“Top Gun: Maverick”: philosophical anatomy of a planetary success

The trailer (in French version) of Top Gun: Maverick.

The very special effect of reality

This is one of the film’s marketing arguments, which comes up with each release of a Tom Cruise production: new Top Gun offers the promise of a fiction produced with the minimum of digital special effects (CGI in English). All the actors are filmed from the cockpit of an authentic F18 in full flight, the acrobatics of the planes are carried out by real Navy pilots, and only the combat scenes with missiles are enriched by computer – for obvious security reasons . Against the debauchery of digital effects in Marvel films and other franchises (Star Wars, Jurassic Park…), Top Gun: Maverick offers an old-fashioned show, carnival style, where the actors take a pleasure childlike to defy the laws of gravity.

“Tom Cruise defends a counter-model, where ‘the real ends up taking its revenge’according to the formula of Clément Rosset“

Clément Rosset, philosopher passionate about reality, entrusted to us in 2008 : With virtual technologies, the disease of Pascalian entertainment reaches its final degree of culmination. » In Hollywood, Tom Cruise defends a counter-model, where “the real ends up taking its revenge”, according to the Rosset formula. We are moved in this way by a face that tenses up as an airplane pitches up, we shudder when a device skims a mountain… Exhilarating feeling and a touch of nostalgia to taste a fiction that is not born on a green background, but in real settings. Proof that there is no fatality for the virtual to engulf all of our experiences.

The pleasure of the eternal return

From the first seconds of Top Gun: Maverickthe slightly informed spectator cannot help but smile. Because the exhibition scene is almost identical to the 1986 film: shots of supersonic planes taking off, technicians disappearing behind gasoline vapors, large rock staining. This feeling of déjà vu accompanies us throughout the film, whether in the script (the hero Maverick hotheaded and nevertheless in search of love; the deceased co-pilot Goose replaced by his son Rooster, two nicknames evoking gallinaceans , etc.) or some shots, including the famous race between Tom Cruise on a motorcycle and an airplane.

Top Gun: Maverick would be a cinematic thought experiment during which something of the order of the return of the same Nietzschean takes shape”

Should we see in this repetition a form of laziness, even of cynicism – bring out the same soup to the public to reap millions of dollars? Not necessarily. On the contrary, one can detect in this return of the same something Nietzschean, in the sense that Top Gun: Maverick would be a cinematic thought experiment allowing us to attest to our attachment to the film. For this thinker, the eternal return is the hypothesis of life according to which each moment of our existence would return eternally to the same. Accept that things happen again Verbatim allows you to know if you really care about it, if you have made the right choices: “You have to live in such a way that you can want and love your life to the point of desiring its eternal renewal” (The Gay Knowledge).

Before Top Gun: Maverickthis principle ethics somehow becomes: “If you like this copy of the first, it’s because you really like the film. » No need to invent endless multiverse cascades like in the last one Dr Strange or to pile up indigestible references as in Spider-man: No Way Home. Watch the Top Gun from 1986, rewatching it in its 2022 version, and seeing if the pleasure is intact, without remorse or regret, makes it possible to ensure that the love that one has for these works is genuine.

Tom Cruise, happy cheating death

It is obvious that without Tom Cruise, Top Gun: Maverick would be of almost zero interest. At 59, the actor continues his incredible and strange quest for thrills, playing death cheating in infernal machines whose speed would make the first of us syncopate. If Tom Cruise has always liked moving roles, he gets a little more slummed as he gets older. Just remember to this amazing scene of Mission Impossible: Roguer Nation where he was hanging on to a plane taking off – scene reshot eight times to be sure to get the right take.

“For the Church of Scientology to which Tom Cruise adheres, the spirit would dissociate from the body to infuse it with a particular energy and to control it”

What is Tom Cruise looking for by defying death in this way? It’s hard not to link this daredevil temperament to his membership in the Church of Scientology. For this sect-religion, the individual is a spiritual power that has known a life before earthly existence and will know one afterwards. Death is therefore not to be feared. Above all, the human spirit is capable of reaching a stage called “exteriorization”: the spirit would dissociate from the body to infuse it with a particular energy and control it.

Watching Tom Cruise break the sound barrier or driving at 100 km/h without a helmet, it is to experience from a distance his mad ambition to become absolute master of his mind. We can regret that in his interviews, the actor refuses to evoke this doctrinaire dimension, which made him the cheeky and courageous actor par excellence. The fact remains that when Tom Cruise, certainly dashing but less immortal than he seems to imagine, bows out, Hollywood fiction will no longer have the same audacity, the same density, nor the same flavor. More than admiration, it is perhaps a worried gratitude that Tom Cruise now inspires in us: that of a matador ready to sacrifice himself so that the public can continue to applaud and live as before.

A farewell to the old world?

One element remains to be studied, and not the least: the film’s mascot, namely airplanes. The first Top Gun was released in 1986, three years after the destruction by the USSR of a Korean Airlines plane which had entered its airspace. An event that had traumatized the country. The patriotic celebration of the iron birds and the American aircraft carriers was part of a political context where it was necessary to show American supremacy in the air, which was shown on the screen by a very satisfied middle finger from Tom Cruise to a Soviet pilot. Hollywood and the US government then seemed to be one.

In 2022, do planes still have something to tell us? That the United States is still the strongest, no doubt. But there is a discrepancy between the debates on the future of the planet, which plead in the long term for an eviction of planes from our skies, and these images, it must be said, extraordinary of agile and Promethean racing cars, proud to spit their kerosene into the sky. ‘atmosphere.

Two readings are available to us: the nostalgic and climatosceptic way of “as if nothing had happened”, tacit response to Don’t Look Up and the stars’ progressive speeches on ecology. And the more bittersweet way of a last fireworks display before general liquidation. No doubt, everyone will interpret the film according to their own convictions on the subject. In any case, the promise of Top Gun: maverick is elsewhere. Mix of realism in its effects and idealism in the story it tells, with its passion for excellence, sublime bodies and noble causes to defend, the film above all assumes the difficult task of making us still dream at a time when all the winds seem contrary.

“Top Gun: Maverick”: philosophical anatomy of a planetary success