‘Godfather Part II’. ‘The Dark Knight’. ‘Terminator 2’–The notoriously good sequels considered to be better than the original. There are so many movies out there, with so many sequels, that I’m sure that we could each add a few personal favorites to this list, (‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze’ anyone?), but those are the ones that are–for the most part–universally agreed upon.
I think I can go ahead and make the call and say that ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is officially on this list. Not only does it surpass the original; it’s SO good it makes ‘Top Gun’ look like a home-movie you and your friends made before you had access to Windows Movie Maker. I’m talking dual VCR editing and burn-in opening titles. ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ exceeds the original in every category. Story, Acting, Photography, Special Effects…you name it. This is one that you must see in theaters on the biggest screen possible.
We feel the need…
‘Maverick’ takes place in the present day. 36 years after Capt. Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise) graduated from Top Gun, he finds himself still in the Navy, as a fighter pilot. He still believes that his place is in the air so he’s never accepted a promotion or discharge.
Rear Admiral Cain (Ed Harris) orders Maverick to return to Top Gun after a failed experimental flight. Although reluctant, orders are orders and Mitchell returns back to San Diego to begin training a handful of recent Top Gun graduates how to fly a near-impossible mission. There he is reunited with an old lover Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly); bumps up against a hard-headed C.O. in Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson (Jon Hamm); and has to face the complications of his past in his relationship with Top Gun pilot Lt. Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller)–the son of Maverick’s late co-pilot, Goose.
Given only a few weeks, Pete is tasked with training Rooster and the rest of these brash young pilots. Phoenix (Monica Barbaro), BOB (Lewis Pullman), Hangman (Glen Powell), Payback (Jay Ellis), and Fanboy (Danny Ramirez). This mission is harder than any mission Maverick has flown. Asking these pilots to do something he’s not even sure he can pull off conflicts him.
Kick the tires and light some fires..
The story and plot serve a purpose for ‘Top Gun: Maverick’. It gives us a solid reason to get Tom Cruise and all these young whipper-snappers up in the air for some kick-ass flight sequences. However, even though the story clearly exists for that reason, the filmmakers did not cut-corners to make it happen. It’s a great story that pays homage to the original movie. It also introduces conflict in a way that ‘Top Gun’ 1986 failed to do so. If you go back and watch the original, it doesn’t play like a big-budget film. It plays more like a TV melodrama made for testosterone thrill-seekers. This time around, it really feels like the stakes are high and Maverick has skin in the game.
Unfortunately, the only aspect of the story that seems to be lacking is the relationship between Pete and Penny. I guess they have some history? The film doesn’t delve to deep into it but it’s important. Not to say it doesn’t work. There is great chemistry between Cruise and Connelly. Unfortunately it just feels like the producers wanted Maverick to have a love interest–for the sake of having a love-interest. It certainly doesn’t hinder the story though and it does help to raise the stakes for Pete a bit more.
Looking at the performances in the film, I think everyone was believable in their roles. There weren’t any performances that particularly stood out, but no one brings the movie down or feels misplaced. There is also a solid legacy-cameo from Val Kilmer which gives him a moment to shine. Very cool to see given all that he has been through with his health the past few years.
Tom Cruise in particular does something in this movie that we haven’t really seen before. He plays his age…kinda. I’ve had one minor compliant of his newer roles: he refuses to let go of being the young action star. The man will turn 60 this year, but he seems determined to make sure that we don’t notice it. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; he can still bring it with the best of them to every action role. However, I really want to see him step into the role of older role-model/father-figure. He kinda does that here with Miles Teller’s character and it’s refreshing.
In true Tom Cruise fashion though, Pete Mitchell is still depicted as an untouchable pilot; He also can still play shirtless sand-sports with people half his age. It’s a start, but definitely some work to do.
There’s just nothing like it.
The technical achievements are the real stars of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’. If you were wondering, there are very few CGI shots in this film. We get real planes being flow by the actors themselves, not stuntmen. Check out this featurette, because it will blow your mind:
It’s hyperbole to say things like “edge of your set” and “thrill ride” when it comes to movies, but this one had me all over my seat at Alamo Drafthouse. Apologies to the gentleman next to me. Come early next year, I’d put money on this movie taking home some technical hardware come Oscar night.
I don’t want to get over-dramatic, but ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is perhaps the best action film I’ve ever seen. It’s been 24 hours and my testicles have yet to descend. You can tell that the filmmakers, especially one Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, took extreme care with this for our enjoyment. . Tom Cruise wasn’t going to let you sit on your couch for this one, and I personally am thankful to him for that.
VERDICT: 4.5/5 Stars. Go. Go Now. Go IMAX if you can.
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