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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.