The original Top Gun (1986) holds an interesting position in popular culture. After Flashdance (1983) and Beverly Hills Cop (1984) it was the next High Concept ‘critic proof’ success story by producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer that helped redefine what a blockbuster looked like in the 1980s. It was crucial in further establishing the careers of director Tony Scott and star Tom Cruise, and it became synonymous for what is often described as the MTV-style of filmmaking where plot and character are secondary to a series of dynamic and visually arresting moments set to pop music. Its story of US navy pilot Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell (Tom Cruise) undergoing aerial combat training at the elite Fighter Weapons School was a slick combination of exhilarating air combat sequences with a melodrama about friendship, rivalries, love and masculinity. It inspired parodies, rip-offs and endless riffing about its joyful blatant homoeroticism. And yet despite its influence and the strong nostalgia appeal it holds (especially among members of Generation X) Top Gun is still seemingly not well regarded critically. It makes the prospect of a belated sequel over 30 years later – what is now commonly referred to as a legacy sequel – all the more interesting as supposedly the foundations on which it has to build on are shaky at best. And yet the results, Top Gun: Maverick, somehow manages to be both a fitting tribute to everything that audiences loved about the original film while also functioning as a well-crafted film in its own right.
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