Top Gun (1986): a recap (part 3 of 3)

Top Gun graduation is nearing, and it’s time for the final training mission that will decide who gets to go home with the Top Gun Trophy. “Danger Zone” plays again in the background.

Maverick/Goose are paired with Iceman/Slider to chase down Jester. They fly in close, and Maverick, impatient with Iceman’s cautiousness, orders Iceman to get out of the way so Maverick can take the shot. However, Maverick and Goose accidentally get caught in Iceman’s jetwash and lose control. They’re forced to eject, but Goose breaks his neck and dies.

Top Gun (1986): a recap (part 3 of 3)

Maverick is devastated and blames himself, because, yeah, he totally should. He stares angstily at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. Viper comes in and advises Maverick to “let him go.” Okay, what is it with people in this movie following other people into the bathroom?

Top Gun (1986): a recap (part 3 of 3)

Seriously, how is this appropriate?

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Maverick is cleared of any responsibility for Goose’s death by the military board, but he still blames himself, because, yeah, he totally should. Viper attempts to shake Maverick of his grief and fear by getting him to fly another mock combat mission, but Maverick has lost his aggressive fighting nature. His new partner Sundown (awesome name, by the way) yells at Maverick for missing an easy shot, but Maverick growls at Sundown to back off. Sundown quickly does.

Top Gun (1986): a recap (part 3 of 3)

“But, uh, maybe you should consider a breath mint, bro?”

Even Iceman tells Maverick it isn’t his fault that Goose is dead, but Maverick decides to quit Top Gun. Charlie finds Maverick at a bar and asks why he was going to leave without saying goodbye. She points out that she got her promotion, but she was still going to come see him. Charlie then attempts to give him a pep talk, but Maverick brushes her off. Fed up, Charlie tells him, “You didn’t learn a damn thing, except to quit. You got that maneuver down real well.”

Maybe that speech really did something for Maverick, because instead of skipping town, he goes to see Viper. In Viper’s house, he spots a picture of his father. Viper explains that he knew Maverick’s father, and that Maverick’s father didn’t mess up in the combat mission that got him killed. He also tells Maverick that he has enough points to graduate from Top Gun, but he needs to get over Goose’s death and get his confidence back.

Top Gun (1986): a recap (part 3 of 3)

I don’t really have anything to say about this screencap other than I love that Top Gun baseball cap and I want one.

Maverick leaves Viper and attempts to visit Charlie, but she’s already moved out of her house. He then goes to the airstrip and angsts some more against the sunset.

Top Gun (1986): a recap (part 3 of 3)

#sunset #angst #imnotamodel #thecameraturnedonbyitself

Maverick shows up late to the graduation ceremony, where Iceman and Slider have won the Top Gun Trophy. The graduation celebration is cut short as the leaders announce that some of the graduates have to immediately deploy for a real-life combat mission in the Indian Ocean against an unnamed but undoubtedly commie nation. Even Maverick is selected to go, and Viper offers to be his rear if no one else shows up (insert homoerotic joke here).

I really thought that was going to happen, and Maverick was going to have his mental breakthrough flying alongside his dad’s former pilot buddy, but Maverick gets assigned some generic dude to be his backup instead. What a waste.

After an hour of test combat missions, we finally get a real aerial battle! There turn out to be six enemy planes, and one of the Top Gun team members gets shot down. Maverick accidentally flies into the enemy pilot’s jetwash, and he almost has a repeat of his accident with Goose. He panics but clutches Goose’s dog tags to help regain his confidence.

Maverick then rejoins the battle and helps Iceman take out the remaining enemy planes, as totally happened all the time during the Cold War. AMERICA, YEAHHHHH!

Top Gun (1986): a recap (part 3 of 3)

When they land, Maverick and Iceman are greeted by a cheering crowd. Iceman tells Maverick, “You’re still dangerous… but you can be my wingman anytime.” Maverick replies, “No, you can.” And then they make out as the crowd roars.

Top Gun (1986): a recap (part 3 of 3)

Okay, they just exchanged some eye contact, but the guy in the back is rooting for it.

One of the general dudes congratulates Maverick for his heroism, and informs him that he now has his pick of assignments. Maverick declares that he wants to be a Top Gun instructor, and in his final moment of catharsis, he tosses Goose’s dog tags into the ocean. That’s nice and all, but shouldn’t those have gone to Goose’s wife? Or son?

Maverick goes back to the local bar to drink by himself, but then “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” plays on the jukebox. It turns out Charlie came back for him! The two make out as the credits roll.

Speaking of, check out the scene they chose for Slider’s credit:

Top Gun (1986): a recap (part 3 of 3)

Everyone else got a clip of them shoulders up, fully clothed, and looking serious. But no, Rick Rossovich gets to be seen all in his baby oil glory. I’m kinda here for it, honestly. Wish they did that for everyone else.

The Verdict:

Is it a good movie, by artistic standards? The plot is somewhat standard (rogue maverick learns to reel it in after a tragic accident) and the characters aren’t particularly interesting. However, the aviation scenes are pretty cool and the soundtrack is too (when they’re not repeating the same two songs over and over). So basically, it’s alright.

Is it a good movie, by snarkable standards? OH MY GOD YES. The homoeroticism, Kelly McGillis’ perfect wardrobe and hair, and did I mention how they kept playing the same two songs over and over?

So, to answer my own question from the intro, is Top Gun still on top after all these years? Yes. Yes, it is. Although I can’t decide if Tom Cruise is. A top, I mean.

Susan Velazquez

Susan is a recent college grad and writer who enjoys all things from the 1980s, snarking on dumb television, and reveling in celebrity gossip. Oh, and she has serious interests like reading historical fiction, getting involved in social issues, and consuming French fries.

Multi-Part Article: Top Gun: a recap

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  • Dex_Meridian

    So, the random guy that gets assigned as Maverick’s RIO is actually Tim Robbins. And he’s actually Cougar’s RIO from the opening sequence. None of that is addressed within the movie at all, and we never get to see Robbins without a mask covering most of his moneymaker. We do see him climb out of the cockpit to absolutely no fanfare while Maverick gets a ticker-tape parade. And I have to say, Tim Robbins is entirely too tall to be in a cockpit.
    Or is he? Military commenters, what say you? Also, would it be plausible that three pilots (two with their RIOs) fresh out of fighter weapons school would all be assigned to that carrier at once like that? I thought the idea was that they’d all go back to separate units and pass along what they learned to the rest of their squadrons.

    • ussafs3

      yes, TOPGUN is a temporary training assignment. You go back to your original squadron. There is no reason on earth, aside from dramatic intent, that pilots would be sent straight from a training program to a hostile fire zone as if they’re the only pilots the navy has capable of dealing with the situation. I’ve known guys who got “choice of orders” for various reasons. One guy put out a fire in a torpedo magazine after a collision at sea and was awarded a navy commendation medal. But there are limits. I doubt ( as an E-5) he could have gotten to command the USS Nimitz as his “choice of orders.” It means “you get your pick of what’s available,” not “you can have any job you want.” I doubt Maverick could have gone back to TOPGUN as an instructor anymore than go fly with the Blue Angels because he has repeatedly demonstrated that he cannot adhere to rules and regulations. I also love how he wins the final dogfight by ignoring everything he learned at TOPGUN and instead using a bullshit tactic he made up on the spot at school. Riiiigght.

    • GreenLuthor

      Right, Merlin (Tim Robbins) is Mavericks’s new partner. They’re actually back at the same carrier Maverick and Goose (and Merlin and Cougar) were on in the first scene, with the same commanding officer (Captain Principal-From-Back-to-the-Future, I think?). (Contrary to the article, though, I doubt he’s a general, since they’re all in the US Navy. But that’s a minor nitpick…)

    • Jumping in late…

      Re: Tim Robbins’ height. At 6’5″ (per Google), I’ve known taller pilots, so while definitely on the taller side, he’s not impossibly so.

      And re: getting pilots out to a carrier in an incident. Doable. As ussafs3 mentions, people go from their current squadron to TOPGUN, then back to their squadron. Each Carrier Air Wing (the aircraft assigned to the carrier) would have had two fighter squadrons assigned, and each would have sent their own guys to TOPGUN. They would have done this long before they deployed as part of the training cycle. But if something happened real-world and a command needed them back, they would work hard to get them back to their carrier, which is always doable (most likely commercial to Europe, commercial to Bahrain, COD-Carrier Onboard Delivery, a cargo aircraft flying from and to the carrier routinely) out to the carrier. Depending on when this happened, they might even pull people out of a class early to send them out there. So while it’s not very realistic, it’s also not utterly stupid, either. In a movie with lots of dumb things, it doesn’t rise above the feedback level of stupidity for me.

      Best thing about this movie is the sound overall (especially the soundtrack minus Berlin), and the aerial combat scenes. Worst thing is generally Kelly McGillis, who definitely feels “added-on”.

  • KHarn

    So there’s this problem in the Indian Ocean, see? And there’s the possibility of combat. It has to be dealt with right away. Naturally, they send out some fighters and crews who are STATESIDE to run out there AFTER some practice flights and take care of it instead of a carrier task force on patrol nearby. Because apparently, the Indian Ocean is somewhere around Catalina island and there’s no chance that the aggressors won’t finish what they were doing and leave before the heroes get there.

    My suspension of disbelief just walked out of the room, stamping it’s feet and slamming the door behind it.

    • Dex_Meridian

      All that is certainly a problem. My real beef with it is that the “situation” is completely background to our main characters. Even though a vessel needs a rescue from the US Navy, and peoples’ lives are at stake, we never even hear about that rescue again. Instead, we are far more concerned with the pilots flying air support in case the faceless commies decide to show up. As a matter of fact, the dogfight itself is treated as pretty inconsequential.
      This is the main problem with the movie, actually. There are no real stakes beyond one dipshit pilot getting his confidence to fly like an ass back after an accident. There are no consequences for any of the good guys. Hollywood and Wolfman are shot down, but naw. It’s okay. They’re already back on deck in a rescue chopper. The greatest consequence that this movie can drum up is that Tom Cruise might not be the confident swaggering badass that he thought he was.

  • Gallen Dugall

    I don’t find Top Gun recomendable at all, not even for snark, however I can recommend the entire Dogfights series produced by the History Channel. The situations, people, personalities, machines, and tactics are covered in a very informative and entertaining way. The Red Tails episode in particular is the best doc I’ve seen done on their subject complete with priceless interviews with some of the actual pilots. You can find them online if you search around a bit.