The highest compliment I give a movie is “I’m willing to see that in the theater again.” The last one was La La Land. Add Top Gun: Maverick to the list. Complete with Kenny Loggins music, Tom Cruise riding his motorcycle on a road parallel to the runway, and “Talk to me, Goose,” Top Gun: Maverick counts as one of the best sequels ever.
Maverick landed in theaters after being delayed for almost two years due to COVID. It was worth the wait. With a very clever script that more than winks to the original Top Gun, this new version pays tribute to Tony Scott, who directed the original, including practically reproducing the opening of the original film.
The writing is superb, using just enough of the memorable lines from Top Gun to make fans smile. The cinematography feels like the original, too, enhanced by special effects improvements that put the audience right in the cockpit.
However, if Top Gun: Maverick were just a remake, it would be irrelevant. Instead, it advances the story of the cocky rule-breaker who was a famous MiG-insulter. When last we left Mav, he was headed back to teach “the best of the best” at Top Gun fighter school in San Diego with Charlie, Viper, and Jester. But they’re all gone as the movie opens. Mav isn’t teaching anymore, having pissed off yet another admiral and relegated to what he does best – being a test pilot and pushing the edge of the envelope.
But duty calls. A rogue state (clearly the Iranians) is building nuclear weapons capacity underground and needs to be taken out in a precision, secret attack that looks like a suicide mission. Only one man can train the young gun pilots how to pull it off: Maverick. Not everyone agrees, especially the current commander of Top Gun (Jon Hamm), who considers Mav a wild card and a relic. But he doesn’t call the shots, Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, does. Val Kilmer, in a cameo, reprises his role as the now Pacific Fleet commander.
Maverick’s trainees are confident, cocky, and immature. Some things never change. Among the best is “Rooster” (Miles Teller of Whiplash), the son of Mav’s dead RIO, “Goose” Bradshaw. Maverick is still haunted by Goose’s death, even slowing Rooster’s career in hopes of protecting the kid. Rooster resents Maverick … and it boils over during training. Will Mav pick the kid for the dangerous mission or protect him again?
What follows is vintage Top Gun with plenty of dogfighting, dangerous stunts, and heaping testosterone. And for Top Gun fans who always thought there was a strong gay theme to the original (remember the volleyball scene), the new film won’t dissuade you (see: football on the beach).
Top Gun: Maverick is every bit as tense as the original. Mav and Rooster are both in mortal danger as the suicide mission reaches its denouement. And yes, there is a love interest – remember Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly), the admiral’s daughter who Mav apparently “went ballistic with”? She shows up running a bar on base at North Island.
It’s a fun, exciting film that fans of the original will smile through and new fans will run to stream the original. With over a billion dollars in box office already, Top Gun: Maverick proves that Tom Cruise, who still does his own stunts at 60 years old, is still a worldwide draw.