TOP GUN: MAVERICK review – A Surprisingly Effective Piece of Nostalgia

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Director: Joseph Kosinski
Starring: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris, and Val Kilmer
Movie Length: 2 hours 11 minutes

Top Gun is one of those iconic movies that has maintained its place in the public consciousness long after it left theaters. Full disclosure – I don’t really like it. It always seemed a bit cheesy and overhyped to me, so when news that Tom Cruise was revisiting the Maverick character, I didn’t get overly excited. Maverick is a sequel (not a reboot or a remake) to that film. Here Cruise’s Maverick is older and while he retains his cockiness, he is forced to reckon with the fact that he is getting older and is quickly becoming obsolete in a world where pilots are replaced by drones.

While not a remake, this movie hits all the elements of the original, from recycling the plot points (complete with a Maverick-Iceman rivalry that features a guy who is eerily reminiscent of Val Kilmer), to a beach sporting scene, to using the same soundtrack. Somehow, these pieces seemed better this time around. Dare I say Top Gun: Maverick is better than the original?

The movie does require some suspension of disbelief. Of course, Goose’s son ends up on Maverick’s team of elite pilots…because that is necessary for the plot. While I found that scenario unlikely, the script does a nice job of using it to drive the story forward without being overly cheesy. A plot point near the end is completely ridiculous (and the movie seems to acknowledge it), but it does lead to an exhilarating sequence that forces you to forgive it. You’ll know it when you see it, but I have to give the script some credit for foreshadowing it.

Photo Credit: Scott Garfield.

Top Gun: Maverick is sneaky good with its casting. The Navy folks are great. Jon Hamm puts in a sneaky good performance as one of those by the book commanders that become the nemesis of a ‘maverick’ but are usually decent guys at the end of the day too. I had some fear that this movie would use Tom Cruise as bait to shove a new-exciting-young-next generation of pilots down our throats (Think The Expendables 3). That is not the case here. The perfect amount of attention is given to them to give most of them a personality (which you need to care about whether they get blown up) without wearing out their welcome. Tom Cruise is clearly the focus of this movie and we are spared the type of backstories and relationships for the new characters that would bog the movie down. Goose’s son (call sign Rooster) gets the most attention, but is mostly used as something for Maverick to fret about. I usually don’t like Miles Teller for some reason (probably the travesty that was Fantastic Four), but after a rough start, he grew on me as the film progressed. Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say it was nice to see Val Kilmer again. Kudos to the movie for finding an effective and believable way to work him in.

Where this movie really raises the bar is with its flight scenes. The flying is both tense and exhilarating. Between the sound and flight choreography, this movie begs to be seen on the big screen. The two best sequences are saved for the end, but there is plenty going on up to them to keep you interested.

Top Gun: Maverick takes the elements of the first one and executes them so well that it is a fitting homage. Adding more emotional heft, strong acting performances, and standout jet scenes make Maverick a worthy follow up to the original. If you liked the original, you won’t be disappointed by this one. If you haven’t seen the original, the movie does a good job of explaining what you need to know without relying on too much exposition. I screened the movie with a full theater and the audience erupted in applause at the end.

If you want to hear Tracey and I review this movie, complete with digressions about Expendables and Gene Hackman (yeah, no idea how we got there) here is the Top Gun: Maverick episode of Through the Lens:https://anchor.fm/darren-shulman/episodes/Top-Gun-Maverick-e1j4eav

Score: 10/10 – While I usually reserve this score for Marvel movies (and hopefully the next Jurassic World installment), Top Gun: Maverick gets bonus points for turning what could easily have been a cash grab into a movie that I think is even better than the original.

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