Top Gun: Maverick

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Top Gun: Maverick is a sequel that understands what an audience craves and then unabashedly delivers it with gusto. A return to the 1986 classic should give you nostalgia that lovingly recalls the original, provide high octane thrills, and build drama to an exciting conclusion. This is a textbook example of how to satisfy the assignment.

The plot concerns Navy pilot Peter Mitchell known as Maverick (Tom Cruise). All the aviators have catchy handles like this, so I’ll dispense with their proper names from here on out. Maverick has returned to the fighter pilot program but now he’s an instructor for a dangerous objective that involves a group of cocky but much younger recruits. Among them is Rooster (Miles Teller), the son of his best friend Goose who tragically died in the 1986 film. Rooster is eerily reminiscent of his father. To emphasize the connection, the similarly mustachioed son sings “Great Balls of Fire” in a bar sporting a Hawaiian shirt exactly like his old man did. Maverick is emotionally conflicted. He wants to protect Rooster, but support the lieutenant for the skillful flyer that he is as well. The mission is to train the hotshot pilots to bomb the uranium enrichment facility of some hostile nation that is never named. The script shrewdly keeps everything non-political so as not to offend. Of course, the task is a perilous endeavor because it will require death-defying maneuvers and a low-level approach into enemy territory.

For the first 90 minutes, Top Gun: Maverick is entertaining but familiar as it draws upon the story beats of the first movie. The screenplay by Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie, doesn’t hide the fact that it is deeply indebted to the past. See Tom Cruise looking cool in sunglasses and riding a motorcycle again. Hear the same musical riffs in the score and Kenny Loggins singing “Danger Zone.” Oh and remember that beach volleyball game that was totally unnecessary to the plot? Of course you do. The slow-motion demonstration of sweaty athleticism became the stuff of legend. Director Joseph Kosinski refers to it as “the Super Bowl of shirtless scenes.” Sure enough, his update contains a similar competition that is supposedly another team-building exercise. This time it’s a game of beach football, and the dudes include Hangman (Glen Powell), Payback (Jay Ellis), Fanboy (Danny Ramirez), Bob (Lewis Pullman), and one woman — Phoenix (Monica Barbaro) wearing a sensible sports bra.

Top Gun Maverick embraces its predecessor but updates in clever ways. And why shouldn’t it? It’s 36 years later and a lot has changed. But guess who hasn’t? Tom Cruise. He is a compelling mentor to a batch of young recruits. Astonishingly, he looks just as fit as his youthful co-stars. I’ll concede creative camera angles, lighting and makeup may offer an assist. Yet he continues to exude the charisma of a star in this role. We understand why an obstinate but highly decorated pilot has remained a captain after all these years. In a touching moment, Iceman (Val Kilmer) who is now an Admiral — imparts sage advice to his old rival. Tom Cruise turns 60 in July. The actor is over four decades into his career and still commands the lead in summer blockbusters. There’s something almost alien about the actor, and no that’s not a Scientology joke.

Top Gun: Maverick gently recycles the original but ultimately soars to a thrilling finale. The saga sticks the landing and ends with one of the most exhilarating sequences in a decade. The final 40 minutes are a jaw-dropping example of action entertainment as the adventure ascends breathtakingly into the sky as the plan is carried out. I sat there, eyes glued to the screen, elated by the realism. The live-action dogfight battle has immediacy and authenticity. The spectacle makes the ubiquitous CGI-heavy effects of other films look like an artificial fabrication. It goes to prove how important it is to finish a story well. Send the audience off on a high when you leave the theater. Top Gun first delighted a generation 36 years ago. Now amazingly its sequel has accomplished the same thing. This is a rip-roaring good time.

05-26-22

3 Responses to “Top Gun: Maverick”

  1. Great review! I’m definitely going to check this out in theatres 🙂 Do you think it’s necessary for me to watch the original beforehand?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I thought this was overhyped before I saw it, so I didn’t want to get my hopes high. The 1st half was a little reminiscent of the first film. The last 45 min, whew! It was great! Exciting, funny and a little emotional. 4 stars ⭐️

    Like

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