"Top Gun: Maverick" reignites big screen excitement


June 13, 2022

If you are like me, you were waiting for the release of “Top Gun: Maverick” for a while. A product of the ‘80s, the original 1986 film was among those I could watch over and over again.

I had “Top Gun” on VHS as a teenager. When I was a junior in college, I rented an efficiency apartment in Moorhead. It was basically a one-room suite with a tiny kitchenette. A futon doubled as my couch and bed. At least it had its own bathroom. The laundry room was next door, which was also a plus. With no funds for cable, I set up a 19” TV and VCR, and watched movies like “Top Gun”, “Pretty Woman” and “Jerry Maguire” when I needed an escape from homework or background noise for cooking or cleaning. I also rented movies from Hollywood Video and Blockbuster, as well as the local Cenex C-Store in Fessenden.

Fast forward 20 years, and needless to say I was anxiously awaiting the sequel. It was first revealed that a sequel was in the works 12 years before it hit the big screen, and it was well worth the wait.

At a time when generational gaps prevail, and inevitable change due to technology, the pandemic, globalization and other forces pulling us in new directions, the storyline was certainly relevant and incredibly engaging. Young pilots are instructed by a veteran who’s charting new territory of his own, a man at the end of his career, who’s also starting over in the relationship department.

In order to get movies on opening weekend, our local theatres have to commit to running the movie for two weeks straight. That ended up being a blessing this time, as my husband and I couldn’t get there until the second weekend. We brought our 13-year-old son with us, and we had watched the original “Top Gun” together a couple of weeks before it came into theaters, to get us all caught up.

What we saw when we drove down Central Avenue in New Rockford and wandered into Rockford Theatre was nothing short of amazing. Parents and grandparents brought young kids, and some of those young kids came with their friends. The night we were there, people of all ages came out to the movie, nearly filling the newly-remodeled downtown theatre. Did I mention that their new seats are quite spacious and comfortable?

In my opinion, most sequels, prequels and remakes fall short of the original film’s greatness. In this case, I think they’re both pretty great. The storyline for Maverick is superior to that of the original. But, as my husband pointed out, there are fewer stunt flying sequences, which he loved in the original.

Overall the creators retained the spirit of the original movie, while advancing the characters in surprising ways. It didn’t have more violence or sex or profanity than the original, and yet the audience was still hooked. Imagine that!

Fans of the 1986 film will also be happy to hear that the soundtrack for the sequel is familiar. After all, the original “Top Gun” soundtrack is one of the most successful ever, selling over nine million records since its release.

Songs that reappear in the sequel include “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins and “Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis. This time, however, the ballad for the movie, is performed by pop superstar, Lady Gaga. She co-wrote “Hold My Hand” with BloodPop and Ben Rice.

Folks, we all needed this– a night to escape and experience life in the danger zone, without actually being in danger. Rockford Theatre manager Glenda Collier commented that it was good to see a crowd for eight straight nights, “like it used to be.” They even had more people than seats on one particular night. Todd Allmaras, the volunteer projectionist at Rockford Theatre the night we went, said the last time he recalled the theatre turning away patrons was for “Twister,” in 1996. That was also the first year that the theatre was in community hands after the death of owner, Richard Johnson. That’s another movie I’ve watched with my kids several times.

And for a mom of teenagers, who spent a good deal of time at the movies as a teen herself, it sure did feel like another era.

In fact, a couple of crazy kids from Minot even made the trek to New Rockford on opening weekend. Yes, I’m sure there was a theater or two in Minot showing the flick, but they had another goal in mind: to recreate their first date, watching “Top Gun” at the Rockford Theatre in 1986. When they saw that “Top Gun: Maverick” was showing at the Rockford, they saw it as the perfect opportunity to take a trip down memory lane.

The Carrington Youth Center Theatre also showed the movie the last two weekends. Independent staff who went on the second weekend reported that there were also few open seats there. The results were repeated in theaters across the country, as the movie grossed nearly $300 million from May 27 to June 5, the highest of Tom Cruise's career.

This movie’s box office opening proved that Americans aren’t ready to stop going to the movies. Rather, we will come out in droves to sit in a black box theatre on a summer night and enjoy the show, if anything so we can feel normal again after two years of chaos in our world.

And just as we prefer the experience of watching a flick on the big screen over streaming it at home, there are still people throughout this great country that wait for the mail carrier to come and deliver the morning newspaper. So they can hold it in their hand and read it, in print.

No, this column wasn’t written by software. After I wrote it, another real person set the type, proofread it, and even put it on the page. Despite what some may say, neither going to the movies nor reading the news has gone out of style. America, thanks for watching, and reading!


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