PG Score: 7.75/10
Top Gun: Maverick was released in theaters on 5/27/22
*SOME SPOILERS BELOW*
Sequels. Over the history of cinema, there have been way too many sequels to films that just didn’t need them. There have been some very good sequels, such as The Godfather: Part II, and there have been some very bad sequels, such as Independence Day: Resurgence. Where does Top Gun: Maverick rank in the equation? It is safe to say it doesn’t fall into either of these categories, but as far as follow-up films go, it does a good job of capturing the nostalgia of the first film while doing a credible job of standing on its own.
Tom Cruise (Tropic Thunder) returns as Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell 36 years after the original and he does not miss a beat. Say what you will about Tom Cruise, but the man is dedicated to his craft. While his roles in action films always seem to have him playing similar characters, he brings a passion that comes across on screen and makes it hard not to enjoy his work.
Since we last saw Maverick he has only made it to Captain and not much has changed about him in regards to respecting authority and following orders, or so it seems. Once again, Maverick starts off the film finding himself succeeding in his task, despite ignoring orders. He pisses off one Admiral played by Ed Harris (The Truman Show) and it is only due to an old friend that he doesn't get run out of the Navy. He instead finds himself back at Top Gun.
This time things are different. He is there to teach the best of the best, who have previously graduated, to survive a mission with a high failure rate. One of his new students just happens to be the son of his deceased best friend, Goose. Call sign Rooster, Miles Teller (War Dogs) looks eerily like Anthony Edwards (ER) and does a wonderful job of capturing some of the mannerisms that Goose had in the first film, while bringing his own touch to a character that was just a young boy when his father died in the original Top Gun. Goose’s death still plays an effect on both Maverick and Rooster. An obvious tension between the two makes it clear that something happened off-screen between that they both carry with them.
Playing an old love interest that hardcore fans might have picked up on (I did not) is Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind) as Penny Benjamin. Penny has a teenage daughter and owns a bar that is frequently visited by the soldiers stationed nearby. Top Gun: Maverick expands upon the brief line of mention she had in the original film. Even if you didn’t catch that, it doesn’t have a negative effect on the story and relationship between the two characters. You can tell there is a lot of history between them when Penny finds Maverick sitting at her bar. She does her best to keep an emotional indifference, but there is a moment that shows her understanding of Maverick. This happens when he is visibly reminded of Goose after the new students are led in a sing-along on the piano by Rooster.
The film hits a lot of the same notes and beats as the original, but does its best to say its own story. The love story avoids the campiness and cheesiness of the first film, but that seems like a conscious story choice with our characters being 30+ years older. Top Gun: Maverick has a few classic songs and a few new tunes, but the soundtrack doesn’t quite capture the magic of the original that helped make Top Gun such a hit.
The flying and battle scenes were some real-world stuff. Cruise had the entirety of the cast train so that they were able to do their lines while flying in up to 8 Gs. Adding a bit of realism never hurts a film; the film is better off with the real-world flying.
A True Popcorn Flick
It is safe to say Top Gun: Maverick is a hit. Breaking Memorial Day weekend records, it soared into the box office, making it yet another movie blockbuster for Tom Cruise. Is this film worth seeing? YES. This has popcorn flick written all over it. Just lay back, kick your feet up and enjoy. There is just something about being at a movie that an audience is excited about that only enhances the movie-going experience. Don’t wait for digital. I definitely recommend seeing this film at the theater.