'Top Gun' 36 years later: seven questions I had rewatching the 1986 film

Ahead of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ hitting UAE cinemas, I took the highway to the danger zone right back to the beginning…

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With my ticket already purchased and my excitement levels sky-high for Top Gun: Maverick opening in UAE cinemas on Thursday, I thought it was time to revisit the first film to refresh my fighter pilot speak.

The original film was released in 1986, and it’s taken 36 years for Maverick to feel the need, the need for speed, once more, as he takes to the skies with a fresh batch of recruits, including Miles Teller’s Lieutenant Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw, the son of Maverick’s late, great co-pilot, Goose.

While I could spend all day wondering why the characters played by Meg Ryan and Anthony Edwards would name their only child Bradley Bradshaw, I felt my time would be better spent rewatching the film that unintentionally became the US Navy’s greatest recruitment tool, and sharing some thoughts, feelings and existential questions I had while I did.

Here are seven questions I have after rewatching Top Gun

1. Why is everyone super-manly and inexplicably sweaty all the time?

Pictured: Manliness. And sweatiness. Photo: Paramount Pictures

The film opens with a brief explanation of what Top Gun is.

“On March 3, 1969, the United States Navy established an elite school for the top one per cent of its pilots…” blah blah blah. It goes on: “Its purpose was to… insure that the handful of men who graduated…”

The obvious typo aside (it should be ensure, not insure), the film makes no apologies for the fact that this film is all about men.

Men who fly planes, men who play volleyball in jeans, men who ride motorbikes, men who wear leather jackets in 40-degree heat, men who give themselves names such as “Maverick” and “Ice Man” and “Viper”.

Cut to the opening scene on an aircraft carrier, everyone is doing hand signals and being manly, but more importantly, they’re all really, really sweaty. You’re telling me the US Navy spent $800 billion squillion on a warship, yet didn’t spring for an air con? Not even an outside unit? Tsk, men.

2. Would these things ever happen in real life?

I would need more than my own hands and feet to count how many movie scenes I’ve watched where someone sings a song to someone else in a bar or restaurant and all the other patrons join in.

What if you don’t know the words? And aren’t they all secretly wishing that guy would shut up so they can enjoy their twice-baked cheese souffle in peace? But that’s real life, and Top Gun is a movie.

So, we have Maverick starting a group sing-along of The Righteous Brothers classic You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling to Charlie (Kelly McGillis) in a bar. A bar in which, incidentally, Ice Man (Val Kilmer) is wearing sunglasses at night.

We also have Charlie driving at 100mph through red lights and busy intersections to catch up to Maverick after he has a man-baby tantrum in her class, and we have men playing volleyball in their jeans. In the summer.

3. Will the volleyball scene ever not be awesome?

The volleyball game in 'Top Gun' is one of the film's most famous scenes. Photo: Paramount Pictures

Even if you’ve never seen the movie, it’s likely you know the scene.

The match features Ice Man and Slider (Rick Rossovich) versus Maverick and Goose (Anthony Edwards — more on him later).

Slider is suitably dressed in grey sweatpants, while Goose is even more on point in floral board shorts and a vest.

Ice Man and Maverick, however, are both wearing jeans. Actual denim in that Californian heat. OK, so they’re shirtless to let a little of that breeze in, but diving around on the sand in jeans? My skin itches just thinking about it.

4. Where does Maverick get the audacity?

Love-interest-but-also-intelligent-independent-woman Charlie slips Maverick a note earlier in the film which reads: “Dinner tonight. 5.30pm sharp!!!”

Aside from wondering who on earth has dinner at 5.30pm, it’s pretty obvious from the word “sharp” and the three exclamation marks, that Charlie is not messing around.

So, what does Maverick do? He turns up late, seriously ripe from the volleyball game, and empty-handed. Not even a bunch of flowers plucked from Charlie’s own garden. Rude.

What does Maverick do next?

If you had “Tells, not asks, Charlie that he’s ‘going to go take a shower’ in her own house” on your Top Gun bingo card, then ding ding, we have a winner. All this, after she cooked him dinner.

The audacity!

5. Will those classic lines ever die?

Where would Casablanca be without “Here’s looking at you, kid?” Or The Godfather without that offer that could not be refused? Smart, snappy, well-delivered lines can elevate a film from simple movie to instant classic, and Top Gun has them in spades.

Here are some to incorporate in your day-to-day life:

“Your ego is writing cheques your body can’t cash.” Navy top dog Stinger provides the ultimate put-down for the arrogant Maverick in your life.

“There are no points for second place.” Your ready-made soundbite if you appear on Real Housewives of Dubai.

“I’m gonna hit the brakes and he’ll fly right by.” Incorporate into your secret friend code for when you need to shake off a stage-five clinger.

“Get your butts above the hard deck and return to base immediately.” I use this on my children in lieu of saying: “It’s time to go home now.”

“It takes a lot more than fancy flying.” Let someone know you’re unimpressed.

“I feel the need, the need for speed.” Think this, but do not apply it during rush hour on the 311.

6. Why does no one care that Goose dies?

Maverick's best friend and co-pilot Goose (Anthony Edwards) dies, and everyone tells Maverick to get over it. Photo: Paramount Pictures

Maverick flies through a jet wash, the ejector seat slams Goose into the cockpit hatch, and he dies of a broken neck by the looks of it. And then everyone around Maverick proceeds to be blisteringly unsympathetic. Poor guy!

Maverick’s boss Viper (Tom Skerritt) turns up to visit him in the hospital to offer the world’s worst condolences. He then points out that he, Viper, lost 10 men in one day during an aerial dog fight once, so Maverick should shut up..

“You’ve got to let him go,” he tells Maverick, while Goose has been gone a day.

Then Ice Man turns up to show the kind of emotional support one might get from a cork placemat.

“Mitchell, I’m sorry about Goose,” he tells Maverick in the men’s locker room. “Everybody liked him. I’m sorry.”

7. Is 'Top Gun' a metaphor for life?

One of the main life lessons 'Top Gun' serves up is that there are times in your life when you have to be a wingman. Photo: Paramount Pictures

Top Gun was made back in the day when films knew what audiences wanted, and that wasn’t to get a numb bottom from sitting in a chair for eight hours watching Avatar 12.

Clocking in at one hour and 44 minutes, Top Gun packs absolutely everything you could possibly want from a Hollywood popcorn movie into a trim run time.

We have fighter jets, male bonding, car chases, love scenes, life lessons, family trauma, death, generic baddies-who-could-be-Russian-but-could-also-be-North-Korean, friendship, toxic masculinity, oh, and of course, volleyball.

Top Gun: Maverick opens in UAE cinemas on May 26

'Top Gun: Maverick' premiere in London — in pictures

Updated: May 26, 2022, 9:42 AM
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