With Top Gun: Maverick having played nationwide for the last three days, candid reactions would be greatly appreciated. Here, un-paywalled, is my two-week-old review that appeared on 5.12. If I over-stated something or was unfair in some way, please explain how, who, where, why and what-the-fuck.

Say it again: Top Gun: Maverick is a totally square, totally flash-bang, sirloin steak, right down the middle, Tom Cruise-worshipping, un-woke, stiff-saluting, high-velocity, bull’s-eye popcorn pleasure machine.

If you submit to it, that is. For this is a formula thing, this movie…one super-mechanized, high-style, bucks-up thrill ride with a few heart moments sprinkled in. Au Hasard Balthazar, it’s not, so if you see it with, say, a Mark Harris attitude (and he wasn’t wrong when he put down the original Top Gun nine years ago), you won’t have as good of a time.

If you can just park your quibbles and show obeisance before power…if you can surrender to this military glamour fantasy, this glossy Joseph Kosinski breath-taker, this thundering Cruise + Chris McQuarrie + Jerry Bruckheimer G-force engine, this audience-friendly, holy-shit delivery device…if you submit you’ll enjoy it and then some.

What else are you going to do? Fight it? Stage a protest with speeches and placards?

Everything in Top Gun: Maverick is hardcore, highly strategized, mechanized, high-octaned, and totally fucking shameless. It’s like a two-hour trailer for itself. High style, brash energy, fleet editing, classic rock (even the 65-year-old “Great Balls of Fire” is celebrated), movie-star smiles, Top Gun nostalgia and a totally driller-killer finale.

Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Cruise) is a somewhat rakish, middle-aged loner who lives only to fly solo while pushing the limits. After losing his test pilot gig, Mav is assigned to be an instructor at the Top Gun Academy in San Diego. His students include Rooster (Miles Teller), the son of Anthony Edwards‘ “Goose” who despises Maverick for taking his name off the Naval Academy list. (There was a reason.) There’s also the brash Hangman (Glen Powell) and a cool woman pilot, Phoenix (Monica Barbaro).

Maverick’s former rival Iceman (Val Kilmer), a retired admiral, has convinced the commanders that Maverick is the best guy to prepare pilots for a top-secret mission — the destruction of a uranium enrichment plant in some snow-covered mountainous region. Fighter jocks need to swoop in, detonate and get the fuck out before enemy missiles and dogfights ensue. You know what’s around the corner.

Remember Luke Skywalker‘s big Death Star challenge at the climax of Star Wars: A New Hope? Portions of that classic action sequence are recalled here. Oh, and also like Star Wars, the enemy has no face, only a dark gray helmet…no nationality or ethnicity.

There’s a moment near the end of Top Gun: Maverick when it seems as if the finale of another film about fighter jocks — Mark Robson‘s The Bridges at Toko-Ri (’54) — is being replayed. You’ll recall that it ends with William Holden and Mickey Rooney huddling in a muddy ditch and being killed by North Korean troops. If only the Kosinski-Cruise-Bruckheimer film had gone the distance in this respect.

But the absence of even a shred of wokeness is wonderful. Remember that it’s locked into a mid ‘80s mindset to start with, and that it was written and filmed before the woke thing kicked in bigtime.

And God, does it scream machismo! Does it “go the gay way” a la Quentin Tarantino? At times, sort of. (Tucker Carlson will probably love it.) It’s so outrageously flashy and sexy-pumped, so dynamically and commercially calculated that it comes up short in the quiet humanity department. (Naturally.) But it “sells the sell.”

Was I emotionally moved at the end? I’m sorry but yes, I was. I gave into it.

Was I turned on by the incredible aerial action stuff during the big finale, which lasts a good 30 to 35 minutes? You betcha.

But the third-act feeling and those small portions of soul are designed from and implemented by the head office. Some of it penetrates, but none of it is especially deep. We’re talking about feelings of comfort and assurance by way of predictability…feelings that come from formulaic will and calculation rather than some tender, vulnerable place.

Yes, it’s effective but at the same time kinda hollow. Not that anyone will notice or care.

HE to friendo: “It’s so mechanized, so brutally disciplined. Couldn’t they have let their emotional guard down just a little bit? Maybe let a little Jerry Maguire-type vulnerability into the mix?”

Friendo to HE: “If they did it wouldn’t be Top Gun.”

I love this line from David Rooney’s THR review: “[The supporting cast members] get the job done while remaining satellites that merely orbit around Cruise’s glittering Planet Alpha, eventually having to acknowledge that Maverick’s a helluva guy no matter what stunts he pulls.”