While 2020 was the planned year for the release of Top Gun: Maverick, 2022 is the year it reigns supreme. The film opened officially on Memorial Day weekend and is shaping up to be the top hit for actor Tom Cruise who reprised his role as everyone’s favorite rogue Naval Aviator, Maverick. While the film opened up to the public for the long weekend, military bases played host to free advanced screenings the weekend before. From a World War II hangar in Hawaii to the theater on MCAS Miramar, the original home for the Top Gun school, military families were treated to the film and in some cases treats like meals courtesy of the Gary Sinise Foundation. Other locations had question and answer sessions with behind-the-scenes personnel to provide an inside look into the film and filmmaking.
Hawaiian shirts and aviators were donned. The opening music felt familiar, and 131 minutes of storyline, reminiscence, and jet scenes played out for all those in the theater.
While the pilots, of course, found holes in the plotline (why are the masks off?) and the uniforms weren’t perfect, the film was enjoyed by all. The call signs were discussed – especially Bob. Without a spoiler, his call sign makes sense once the character is introduced.
For the Gen Xers who grew up watching the film on VHS and listening to the soundtrack on the classic cassette tape, it was validating to see “the old guy, the O6 who still has it” said another military member.
Many military members commented on the nostalgia it brought forth. One family member commented, “I laughed, I cried…pretty sure I was an emotional mess.”
The enjoyment of seeing the film amongst those military members and families who know and understand what it is to live that life led to clapping, laughing, and jeering altogether. Also, for those who enjoyed the 1986 Top Gun many times, the nods to the first film brought a chorus of awes. Also, it brings to mind the reality of intensity and loss in military life. As a military family member said, it brought “all the feels wrapped up into one movie.”
The reality of the film is that Naval Aviators were behind the scenes too. And while the pilots and their families and friends had to stay silent until the film came out, the entertainment of the film was brought to life with Hollywood magic and Naval Aviator skill. The training and talents of those pilots brought the power and beauty of flight to reality and to the screen for all to enjoy.
Great Balls of Fire! Whether for nostalgia or to enjoy a new flick, the film was a hit. Several military families are going to watch the film again, and in IMAX or 4D to get more of the experience. Because they feel the need…the need for speed.