Saturday, May 11, 2013

Instant Action: Top Gun (1986)

What do you get when a Goose, a Maverick, a Slider, and an Iceman play volleyball?

Written By: Jim Cash & Jack Epps Jr.
Directed By: Tony Scott

If there's one thing I know that I'd never be able to do in life it's pilot a fighter jet. My extreme motion sickness would rule me out right off the bat. However, if we were to take that out of the equation I still wouldn't be able to pilot a fighter jet. The reason for this is simple, it's far too complicated of a task for this old bloke. It's amazing to watch the footage that Tony Scott provides of the fighter jets in action during Top Gun. A cacophony of movement and visceral intent, the fighter jet action in Top Gun is meant to put the viewer at a comfortable distance. It's enjoyable to watch, it's exhilarating to take in, but it's not something the great majority of us can hope to understand. Mr. Scott takes us into this foreign world, and he infuses us with the sort of action that we wouldn't be able to partake in otherwise. That's the real strength, and beauty of Top Gun, the effortless nature with which Mr. Scott orchestrates the fighter jet action.

The same cannot be said for the romance or the trite story that makes up Top Gun. These elements of the film are all too easy to understand because they are so vapid and shallow. There's no real romance between Maverick and Charlie, there's but quick glances and creepy kisses under the waning sun (seriously, who the hell licks the roof of someone's mouth?) The story is in much the same vein, the all too easy to tap into vein that is. A group of super charged macho men are vying for some sort of title, and to get they need to do manly things. That's the extent of the base story in Top Gun, and it is in the script of Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr. that Top Gun lets down the viewer the most. The great action delivered by Mr. Scott deserves more than a haphazard, and contrived, contest story and a paper thin romance.

Luckily Mr. Scott is around to buoy the action with some relationship nuggets that are probably easy to look past on first glance. The volleyball scene has become infamous throughout the years for its buried homoeroticism. In fact, Top Gun has earned a large reputation for its homoerotic tendencies in general. That's what's on the surface, but for those who give Mr. Scott's films more than surface respect there's more than homoeroticism at play. The world of Top Gun is a man's world and Mr. Scott's film is all about the way that men define themselves and their relationships in a man's world. This has grown to be a common trend I find in Mr. Scott's work, but Top Gun is the first film I can recall taking on a distinctive "relationship as definition" feel from Mr. Scott. Volleyball isn't just an excuse for muscled up men to take their shirts off and give off gay vibes. It's a chance for them to do that and to seek to establish dominance within the male relationships that make up the world of Top Gun. Trust me, looking at Mr. Scott's films, especially Top Gun, from a relationship perspective opens his film up for a lot more discussion.

Not all of Top Gun is up to snuff, but it was never up to snuff to begin with. Top Gun is a film that excels in the areas where it needs to excel, and fails in the areas that never interested Mr. Scott in the first place. Male relationships, Anthony Edwards, and keen fighter jet action, that's what Top Gun brings to the table. I'm down for sitting at the table with Top Gun. I greatly enjoy the elements that Top Gun gets right. I have major issues with the lesser areas of Top Gun, but at the end of the day the positives outweigh the negatives, mouth roof licking be damned!



Bill Thompson

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