I did something I haven’t done in awhile. I watched a movie in a theater.
First of all, I’ll just say Top Gun: Maverick is the best movie I’ve seen in a while. If you like fun movies, movies that make you smile, this is one worth checking out. It’s not perfect. But even when it’s imperfect you can’t help but like it.
(This is where I tell you I’m going to talk about the movie so if you want to watch it fresh, don’t read any further.)
Tom Cruise is a national treasure. The guy is incredible.
Also I can’t believe this movie was supposed to originally open on July 12, 2019, almost three fucking years ago. Before anyone had even heard of covid-19.
I don’t know why but they delayed the opening to 2020, probably to make some last minute improvements and make the movie even better (sound familiar?). Then the pandemic came around and they had to shelve it again. They could have released it to empty theaters but that would have been a huge mistake. They could have released it on premium video on demand, but they didn’t do that either. Because they knew the value of what they’d made, and they weren’t going to panic and waste all their hard work to make fifty cents on the dollar. I have to give them props for having the balls to sit on it so long, and considering it’s already made more than three-quarters of a billion dollars at the global box office, I’d say they made the right move.
While watching the movie I had some thoughts. One, old white guys might not be so popular for whatever reason these days, but man they sure can make some good movies. Jerry Bruckheimer and Tom Cruise, especially, have been doing it for decades.
Two, I realized something about the way movies can shape our culture. How they can both connect us and divide us. In the past, there were only a limited number of major movies a year because they cost so much to make. As such, movies were made for as wide of an audience as possible. They shared universal stories that just about anyone could relate to. But in today’s world making a movie is comparatively easy and can be made for a fraction of what it used to cost. So we have way more movies than ever, and TV shows, and content in general. Now everything feels like it’s made for a specific audience. Rather than presenting a story that most people can relate to, many movies these days target a specific community. A built-in audience to help guarantee a return. I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t a contributing factor to what’s dividing us. Instead of packing theaters with people from all backgrounds, you get echo chambers filled with a specific target audience.
But of course this isn’t always the case. Thankfully, there are still movies like Top Gun: Maverick.
Here’s what I loved about the movie. It was a love letter to fighter jets, and engineering, and even to proof of work. I guess like a lot of kids, I’ve always loved jets. One of my favorite arcade games growing up was this game called After Burner, and watching the jets fly in TGM was like After Burner times a thousand. These weren’t even new jets, but they still looked cool as hell. Classics that reminded me of human engineering at its best.
I’m no fan of the state, but watching the scenes of the naval officers doing their job, helping the planes take off and land, reminded me of what humans are capable of when working together. I also realized that the same applies to making big budget movies. They can take hundreds, sometimes thousands of people working in tandem to produce. Huge investments of capital, and risk, and the guts to pull it all off. In other words, proof of work.
As I sat there in the crowded theater watching, I thought to myself why does it seem like we can’t build things like we used to anymore.
Anyway, after the movie I headed to the parking lot where I saw my Tesla Model Y sitting there parked where I’d left it. That’s when it dawned on me that my car is like a fighter jet in its own way. It’s sleek, it’s fast, and it’s got state of the art technology.
(I’m sorry if I sound like I’m bragging, but before that I’d been driving my busted Nissan for 13+ years. So forgive me if I think the Model Y is like one of the greatest products ever.)
Once I hopped on the freeway, I turned on autopilot and just sat back and enjoyed the view at 80 miles per hour. And that’s when I realized I was wrong. Humans are still building amazing things, which is good, because the only way we’re really going to make it is by building our way out of this mess.