Top Gun Maverick has an IMDB score of 8.6, putting it in the esteemed company of It’s a Wonderful Life and Saving Private Ryan, Life is Beautiful and The Green Mile. It’s a good film. It’s spectacularly shot with actors sitting in real-life inverted fast jets. It’s honestly relational; the characters are endearing in their responses, ambitions and regrets. As you’d expect it’s gung-ho, U.S.A.-go! stuff, but it’s free from both the P.C. overtones of its age and the misogynistic undertones of its prequel.
And yet, as we emerged from the cinema, I found myself strangely unsatisfied among my thrilled co-viewers. I’ve been trying to work out what my problem is.
It could be the predictability. Ask my family – they will tell you I am very bad at predicting what will happen next. I rarely know who did it. But I saw all of the reconciliations and all of the rescues in Maverick coming a nautical mile off.
On reflection, I think there’s a deeper disconnect between me and Maverick. The squeaky-clean, precision-timed realism of the fast jet footage was ultra-real. Real g-forces and real fear are captured in the eyes of the actors, real cancer in the face of Val Kilmer. There’s an intense realism to way the film is made. But there’s a jarring detachment between my view of reality and the main plot-line.
We’re making our way through the book of Revelation as a church at the moment. The grittiness of the powers of evil colours every sermon. Jesus wins, but he and his people suffer and die. History and regular updates from Open Doors, CSW, Amnesty etc today tell the same story. I find myself watching a fair bit of news at the moment too. Maybe too much. It’s complicated – Stalin and Hitler and Chamberlain and Trump and Peter the Great and Prince Volodymir all left deep ruts that present leaders get stuck in. There is a black and white moral quality to Russia’s action in Ukraine. But the interconnectivity of the global economic system means that responses end up in fudged shades of grey. We’re supporting a church in Svitlovods’k who are feeding families of refugees who don’t know if they will ever be able to return to their homes. Inflation, fuel shortages language barriers, fear, separated families, PTSD all part of their everyday lives at the whim of complex powers beyond any of their control.
So when a non-descript clear-cut, faceless, nameless black-and-white baddy gets destroyed in a one-off hit involving multiple miracles (I found the borrowing of the enemy F14 particularly hard to swallow), I was left disorientated. Maybe I need to do a news-fast (I’m not going to do a bible-fast) and go re-watch. Perhaps the super high IMDB score is a reflection of an escape from realism which I failed to grasp. But it seems to me that where the realism of the cinematography and sitz-im-leben of any of the other 8.6ers above are in sync with one another, Maverick’s ultra-high-definition pilots and characters jarred with a nebulous setting and simplistic plot. It’s a well made film. Definitely worth watching again. A clear 7. But 8.6? Not in my real world.