‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Proves America Needed a Win

“The end is inevitable, Maverick. Your kind is destined for extinction,” says Admiral Cain.

“Maybe so, sir. But not today,” Maverick replies.

The unthinkable just happened. A summer blockbuster that didn’t feature aliens, dinosaurs, superheroes, or any other supernatural force raked in over $150 million at the box office in one weekend. The biggest opening weekend in Tom Cruise’s career and projected to be the second biggest Memorial Day weekend opening in history behind only “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” in 2007.

And that’s just the domestic box office. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Top Gun: Maverick” is expected to soar to over $275 million at the global box office and that’s without being shown in China or Russia.

So how did a 59-year-old actor starring in a sequel to a 36-year-old, Reagan-era action romance/bromance about elite Naval Aviators completely reboot the summer action blockbuster? Simple: they gave America what they wanted.

The formula is simple, but it’s difficult to bottle the perfect combination of nostalgia, action, patriotism, and fun in one movie. “Top Gun: Maverick” is that perfect formula. It’s the Coca-Cola of summer blockbusters. And there’s a diminutive actor to thank for all of it.

Tom Cruise goes for it. He doesn’t just go through the motions. His admirably childlike exuberance and optimism won’t allow it. He is committed to entertaining his audience, even if it’s at a personal and physical risk to himself.

This commitment to taking the audience’s breath away (sorry, had to do it) is evidenced by the fact that he broke his ankle while performing one of his own stunts on the set of “Mission Impossible: Fallout” in 2017. So I was confident when a long-rumored sequel to “Top Gun” became a reality that he wasn’t doing it unless everyone at Paramount was willing to go big.

And big they went. And big has paid off. Full disclosure: As a child of the 80’s and 90’s, I’ve seen the original “Top Gun” at least 100 times and can quote the entire movie with my friends and family. Let’s just say “I have a need for speed” and “I’m dangerous” and when told “So you’re the one?”, I respond with “Yes, Ma’am” and if you aren’t getting any of these references, stop reading and go watch the original “Top Gun” or just watch this classic clip.

Anything that tugs at the strings of nostalgia can become delicate. You don’t want that beautiful thing to be tainted in any way. And make no mistake about it, the original “Top Gun” tightly woven into an action packed 1 hour and 50-minute charm offensive IS a beautiful thing. Show me a boy who grew up in my era who didn’t want their own call sign, and I’ll show you one who had a misspent youth. So when I went with my wife and another couple from my neighborhood to a Sunday night showing, my heart and stomach were filled with “great balls of fire.”

When Tom Cruise appeared on the big screen in front of me with a message of gratitude for coming to watch this movie that was so long in the making, I perked up. When the opening of the movie was accompanied by Harold Faltermeyer’s original rock composition “Top Gun Anthem,” I knew that Tom Cruise wasn’t going to let me down. A little over two hours later, I walked out of the theater riding on a high not seen since the Righteous Brothers serenaded me off the screen so many years ago.

“Top Gun: Maverick” delivers. Aside from the excellent cast, exhilarating action set pieces, and fast-paced story, it succeeds because it plays the hits. Special shout-out to Miles Teller as Goose’s son. I could watch Miles in anything, but he is especially perfect in this role. That was one they needed to cast correctly, and they nailed it.

We are a simple species at times. We want to feel good about ourselves, and we want to feel good about our country and those who are brave enough to defend it. This movie left me feeling good about everything.

Movies are supposed to be inspirational. I watch plenty of television shows with an antihero or that puts us in touch with the harsh and gritty reality of the world. And these are shows worth watching. But there are times when I simply want to sit elbow to elbow with a bunch of people who want to be entertained for a couple of hours.

I recently got into an argument on OutKick 360 with co-host Paul Kuharsky after he said a movie-going experience is nothing like a rock concert. I respectfully disagree. The feeling I had watching “Top Gun: Maverick” in a community of others was every bit as special as any rock concert I’ve attended. And I’m willing to bet if I stood outside the theater and polled the people walking out of the theater, they would say the same.

It’s ok for movies to have that effect on people. It’s entertainment. To each his or her own. It’s supposed to make us feel something. And what “Top Gun: Maverick” made me feel was gratitude. Gratitude to the real-life men and women who volunteer to go Mach-10 with their hair on fire because they want to help protect the rest of us. Gratitude to the filmmakers for being unabashedly optimistic in their storytelling and hopefully launching a new generation of kids who give each other call signs. And gratitude for everyone who went and watched the movie opening weekend in hopes that this success will launch other optimistic blockbusters featuring real life people for many summers to come.

I heard from a lot of you wanting my review for “Top Gun: Maverick,” so here it is. It’s great. Go see it. Go see it if you loved the first one and want that hit of nostalgia. Go see it if you never saw the first one and want to escape the cynicism of our world for a couple of hours. Go see it if you are grateful to live in America and want to celebrate that greatness. Go see it if your hope in our country is waning. Go see it if you are experiencing something that has you pessimistic about things. Just go see it and feel something. Whatever it is, it’s worth it.

The response to this movie from Americans far and wide gives me a lot of hope and optimism for our future. We aren’t a bunch of losers sitting around waiting for the other shoe to drop. Deep down, we are optimists who believe the next win is just around the corner. We may not all have Maverick’s swagger or ability to withstand G forces, but we know that when the time comes, we can at least be someone’s wingman. So grab a wingman (or wingwoman) and go feel good about yourselves and your country again.

Plus, much like patriotism, aviators never go out of style.

Written by Chad Withrow

Chad Withrow hosts OutKick 360 and has covered Nashville sports, statewide, and SEC college issues and headlines since 2004.

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