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We Bought a Xenu
𝘛𝘰𝘱 𝘎𝘶𝘯: 𝘔𝘢𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘤𝘬
Easy, I guess, to improve on one of the worst movies ever made. Though what’s gained in star vehicle/legacy sequel Top Gun: Maverick (Fincher-derived Kosinskian clarity supplanting the visual-aural-moral chaos of Anthony David Leighton Scott, for one) is worth about as much as the military-industrial entertainment complex that the film, like its predecessor, shamelessly promulgates. Similarly faceless villains (Afghanis? Russians? Canadians?). Phallic phlying machines cupped and caressed. Star Wars (but in real life!) dogfights, most of them IMAX’d. Recruit! Deploy! Repeat! Better creatives might have milked the satirical/self-referential/carnal potential of Don Draper acting all dom toward Tom Cruise’s pushin’-60 stick jockey Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (and this after Ed Harris uncannily channels TG1 ball-buster James Tolkan in a bombastic prologue). But then, Scott’s sweat-slick slab of ’80s cheese was purportedly Bruce Weber-inspired and about as genuinely gay as Anita Bryant, so the problem likely starts prior to conception.
Maverick is an absurdity masking several horrors, chief among them the continued indulgence of Cruise’s virile death wish, which for me nullifies any pleasure reaped from his present-day status as The Last Movie Star™. That toothy rictus is evidence of a psychosis that would give the Joker pause, and only Kubrick, De Palma and Spielberg have managed to saddle L. Ron’s bucking bronco by rendering Cruise powerless in the face of an indifferent, if still butt-of-the-joke-obsessed, universe. (Others would say PTA and Limany Snicket got there too.) “Tom Cruise…All the Right Moves” cinema is more the multiplex-wilderness norm, and, in spite of Maverick’s niftily verisimilar aerial action, a resounding snore here as elsewhere. Miles Teller, as the gosling of TG1’s Goose, is analogously dozeworthy (makes you wish that decapitation in the Refn series took), while a resplendent Jennifer Connelly shows up to gamely bolster Cruise’s heterosexual bona fides (somewhere, Kelly McGillis smirks — it’s good to be a queen). I did, however, appreciate Val Kilmer treating his extended Iceman cameo as a performance-art goof, just the right mix of snoot and sincerity on the path to a paycheck.