Well 36 years after we first saw Tom Cruise on an airplane and 3 years after its planned release date, Top Gun: Maverick , the highly anticipated sequel to the Tony Scott original, is finally in theaters. And you do n’t have to rewatch Top Gun to feel that the sequel does something impressive: a blockbuster like they don’t make anymore with emotion, humor and action like only Christoper McQuarrie and Tom Cruise have given us in recent years.
Same pilot, 30 years later
After 36 years in the US Navy, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is still a test pilot. For a contract he has to reach Mach 10 but 2 months before the end an admiral comes to stop the project. That’s not counted for Maverick, so he still tries without permission. The Navy is almost fed up with his antics, so they send him back to Top Gun, the elite pilot school. An important mission has to be carried out and only Maverick has the knowledge to train the young pilots for this.
An unnamed rogue state has an illegal enriched uranium plant that must be destroyed, but the circumstances call for the best pilots. That group includes Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Goose (Anthony Edwards), Maverick’s late wingman, who doesn’t have it for him. The training of the newcomers also does not run smoothly. In addition, he also sees old flame Penny (Jennifer Connelly), about whom he is clearly not over yet.
Better popcorn cinema
You can understand why sequels are often just as good or even better than the original: they don’t have to redo a lot of set-up work and can immediately dive into the story with already a full background to live on. The plot itself isn’t the most original side of Top Gun: Maverick after all . You see broadly what to expect and where it’s going, and a few cliché one-liners also crop up. But it is the basis for a grandiose action film that balances perfectly on the border between humor and seriousness. For example, it is literally said that their mission is “to attack a secret site under control of a rogue
nation state”, but in the moment you are already so caught up in the adrenaline and the style of this film that you grin instead of roll your eyes.
That style sometimes feels like an action movie from the past, in a good way. Right from the start you are almost overwhelmed by the star power that Tom Cruise still has. He pulls a canvas off a motorcycle in such a specific way that I almost got goosebumps because of how hard the shot is right at that moment and it drags you along. And because it is immediately clear that the film will not be so subtle but very enjoyable. Maverick has a kind of show quality that is often pushed too far these days, in both dialogue and action, but they don’t make that mistake.
Impressive flying stunts
You expect these days when you go to see a Tom Cruise movie that some impossible stunt will come your way. On that front, Maverick reminds you that no one is as good at it as Cruise and McQuarrie. As with the Mission Impossible movies, they wanted to do as much real stuff as possible, and producer Jerry Bruckheimer has since confirmed that if you see Tom Cruise on a plane, he’s actually in it. And this time he also dragged the other cast members in breakneck rows† For a layman it is difficult to determine whether everything is equally realistic, because some things seem impossible (and explosions are, of course, not real). But when CGI is involved, it blends effortlessly with the background. At the same time, there are a number of things that you cannot act or are difficult to trick, such as the effect of the G-forces on your skin, which really give the action that little bit extra credibility.
Those aerial stunts in particular are also very beautifully and visible in the picture (so not with shaky cam all the time), thanks to cinematographer Claudio Miranda ( Life of Pi , Oblivion ) and director Joseph Koninski ( Oblivion , Tron Legacy ). They alternate between wide shots, close-ups of the actors in the cockpit with the sky behind them, and cameras attached to the bottom or side of the planes like Christopher Nolan did in Interstellar at the time . That combined with the suspense of the stunts themselves in the story and the IMAX format in these pieces really immerses you, and also provides the necessary adrenaline.
The action is therefore more than good, but what also makes Top Gun: Maverick stand out above other blockbusters and sequels is the influence that the original has on this sequel. And not just because Danger Zoneby Kenny Loggins can suddenly be heard, but especially the emotion that comes with the past, both in the story and beyond. It’s no secret that Goose’s death would still play a part in this sequel, but through some well-placed references and even fragments, you can see that it still has quite the impact on Maverick. It also provides a nice evolution between Maverick and Rooster, which gives the ending strength. Sometimes we forget what a good actor Tom Cruise is because of all his antics, but this is without a doubt his most versatile role in years.
Another great side of a sequel is that actors often return, which always makes for nostalgia. For Maverick , only Cruise and Val Kilmer return, but that’s exactly what adds an extra dose of emotion. After their original feud in the original, Iceman in this movie is the reason Maverick could still stay in the Navy and so they have a special bond. In real life, Kilmer struggled with throat cancer, which meant that he could barely speak. But instead of not bringing it back or disguising it, they do it very nicely with a catchy scene as a result.
In with the old, in with the new
In addition, the young guard pilots are also very well and diversely cast with promising new faces such as Monica Barbaro ( Unreal ) – whose character does not actually feel like the obligatory woman -, Lewis Pullman ( Bad Times at the El Royal , son of), Danny Ramirez ( The Falcon and the Winter Soldier ), Greg Tarzan Davis ( Grey’s Anatomy ), and Jay Ellis ( Escape Room , Insecure ). The larger roles in the group are for Glen Powell ( Hidden Figures , Set It Up ), who goes all out as the arrogant golden boy and co-star for Miles Teller. After WhiplashI was hoping he would become a star, so hopefully now he’s back on the Hollywood radar. He is certainly not inferior to Cruise, in terms of acting and, it must be said, also in terms of physical appearance.
In addition, there is the pleasant appearance of Jennifer Connolly as the love interest, which is better portrayed than in the average blockbuster. And with supporting roles for Jon Hamm, Ed Harris, Bashir Salahuddin and Charles Parnell ( The Last Ship ) you certainly can’t complain from the cast here. The breakneck stunts also include music by Hans Zimmer, Lorne Balfe and Harold Faltermeyer, who was the composer of the original. His theme returns here and the characteristic wind instruments are particularly striking.
But you come and stay mainly because of Tom Cruise, who actually improves with the years and is perhaps one of the last real movie stars. At one point, Jon Hamm’s character says ” Your kind is facing extinction ,” to which Maverick replies, ” Maybe so, but not today .” Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but with Top Gun: Maverick Cruise once again gives the critics a head start by wrapping his hobbyhorse action in a good and surprisingly gripping story, resulting in one of the best blockbusters of recent years. I often sat with a grin from ear to ear and sometimes a blurry eye. Especially when you see that the film is dedicated to Tony Scott, whom they couldn’t have honored in a better way.