Taking a page from Steve Kerr, I don’t want to talk about basketball.
To point, I also don’t want to talk about Top Gun 2: Maverick.
But, here we are.
The world feels hopeless sometimes.
May 2022 and the NRA have conspired to deliver a Vegas buffet of hopelessness in the past few weeks and May isn’t even over yet.
So in the spirit of the world has gone mad and feeling the need to write about things that are happening in the world of two wheels, I ripped across LA Wednesday night (for all my Cali friends, that would be the PCH – to the 10 – to the 405 – and up Wilshire) to shut out our gun obsessed culture, politics, Gov. Greg “F*ckhead” Abbot, to lose myself in one of my favorite fictional moto personalities, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell.
You see I was born in Ithaca NY to Republican conservative Jewish parents. I was neck deep in my formative teen years when Top Gun came out in the summer of 1986. “On Any Sunday” in my house, likely meant Sunday school or being submitted to my fathers obsession with the NY Giants. I specifically remember driving with my Dad through the Upstate NY countryside, and I saw this cabin with an enormous Harley parked in front. “That’s the dream Dad, simple life and a motorbike.” I then shared, in that brief moment of vulnerability, that I also wanted to grow a mustache and drive a Trans-Am like my idol Burt Reynolds. He laughed at me (this part I remember), distilled the virtues of boating over motorbikes, pointed out that it would take me a lifetime to grow hair on my face, and then we drove in silence for another 20 minutes. During that time, I made a list of all my favorite moto personalities that I have recently updated and will share with you now. MotoGP wasn’t accessible on TV in the 1970’s, so I was limited in my scope of what was possible.
I’d like to thank the following moto idols from the past and present for their powerful influence: Evil Knievel (yes, I know he’s real, but his impact on my childhood was significant and thus, he felt fictional), The Fonz, “Capt America” (Easy Rider that is, not the superhero), Frank Poncharello (CHiPs), Goose (from Mad Max’s Road Warrior), The Terminator, Yvonne Craig (Bat Girl in the 1970’s), and the inspiration for this post: Pete “Maverick” Mitchell.
Mav… without your guidance, I might be standing on a 30’ Chris Craft wearing a white captain’s hat thinking I am living a full life. For that, I am eternally grateful.
However, I am not going to write a review of Top Gun 2.
I am only going to suggest that while COVID has leveled all types of business models, nothing replaces the moment when you settle into a seat with $20 worth of popcorn and the lights dim. It is, and remains, one of the best feelings in the world. To point, if you see TG2 in the theater, you get a brief personal acknowledgement from Tom Cruise himself thanking you for supporting movies still being played on large screens. In addition, and I don’t know much about lenses and directorial intent, but the TG2 director went in so close on both Cruise and Jennifer Connelly, I felt like we were dating. My point, please see this film on a big screen. Please.
Ok then, why see this movie? Here’s the short list:
- The last 30 minutes of this film was just kick ass…it was more fun than taking molly in Las Vegas. In addition, the opening sequence of the film has a hilarious pay off that sets the stage for many cliches and general predictability of this big budget film.
- The airborne fight scenes with Mav and Rooster are beyond the scope of my tiny brain, and I plan to see this movie again just to try and break down how they shot all of this. It restores your faith in the Hollywood blockbuster and we need our faith restored right now (in something other than Washington DC).
- I laughed at the “multi-culti” box checking Hollywood has to do now (thank god!). In the original Top Gun, I think there was like one black dude. In TG2, the pilots are female, Latino, black, and of course, one devastatingly cocky and handsome (white) guy who fills the super swag role of the original “Iceman”. I also noted that the enemy in the film – were appropriately ambiguous and non-ethnic. More on this in a moment.
- Lastly, Kawasaki does a great job premiering a new bike in this film. In the first Top Gun, Maverick rips around on a Kawi GPZ900R. In this film, he rides the new Ninja H2R. I’m not a Kawi guy, so it didn’t really have the sex appeal or land with impact like most bike product placements do. But the first shot of the retro Kawasaki is glorious. I recently learned that in the original Top Gun, producers selected Honda to be Mavericks bike but Honda didn’t like the idea of the hero NOT wearing a helmet. There are multiple scenes of Maverick (and Penny, played by the gorgeous Jennifer Connelly) riding around sans-helmet. I am pro-choice so I don’t judge people for not wearing helmets, but this detail makes no sense.
When Top Gun hit the cinema in 1986, most of you reading this were likely not even born or in diapers. To me, a teen kid living in Upstate NY, it was a confusing time because all I remembered from the film was the infamous oiled up and bare chested volleyball scene.
I wish I were kidding.
I wan’t sure WTF was going on inside my undeveloped teen brain until Tarantino delivered a blistering review of Top Gun’s subversive homosexual themes in a scene from the the 1994 film “Sleep with Me.”
“You’ve got Maverick, all right?” Tarantino’s character says. “He’s on the edge, man. He’s right on the fucking line, all right? And you’ve got Iceman, and all his crew. They’re gay, they represent the gay man, all right? And they’re saying, go, go the gay way, go the gay way. He could go both ways…Kelly McGillis, she’s heterosexuality. She’s saying: no, no, no, no, no, no, go the normal way, play by the rules, go the normal way.
In the 30+ years since TG came out, I no longer refer to Top Gun as “the volleyball movie.”
In TG2, volleyball is replaced by football, but the writers paid tribute to the gender bending of Tarantino’s take on Top Gun. In the beach football scene in the middle of TG2, Maverick points out to his superior officer that the football game they are playing has them going “both ways” – playing offense and defense at the same time. I laughed out loud.
Thanks Hollywood, you never let me down.
Here’s my favorite detail of TG2 and it’s something to lean on now that we all have to return to this version of reality we have constructed. By that, I mean our current social and political climate. The enemy in TG2 is appropriately ambiguous. There are no flags, no foreign language spoken, no specific ethnicity for us to point at and direct our hate. The enemy is both invisible and very real, yet Maverick and his team of pilots confront faceless, high tech supported pilots protected by surface to air missiles. This was obviously done with great intent by the producers.
As I drove home, and considered both Buffalo and Uvalde TX, the facelessness of the faux Hollywood created enemy felt like such a strong commentary on current culture. It’s the cognitive dissonance of how tech connects us and kills us. We are anonymous and sometimes faceless people posting hateful manifesto’s – we are the same people who seek community and are desperate to feel part of something even if it’s something as silly as a community on Facebook.
Top Gun was shot in the Reagan era, when Reganonomics set forth a reduction of taxes and a free market system that has created many of the social and civil issues we now face. We are a divided nation and while Trump exposed it and fanned the flames he by no means created it. All these issues are connected. Top Gun 2, despite being “in the chute” for 2 years could not come at a more poignant and difficult time for our nation. We are, quite literally, gun crazy.
Look, I really went to see a movie and a new motorcycle, I swear.
I got to crush on Jennifer Connelly.
I got to see her standing, in the final scene, in front of a perfectly restored Porsche 911 that made me rethink my entire life plan.
I got to laugh at well constructed sexual innuendo. I got to laugh at my awkward high school years.
I will continue to answer my phone with “talk to me Goose.”
And with god as my witness, I will never leave my wingman.
God bless you, Maverick. We need you more than ever.