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Last weekend I went to see the long-awaited Top Gun: Maverick. With popcorn in hand, and a Cheshire cat grin all over my face, I found it hard to conceal my excitement. I have no idea if it was the anticipation of a trip back to the 80s, or the thought of watching some exhilarating “dog fighting,” but I was ready to have my breath taken away.
And it was.
For more than two hours I was taken to new heights courtesy of Maverick’s need for speed. I winced in sympathy/admiration as the fighter pilots flew on intrepid journeys that would make the internal organs of your average Joe spontaneously combust. I shed a tear at the sight of a certain familiar face. And most importantly, I left the theater with a skip in my step that gave me great hope.
How can a movie be responsible for such strong emotions?
I appreciate that not everybody is a Tom Cruise fan — especially because of some of his life choices — but I generally love an all-action blockbuster just as much as a quaint stopover at Downton Abbey. But Top Gun: Maverick has an extra ingredient: It’s full of life lessons I didn’t realize I needed to be reminded of until the credits rolled.
Without giving the plot away, here’s what Cruise’s box office hit brought home to me:
1We can succeed against the odds
Maverick is on a mission with his younger pilots, a mission that seems impossible (I had to!) — one that is deadly and involves sacrifice. The normal person would run a mile; however, Maverick and his fellow fighter pilots seem to shrug off the fact that they could be blown to bits if they’re a millisecond too late, or a millimeter out of range.
They strap on their helmets and climb into the cockpit ready to defy the odds. And the spectator is willing them on from the comfort of their popcorn-covered seat.
2Friends should have each others’ backs, especially when things get tough
Being in the Navy certainly involves a level of camaraderie most of us won’t get to experience in everyday life. While we can imagine what it might take to endanger your life in order to save another, watching it played out on the silver screen is a heartening experience to say the least. And seeing all the mutual back-slapping and support reminds us that there’s nothing quite like solid friendships.
3We should try to mend broken relationships
For the original Top Gun fans, there will be a few familiar faces. Without giving the plot away, there are definitely some relationships that are more strained than others. Yet as the plot develops, so do these fragile relationships. And while it may be a little cheesy (as everything turns out as perfect as Tom Cruise’s broad grin), there’s something to be said about the efforts we should all make in our more difficult relationships.
4The true power of a mentor
Again, relationships are central to the movie, along with the odd blasting fighter jet. And seeing Maverick mentor his younger fighter pilots reminds us of the worth of an older, more experienced ear. That in fact, the mentor-protégé role can be rewarding for both sides, and when personal differences are taken out of the equation, the result can be extremely positive.
5The need to push ourselves to new goals
It’s pretty easy to rest on our laurels and not stretch ourselves. Yet the movie reminds us that we can all achieve incredible things if we go beyond our comfort levels. While we night not be able to fly at Mach-10, we can certainly aim to reach new heights, whether that’s in our family life, work life, or even spiritual life.
6Age is just a number
While some critics have said that Maverick, at 57, was too old for the job, there have been a number of reports that state that his character would have been more than capable to carry out his mission. It was a wonderful reminder to us all that we shouldn’t put people out to pasture because we assume they’re past their expiration date.
7The hidden gem that is our memory
Among the moviegoers there was a large number of middle-aged men and women. At first I was a little shocked at this slightly older demographic for this sort of blockbuster, but then I thought back to my own initial excitement.
Waiting for the movie to start brought back memories, not just from the first movie, but of my life at the time it was first released. Everything was familiar. I could even remember what I was vaguely wearing at the time, and the place I first saw the film. The wave of nostalgia brought with it a lot of comfort and security.
It made me question why a little dose of nostalgia is actually beneficial for us. And I think it boils down to the fact that we live in an ever-changing society, one in which our views, standards, and customs are constantly questioned; where our economic situation isn’t always stable; and where political agendas — either domestic or foreign — leave us feeling anxious.
No wonder we seek the comfort of yesteryear. And that’s exactly what Top Gun: Maverick provides: an exhilarating comfort.
Yet, if you look at Maverick’s character himself, he seems to seek out this same nostalgia hit throughout the movie. Paradoxically, by taking on his new mission and securing the future, he’s delving into his past, and relying on it more than ever. And that is a beautiful reminder, that we must draw on our past, both the positives and the negatives, to achieve an even better future.