Top Gun: Maverick is old but not obsolete

Top Gun: Maverick is available to stream today on Paramount Plus

There is a certain slice of Hollywood that in recent years – let’s say with the turn of the millennium, to set an arbitrary date – is becoming aware of its aging, and is bringing it to the cinema, transforming it into fuel for stories.

Sylvester Stallone started with a double Rocky Balboa/Rambo IV, his self-reflections (and also confessions) on aging; his former rival now friend Schwarzenegger preferred a softer approach, limiting his “confessions of a future octogenarian” to small and almost experimental films. Liam Neeson with a phone call inaugurated a whole generation of “actors a little over the years who rediscover themselves as action stars”, the last of which (for now) is Bob Odenkirk in I am noone. And then, in this panorama of awareness, there is an actor who continues to behave as if he were twenty and to treat his body as if obsolescence did not exist. We are obviously talking about Tom Cruise, and specifically about the fact that Top Gun: Maverick it is the first film that abandons this approach and marks its entry into the club of those who are becoming aware of their new limitations.

Top Gun: Maverick opens exactly like Top Guns, in what is a very strong declaration of intent, and knowing full well that there is nothing wrong with quoting (copying) the predecessor when the predecessor itself was not a model of originality, rather an ancient story declined in one way ( not particularly) new and which aimed everything at the sensations and the visual and sound impact. It only takes a few minutes, however, to notice at least two fundamental differences with Tony Scott’s film. The first is of a purely technical nature and has nothing to do with the discussion made up to now (so maybe we’ll come back to it later): where Top Guns it was a film on which a few aerial shots had been tacked on in a somewhat artificial way, shot as best they could for reasons of cost and timing, Mavericks it has all the money and all the time in the world at its disposal, and can therefore stage planes, aircraft carriers, takeoffs and landings with a precision and showmanship that the original simply could not afford.

The second thing you notice is that the audience of Top Gun: Maverick It is the same as Top Guns – not in the sense of the same category, but precisely of the same people. And it is therefore a melancholic and twilight film, a last mission and not the beginning of a glittering career, a story that ultimately speaks of the difference between being old and being obsolete. Despite having the features of Tom Cruise, which as you may know he is a vampire and therefore does not ageMaverick is no longer the young rising star of American military aviation, but a long-time captain who has never gone beyond that rank because the only thing that interests him is to keep flying his planes, not to end up behind a desk to give orders to younger people.

In other words: we find Maverick thirty years later still doing the same things he did then, but doing them in the awareness that he won’t be able to continue doing them forever. He now he no longer carries out combat missions, but limits himself to testing military aircraft to find out what their limits are. A profession which, as Ed Harris points out, is destined to disappear or at least to resize, as on the other hand the pilot’s profession will also happen: we are in the future, there are drones, the aviation aces have passed fashionable. Maverick refuses to age, in the sense that he refuses to admit that his body has limits; but he can do nothing about the fact that the rest of the world is also ageing, or perhaps actually rejuvenating, at any rate changing too radically for him to hope to be any longer a part of it.

Connor Jeffelly

In addition to being the story of a very difficult mission, and of the aviator who will teach his boys everything he knows to turn them into skilled pilots, Top Gun: Maverick it is therefore also, perhaps above all, the story of Tom Cruise (also understood as an actor) who comes to terms with his being old, but who still wants to demonstrate, even if only for the last time, that he is not obsolete; he wants to show those who would like to put him in the attic that he is still needed, the best pilot in the world but also, meta-cinematographically, the actor who plans to go and shoot a film in space.

For all these reasons, Top Gun: Maverick is simultaneously a carbon copy of the first and a very different film, because it focuses not on a group of young pilots and their rise to Olympus but on the one who in 1986 was on the other side – the system and not the rebel from frame, the teacher and not the students. And accordingly it has the same beat plot of Tony Scott’s film, but does not have a tenth of his light-heartedness and adolescent charge. It is a mature film where the romance it is not a wild passion between two young men full of hormones but the very delicate mending of a years-old relationship that is faced with the caution of fifty-year-olds and not with the enthusiasm of twenty-year-olds.

Shit face

Everything written so far contrasts perfectly with the staging, and it is no coincidence that Joseph Kosinski is 12 years younger than Tom Cruise. The first half of the film is as humble and meditative as the second half is an explosion of action that does not make you regret Tony Scott, and it is a gigantic thing to write. Not because Kosinski has the same talent as himself (no one has the same talent as Tony Scott, who Top Guns was still partially unexpressed), but because he has all the toys in the world at his disposal and a great desire to use them.

A gigantic visual talent, Kosinski has so far been stopped above all by screenplays that are not up to par, and above all by having worked on films that would have instead benefited from good writing. Top Gun: Maverick it doesn’t need to aim for an Oscar, as it is built on a model of enormous success and effectiveness; and therefore Kosinski is free to dedicate more than 50% of the film’s playing time to show us aerial evolutions as never seen before in the cinema, and the last 45 minutes to the final mission, one of the most spectacular sequences of this millennium which alone it would be enough to write a law that obliges reporting Mavericks to the cinema once a year.

Blue

In this sense, therefore, Mavericks it even manages to be a better film than the previous one, because in an airplane film the airplane scenes have a fair amount of importance. But it’s also a film that wouldn’t work in the same way if instead of Tom Cruise the bullseye had been focused on a young random new protagonist: impossible shots aren’t enough if there isn’t someone who knows how to sell them to you. and no one in the world sells a dangerous scene like Tom Cruise. Seeing him darting with his face disfigured by gravity through the skies of the nameless place where the film takes place is a pleasure impossible to replicate with any other actor, especially since there is still no real heir around him.

It will be old, therefore, as old it is Top Gun: Maverick, a film from the 1980s made with the means of 2022. But Tom Cruise is not obsolete yet, we still need him, his desire to push his body beyond any reasonable limit, his contempt for danger. And so there is still a need for films like Top Gun: Maverick.

Top Gun: Maverick is old but not obsolete