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Review: Top Gun: Maverick

There have been numerous “legacy sequels” of varying degrees of quality over the last few years but Top Gun: Maverick easily stands out as one of, if not the, best ones yet.

Over 30 years since the original movie, Tom Cruise returns as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who has remained a Navy Captain and avoided promotions in order to remain in the air.  Working on a test supersonic engine, Maverick is reassigned back to Top Gun to train a group of elite pilots for a combat mission that will push their skills to the limit.  One of the members of this group is Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick’s best friend Goose, and who resents Maverick for his role in his father’s death and for blocking his entry into the Naval academy, setting back his career.  One of the major elements where Top Gun: Maverick improves over its predecessor is the plot.  The fact that there is an actual mission, despite how ridiculously extreme it is, gives the movie much more focus and structure and makes the third act more exciting and tense compared to the vagueness of the final fight in the original movie against the Russians(?).  The competition between the Top Gun pilots also makes more sense here as they are vying for the role of mission leader and not some trophy that apparently doesn’t even exist in real life.  One area where Top Gun: Maverick falters behind its predecessor is probably the soundtrack.  The movie does use the excellent Harold Faltermayer theme and “Danger Zone” gets played over the opening credit sequence but the only new song is Lady Gaga’s “Hold My Hand”, which is a solid, sweeping throwback to 80s power ballads but the original movie was packed to the gills with excellent songs, even deeper cuts like “Mighty Wings” by Cheap Trick.

Another area where Top Gun: Maverick truly shines is in the aerial action.  The original film had some excellent aerial sequences but the advancements in technology and cameras allow some truly insane action as you are in the cockpit with the pilots or looking forward from the front of the cockpit or on another part of the F-18s and the sense of danger and speed you feel is incredible.  Actually seeing the actors and seeing what seems to be real G forces acting on them is also a visceral thrill and just adds to Tom Cruise’s resume of absurd action stunts.

As far as the cast, Tom Cruise is great as always, falling easily back into the cock charm of Maverick and able to switch into a dramatic mode when needed.  Jennifer Connelly is also great and she and Cruise have great chemistry in the romantic side plot.  The younger Top Guns are mostly fine but a lot of them kind of just blend together, with the exception being Glen Powell as the cocky asshole Hangman.  Miles Teller definitely looks the part of Goose’s son but they kind of circle the same notes between him and Maverick and they are really leaning on the ghost of Anthony Edwards for a lot of the drama, either internally for Maverick or between him and Rooster.  Jon Hamm is solid as the hard-assed Vice Admiral who doesn’t care for Maverick and Val Kilmer gets a lovely cameo as Iceman, who has become a four-star Admiral in the time since the original Top Gun.

Top Gun: Maverick is everything you loved about the original Top Gun but the advancements in the way they are able to shoot the action and the more fleshed-out plot make it arguably superior to the 80s classic.  It’s got something for everyone between the action, comedy, and romance and it’s definitely something to see on as big a screen as possible and one of my favorite movies of the year so far.

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