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‘Top Gun: Maverick’: Cannes Goes All Out for the Film, but it Needs More than that to Fly

Tom Cruise arrived in style, upped the star power and glamour quotient of the Cannes Film Festival, and the festival returned the favor with supersonic jets and a Palme d’Or

Suparna Sharma May 20, 2022

Tom Cruise schmoozed with the huge crowds that had turned up to catch a glimpse of him at the Cannes International Film Festival, and in return, the festival pulled out all the stops to welcome the Hollywood star and host the world premiere of his film, Top Gun: Maverick. 

On Wednesday, before walking the famed red carpet, Cruise, 59, stopped to talk to his fans who had been waiting for hours, lining the city’s main boulevard, Croisette. He signed photos and posters, posed for selfies and chatted with screaming fans, many of whom were women of his vintage and beyond. And as he made his way to the Grand Theatre Lumiere in a black tux, French fighter jets flew over the city of Cannes celebrating the return to normalcy after two years of masked anxiety and empty theaters.

Inside the 2,300-seater theater, Cruise’s film received a six-minute-long standing ovation and he was presented with a surprise — an honorary Palme d’Or, the most revered award in the film world. 

‘Tom Cruise’: Maverick

The press show of Top Gun: Maverick was, without any warning or announcement, preceded by a 10-minute long promotional video on Tom Cruise the Superstar. Dramatic scenes from all his films were jumbled together, pausing only for his popular one-liners, including, “Sometimes you gotta say, what the f***.”

That Top Gun: Maverick, directed by Joseph Kosinski, and starring Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm and Val Kilmer, needed a promotional video to remind us of how fabulous Cruise is, a bit sad and telling. 

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The film’s story takes off from where the 1986 cult film, directed by Tony Scott and starring Kelly McGillis, ended.

It’s been 30 years. Lt Pete Maverick is now a captain in the US Navy, Nick Goose Bradshaw’s son is a fighter pilot, and a certain special lady, who now runs a local bar, keeps telling Maverick not to give her “that look.” 

“It’s the only one I got,” he says. 

It’s true. There isn’t much that Cruise has to give to Top Gun: Maverick. Whatever he had to give, he gave it to an entire generation with Top Gun. The original was all about boys and their big fighter jets. Fast and full of fury. There was a lot of “alpha, charlie, delta” chatter in the film, men in helmets and narrow metal birds shouting at each other to “maneuver this, propel that.” And yet the film worked. It had a freshness to it that captured the imagination of an entire generation. It was when Cruise was 24, and we were teenagers.

Top Gun marked the simultaneous coming of a generation of teenagers across the world. It marked a moment when we all collectively knew who we wanted to be, that chutzpah was going to be our defining trait, and how we were all going to ride into the horizon on a Kawasaki Ninja.

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Top Gun: Maverick has crow’s feet around its eye. Iceman (Val Kilmer) can barely speak, and though it has some stunning stunts, the film doesn’t have a soul or a story. 

Its flimsy plot, pivoted on the existential American concern about being destroyed, is made up of Maverick’s guilt about his friend’s death, a new assignment and many fighter plane stunts.

Captain Maverick is appointed to train young pilots who have to bomb a uranium plant in an unnamed enemy country. The younger lot is all one-line-one-expression characters who are wholly irrelevant to the film, except that together they form what can be called a circus of badass pilots led by Maverick. 

In that very Hollywood-slick but standard way, there’s a lot of serious talk about F-16s versus fifth-generation jets, time and speed being of the essence for the mission. None of this is interesting or engaging and yet we tag along because Top Gun: Maverick is fueled purely by nostalgia. And not just of a certain generation and their identification with the film’s star and the promise he held, but also of Cruise’s nostalgia for who he was. 

But now as we sit watching Top Gun 2022, Val Kilmer and Tom Cruise make us aware of our frailties and a promise unkept.

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