NEW TO THEATERS! I might be overstating this, but Top Gun: Maverick, directed by Joseph Kosinski, is about as perfect a sequel as you can get. If you’re a fan of the original Top Gun, then Maverick will bring back all the feels. The story finds Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell (Tom Cruise) still a U.S. Navy test pilot, now a captain. If not for his attitude, he’d already be an admiral.
After a high-speed jet accident, Maverick is one foot into forced retirement, but thanks to his old pal, Iceman (Val Kilmer), he receives one more mission. An unnamed enemy has secret nukes set up dangerously close to the U.S. and its allies, and Maverick must train a Top Gun pilot team to take out the installation (there’s an excellent Star Wars reference here). Maverick’s squad includes Phoenix (Monica Barbaro), Payback (Jay Ellis), Fanboy (Dany Ramirez), the cocky Hangman (Glen Powell), Bob (Lewis Pullman), and Goose’s son, Rooster (Miles Teller). As you’d imagine, Rooster has a bone to pick because Maverick was involved in his dad’s death.
Again, fans of the original will appreciate screenwriter Peter Craig’s inclusion of the barroom karaoke scene in Top Gun: Maverick. The addition of bar owner Perry (Jennifer Connelly), who happens to be Maverick’s ex-girlfriend, is also most welcomed. Those with a soft spot for the original will also love the shirtless sports and the tough-as-nails admirals Hammer (Ed Harris) and Cyclone (Jon Hamm), who tries at every turn to boot Maverick because of how dangerous he is.
Now, Maverick has to prove he’s the right guy for the job, teach a bunch of youngsters who think he’s too old, and reconnect with Goose’s son in the sappiest way possible. Yet, somehow Cruise manages to make it work in probably the best most fun film of the year. Though I do feel bad for Anthony Edwards, who appears all over in photos, but never gets a credit or paycheck.
“…Maverick must train a Top Gun pilot team to take out the installation.”
The updates from the original are perfect: very little CG used, instead relying on real jets, the actors/ stuntpeople actually piloting them, and maximum testosterone levels. The dog fights are incredible, definitely amped up from the first. Seriously, Top Gun: Maverick is probably 95% practical. The CG is rarely used as part of the action or as a cinematic cheat. Most of it is to create anti-aircraft and radar on the ground or construct an entire enemy airstrip that only appears for a few seconds. Every cliché applies — on the edge of your seat, breathtaking, exhilarating, and dudes without shirts. Do yourself a favor and see this in IMAX or, for the brave, 4DX.
The overall story and dialogue have not changed much, though. It’s pretty sappy, and the whole Maverick/ Rooster dynamic is hooky and predictable. What the narrative gets right is Maverick’s emotional arc. He’s got one chance left to prove to the military what a valuable asset he’s been his entire career. One final chance to reconcile his relationship with his dead wingman’s son and to find love.
As a sequel, Top Gun: Maverick succeeds in recapturing what film-goers loved about the first, producing the right amount of nostalgia/ member-berries, and building upon the first story while honoring it at the same time. Can Disney and Warner Brothers take note, please?
Top Gun: Maverick is great because I’m tired of the CG-enhanced actions film that will crowd the theaters this summer. They’re all live-action/ animated features, and as perfect as the animation is, real… feels real. The other reason to see this is for Cruise. He’s the last of a dying breed of true movie stars. He’s a guy who loves making movies and has a responsibility to not only recoup the studio’s investments but entertain the hell out of fans. Well, he and Kosinski should be proud knowing that they’ve crafted the perfect film to kick off the summer action season.
"…the perfect film to kick off the summer action season."