I’ll admit it, I wasn’t too impressed with the first Top Gun movie. I was in my mid-20’s in 1986 and preferred movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Abyss (that was during my James Cameron phase) and Witness. I had not been exposed to the military or military life or a defending America theme, so I didn’t connect with it. The soundtrack got my attention, though; I think I hummed “Take My Breath Away” for 18 straight months after leaving the theater.
So, when they announced the release date for the long-awaited sequel, it didn’t as Clint Eastwood would say; “make my day.” Then the whispers started. Critics wrote “10 times better than the first” and in one instance, they included the word “masterpiece.”
“I’m going to have to see it, aren’t I?” I realized.
My husband and I watched the first one again to refresh on its salient points. Mainly I remember Goose died.
On the Wednesday before Memorial Day, I booked seats through Fandango. We like that first row with the railing when possible. There were five seats taken in the middle and towards the left, and the rest were open to the right. I left a buffer seat and chose two on the right.
When we arrived, the row was empty except for one woman sitting alone on our right with another buffer seat between us. We hadn’t been sitting for five minutes when a man started down our row. He said “excuse us” as he passed, which was confusing as there was no other person. Then, I understood. He had a pit bull dog trailing right behind him.
He sat two seats away from me but explained that he hoped the seats on his left were open because his seat was technically right next to mine. I knew they weren’t, and I’m pretty sure he knew too, since he could also see the seating when he booked. (Even if you choose not to buy tickets in advance, the theater employee will still turn the screen so you may select seats.)
My first thought? The pit bull was a service dog. As writers do, I spun a story that included the man had been in the military and wanted to be front and center to re-experience his former life safely with his companion dog. Perhaps it would help with anxiety therapy. I looked to see if the dog was wearing any identifying item which proved he (or she) was a service dog, but I didn’t see anything.
I glanced to my right again and eyed that empty seat on the other side of my husband. I knew that inevitably the man would end up next to me. It struck me as odd that he would choose to squish in between customers when he had a dog with him.
I got up to purchase my popcorn and use the restroom before the movie, understanding that when I returned, I would take the seat between my husband and the woman. I like dogs, but this was a pit bull and this movie would include deafening fighter jet engines, explosions and all kinds of hell breaking out. Who knew what might trigger the dog?
The woman graciously agreed to have me sit next to her, and I settled in. Ten more minutes passed, and the customers arrived to our left, pushing the man into his purchased seat next to my old one. As I watched, he picked up the dog, and put him on his back in his lap and the dog’s head hung to the right–it would have been on my shoulder.
The movie started, and I mostly forgot about the dog. I peeked their way a handful of times, and the dog remained in his lap. When it ended, he placed the dog on the floor, who immediately started pulling to get out of the row. All was fine, but it remained on my mind. It was a new experience and I’ve been going to the movies since The Ghost and Mr. Chicken in 1966. I just have a feeling that he knew the person he would sit next to might move after seeing the pit bull.
Oh, and the movie? I am not ready to use the word masterpiece, but I liked it. The plot felt more realistic this time, and it was certainly poignant to see Val Kilmer play one scene as Iceman, since he has practically lost his voice to throat cancer.
I enjoyed the opening sequence, which I’m pretty sure the director pulled from the 1986 version, including blasting the mega hit song “Danger Zone” to get the adrenaline pumping. In my case, it wasn’t necessary. Mine already was sitting in Seat E13.
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