he’s a reckless pilot who consistently puts lives in danger when performing all of his stunts and acts like a real dick to his superior officers. Do the ends justify the means with Maverick? Do we disregard the foolish stunts he commits as a character because he makes up with Iceman at the end?

He never gets his deserved comeuppance 

We asked our man in the air, USAF Second Lieutenant Trevor Leeming about the consequences of Maverick's behavior in a military setting.

"Given the timeframe and how the superior officer views Maverick, it was fairly believable that he could get away with it,” says Leeming. "However, training to be a fighter pilot is a very serious event...and the majority of them wouldn't do what Maverick did to jeopardize their opportunity."

"Given the timeframe and how the superior officer views Maverick, it was fairly believable that he could get away with it." —USAF Second Lieutenant Trevor Leeming

Since Maverick did get away with all this and knows it—hence that smug shit-eating grin—he doesn't really change at the end, and goes on to become an instructor at Top Gun. When your movie has neither a hero nor an anti-hero, it's probably just a bad movie.

Iceman was right all along and the movie covers that up

Maverick—as his name suggests—has some trouble following the rules. In any other sports film, bending regulations without breaking them is an act reserved for the underdog in order to come out victorious in the end.

That’s where the “antagonist” of Iceman comes in—another hotshot pilot who spends almost the entire movie as the “bad guy” because he follows the rules. “You're everyone's problem,” says Val Kilmer at his physical peak. “That's because every time you go up in the air, you're unsafe. I don't like you because you're dangerous."

“You're everyone's problem,” says Val Kilmer at his physical peak. "I don't like you because you're dangerous."

You know what I’d call that statement? A valid point. When it comes down to it, Maverick follows his namesake too closely and puts lives and equipment in danger. What if that dude who spilled his coffee all over himself from the flyby got seriously burned?

It’s been known to happen.

The volleyball scene is utterly confusing

The elephant in the room is the volleyball scene, clearly the most confusing and erotic scene of any movie. Why did the director of a movie about fighter pilots in the Navy find this scene totally necessary? I could write thousands of words about this scene, but I’ll keep it brief. I don’t know why it’s in here, I don’t know what purpose it serves, and I don’t think anyone knows.

As one dude as obsessed with the scene as I am remarked, “Why would Ice Man and Slider, who love busting Maverick’s balls, not give him crap for wearing jeans to play sand volleyball in the summer?”

I mean, these guys could have just as easily been playing a high-stakes game of Poker or Monopoly...but volleyball? In the summer? In jeans? What does it all mean?

Nobody—including the audience—is taught any lessons

If McKee is indeed correct about the hero’s journey, then all we have to do is look at the last scene of Top Gun to realize that Maverick will never truly change. Iceman says it himself, “You’re still dangerous.” Followed by the famous line, “You can be my wingman anytime,” to which Maverick retorts, “Bullshit, you can be mine.”

So, Iceman is still a stickler for the rules and Maverick is still a hothead wildcard—well, a hothead wildcard with a dead best friend. 

Jeremy Glass is a hothead from New England who's prepared to go down for this—that's why they call him the "Nor'easter." No one calls him that. 

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