Top Gun: Again

Top Gun: Maverick opened big. Third biggest this year behind Dr Strange, and The Batman. Both comic book movies with built in audiences and very well known franchises with a very young, feverish fan base.  These movies are targeted for 18-34 year olds, while Top Gun aimed at the +35 yr olds. A much harder crowd to get out of the house and see a movie, especially on opening weekend.

Now here is the impressive part. Dr. Strange dropped 67% in it’s second week, The Batman dropped 50% and even Spiderman: No Way Home from 2021 dropped 67% in it’s second week. All huge films, and embedded in our culture. No way Top Gun, a sequel to a movie from 1986 can compare to that, right? Well it did far better, actually. Top Gun dropped just 29% in it’s second week, and brought in a whopping $90 million dollars.

Top Gun has hit $700 million globally and is now easily Tom Cruise’s biggest hit of his career.  How? Why? Well it could be a number of things. The pandemic, sure, maybe +35 year olds are ready to come out now and join society and get popcorn stuck on their shoes. A non-superhero film that they are actually interested in?  Perhaps my crowd is getting tired of paper thin comic book stories that are told over and over again. Sometimes we only go see the film because it has Thor or Spiderman in it. I know no one really raves about those stories or invests much into them, I know I sure don’t.  Another theory is, hey – this film is just that damn good. It has stunts that only Tom Cruise can do, and has been improving upon since 1986. He has flown just about everything that can fly and his stunts have grown increasingly complicated since 1986. A great story, shot by the McQuarrie and Kosinski, the best in the business right now, and you may have your answer. Or we could take the red pill, and go another way –

I mean +35 demographic have been waiting literally decades for two characters to return.  Luke Skywalker and Capt. Pete Maverick Mitchell.  Tom Cruise is in rare company with a film like this.

Return of the Jedi, released 1983, the last time we saw Luke. Top Gun followed in 1986.  Both films were huge hits and were passed around school like a bad joint. Posters all over the place, lunch boxes, bedsheets, the whole thing. Would we ever see Luke again? What would he be doing? Did he restore the Jedi? Well, no. We got our answer in 2017, 31 years later, and it was a crushing disappointment.  Luke never restored the Jedi, never killed the Emperor, never defeated the Sith or the Dark Order. Basically, he accomplished nothing, almost killed his nephew for having a nightmare and disconnected with the force. So for the +35 demographic, that was 31 years wasted and a massive disappointment.

Now here comes Maverick – released 2022, 36 years later.  What has become of Maverick? We waited 36 years for an answer, and Oh My God please don’t let him be like Luke!!

Wait a second – Maverick has grown? He cares about other pilots? He learned his lessons from past experiences? He is still a pilot, loves flying and is still amazing at it?  Like Luke was supposed to be with The Force?  Incredible!! So it IS possible?

Yes Maverick was written well, very well. Our beloved main character is still a bit rebellious, as he was, but now he is older, wiser and cares about people, especially about the younger pilots. He is still hated by the Navy, and they still want him out, bad – but Iceman who is now an Admiral, keeps Maverick in. Good to have friends in high places.

Maverick is not that cocky kid anymore, and neither was Luke – but Maverick still stayed who he was, a pilot who loved flying and even though he made mistakes and was part of the death of his best friend, still flew, and more importantly, still fought to fly.  This is something we still wanted with Luke but never got.

Top Gun 2 is flying high for many reasons, but mostly, I believe, because it was done right. It gave us +35 year olds who waited 36 years for a character we loved as much as Luke, to enchant us again, and give us hope again.  Maverick accomplished that feeling, that emotion in spades, while still paying homage to the past, respecting the past and accepting the future.

Great line – “your kind is headed for extinction” “Maybe so, Sir, but not today” We all know there will be a time when we gotta hang it up, especially for us +35’s and we can hear it breathing down our necks every day. But like Maverick, it’s those last quality rides we get, that bring back feelings of youth, excitement and hope, that are the sweetest.