In Indiewire Tom Brueggemann made the case that Top Gun 2 has “saved the movies.” His argument goes that in a Hollywood which has thrown over stars for franchises, and these overwhelmingly of the CGI-loaded “media” sci-fi type (comic book superheroes, Star Wars, etc.), Top Gun: Maverick has scored far and away the summer’s and the year’s biggest success with an old-fashioned star-driven vehicle without the superhero and other trappings — suggesting there is still room for other kinds of content.
It is an interesting idea. But I couldn’t help noticing that where those other films Mr. Brueggemann talked about as having previously achieved the feat — Easy Rider, Jaws, Star Wars, etc. — generally brought something new to the screen, Top Gun 2 was pointedly old-fashioned — and, I think, hardly proved that its old-fashioned success was replicable. It seems telling that we are talking about a movie not with some newly minted star (there aren’t any, and it’s far from clear that there can be) but a star of the ’80s who has sustained his career in part through franchise films (the Mission: Impossible sequels keeping his name on the marquee through thick and thin, while in 2017 he got involved with Marvel’s Dark universe via the remake of the remake of The Mummy), without which he might not still be a star. It also seems telling that the film is still an action movie sequel milking ’80s nostalgia, not so different on that level from, for instance, many of Michael Bay’s Transformers movies — what is old here less completely a throwback than it may seem at first glance.
Indeed, I suspect that rather than bringing back the old-style star-driven film the movie will be remembered as a last hurrah for that type of film, not least because I do not see the studios rushing back to the old star-driven model, put off by its comparative unpredictability, as well as for lack of prospects as promising as a Tom Cruise-starring sequel to Top Gun. (As we have seen time and again, putting other ’80s stars into follow-ups to their hits of that era-Stallone in a new Rambo, Schwarzenegger in a new Terminator — does not get the studios very far, and nor will putting Cruise in Rain Man Revisited or Jerry Maguire II.) In fact, its principal legacy that way will probably be to induce Paramount to convert Top Gun into yet another franchise while it is still hot-with what result, I cannot say.