Top Gun Maverick
Starring Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm
The opening credits and music are identical to the 1986 film by Tony Scott. If you take nostalgia out of the equation, the original film had some of the worst acting, editing and cinematography around. Looking back at the Navy propaganda flick feels more like watching a video game than a feature film.
Thirty-six years, later the sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick,” reunites two of the original cast members, Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, but now has the technological advancements to make a film like this actually soar. Nearly every aspect revolves around Cruise, who might not be the director, but is calling every shot and making every decision. One of the original film’s biggest faults was lack of character depth or backstory. The convenient thing about sequels is that the previous film automatically functions as your backstory, so that issue is somewhat corrected this time.
Pete Mitchell hasn’t advanced his career in the Navy. Instead, filled his days with regret and pushing his superiors’ patience to the breaking point. His latest stunt gets the wrong kind of attention, resulting in his return to the Top Gun program. An impossible mission where Mitchell’s reckless skills are ideal puts him in charge of the fate of the new generation. Mitchell will come face to face with the past with Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller,) the son of Goose, who turns out to be one of Top Gun’s best. At odds with the leadership, Mitchell’s only ally is Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Kilmer). Between death-defying training and making difficult decisions, Mitchell rekindles an old flame with Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly), allowing himself for the first time to contemplate a real future outside the cockpit.
This is exactly the kind of film post-pandemic audiences are craving: big, loud and familiar.
“The end is inevitable. Your kind is headed for extinction,” Maverick is told. This could just as easily been directed toward Cruise’s status as a movie star. Cruise knows what he’s doing; his insistence on using as much real stunt work and practical effects as possible balance out the unrealistic overseas mission that could easily be accomplished with drones. For better or worse, Cruise is one of the few remaining movie stars of his generation that can still deliver an event film. There is an emotional component to the film with the inclusion of Kilmer, however it’s the actor’s personal struggles that have been adapted into the screenplay that make his appearance so touching. Cruise and Teller don’t quite manage great oppositional chemistry, thankfully, he has better luck with Oscar-winner Connelly.
This is a Jerry Bruckheimer production, and the third act all the way to credits starts to feel a lot like “Pearl Harbor’s” final act, complete with airport hangars and sunset flyovers. “Top Gun: Maverick” is a perfect example of a film that’s well done in most aspects. It’s pure entertainment, and exists only to sell tickets and popcorn. This is exactly the kind of film post-pandemic audiences are craving: big, loud and familiar. Even the shirtless volleyball scene from the original is a bigger, sunnier and sweatier sequence this time around. It’s also that rare occasion where the sequel is far better than the original. However, familiarity with the original will create a deeper appreciation for the accomplishments and the throwbacks presented in “Top Gun Maverick”.
Easily out maneuvers its predecessor — which isn’t saying much.