' ' Cinema Romantico: Top Gun 2: Now or Then?

Monday, July 22, 2019

Top Gun 2: Now or Then?

As “Top Gun” concluded, rather than fading to black, director Tony Scott chose to first roll his main cast’s credits over an accompanying live action image of each one, as if taking care to freeze that persona in time. That was appropriate. “(Tom) Cruise is Maverick. And Maverick is America, at least America back in the go-go 80s,” wrote Chris Nashawaty for Entertainment Weekly, a quote I referenced in my 2014 argument that “Top Gun” was the quintessential 80s movie, wholly, specifically of its time, a sort of maximalist the-present-is-so-bright-I-have-to-wear-sunglasses that defined the Reagan Administration – America, Now More Than Ever. In that way, “Top Gun” should have remained sequel-less; it is 1986, forever and ever. Then again, this is now, 2019, when not only is our dearth of creative cinematic ideas leading to a proliferation of ho-hum sequels but where much of America seems gripped by a political and social fetishization of 80s styled gung-ho patriotism, which is underlined in America’s current Man in Charge being a product of the Me Decade. And that might well make the “Top Gun” sequel, set for a 2020 release, the perfect movie to comment on our strange times.

The trailer that dropped last week for “Top Gun 2”, however, doesn’t look all that much like Now. Yes, it’s got Now Tom Cruise, but Tom Cruise of Now goes to great lengths to stay Forever Young which is fine for an “M:I” movie where escalation by way of repetition – even if directors change – is the point but oddly unsettling when pointedly flashing ahead 33 years. Why we see Maverick pull the cover off a motorcycle and go for a ride alongside a runway right straight into the sunset of nostalgia. But that’s not all. The trailer includes a brief shot of a volleyball game, sure enough, and a quick sliver of what appears to be a Goose-styled singalong at a Kanas City Barbeque-style joint, wouldn’t you know it, and, my God, even the light filtering across Tom Skerritt – er, Ed Harris’s – face there at the start makes it look like they haven’t changed the style of window blinds at the Naval Weapons Fighter School since, well, 1986. This looks suspiciously like fan service, “Top Gun” as “Solo: A Star Wars Story”, a narrative more chock full of Easter eggs than new ideas because all we want is what we already had which I thought was why we had home video but maybe the movie theater is the new VCR?

Of course, that in and of itself could become the ultimate commentary. Right? Make Hollywood Great Again by just playing the hits, whether earnestly or ironically, montages and machismo of a whole new generation. And that’s why we must reserve judgment until release. And anyway, even if intellectually my eyes rolled in the face of one more sequel whose makers seemed to have fallen asleep during the litany of “Great Gatsby” book reports, emotionally I felt a quiver in my heart when I heard the apparent update on Harold Faltermeyer’s score. “I can’t wait to see this,” I thought. In the end, I guess, I’m just like everyone else.

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