By Lee Romero
TOP GUN’s second take-off flies much higher and faster!
Up until this past weekend, I had only seen TOP GUN (1986) once. I was 12 then and didn’t even remember how I felt about it. In anticipation and preparation for MAVERICK, I felt it was the right thing to do. Only this time—as an adult—I knew I’d view it with a different perspective, other than fighter jets crisscrossing each other in adventures that will always be synonymous with Kenny Loggins “Danger Zone.” The result was disappointing. While a lot of it was still appealing in terms of story and even cast (I completely forgot about Meg Ryan and Val Kilmer), the overall result was hollow. There really wasn’t much to it, other than a young Tom Cruise, fighter jets and noise. Truth be told, a while back I had seen a documentary on the making of TOP GUN (directed by Tony Scott) AND that was much more interesting and engaging and entertaining than the flick itself. TOP GUN was what it was for its time and I guess made its mark, but for a piece that had so much potential, it’s good to see that almost 30 years later they finally provided us with a follow-up. A follow-up that was originally set for a July, 2019 release date, then stumbled upon some pushback due to production kinks AND a pandemic for the last 3 years, and now in 2022 it finally landed safe-n-sound!
Cruise control is back in full effect! This time, after more than 30 years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him. When he finds himself training a detachment of Top Gun graduates for a specialized mission the likes of which no living pilot has ever seen, Maverick encounters Lt. Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), son of Maverick’s late friend and Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Nick Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards, TOP GUN), aka “Goose.” Facing an uncertain future and confronting the ghosts of his past, Maverick is drawn into a confrontation with his own deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who will be chosen to fly it.
If the plot sounds a bit dramatic it’s because it is in every way, shape, or form. For that alone, it buries its predecessor. For starters, if you’ve seen one Cruise flick, you’ve seen them all. They have a formulaic way of moving along that always leads to some crazy chasing, blended with adrenaline-ridden dodges, gorgeous sound mixing, tough guy jargon, a romance, and endings that always seem a little intense, considering you’re cheering for the same character who’s taking you on a wild adventure. MAVERICK isn’t any different as it takes off into the sky as soon as it starts!
First things first, this is one of those rare pieces where the sequel is better than the first. Yes, I said it. MARVERICK is a unicorn. I think the best way to describe this flick would be insanely entertaining, adventurously engaging, visually intense, loud, and a lot more emotionally intelligent. It’s extremely ambitious with everything the narrative is throwing at you as it balances story and action. It sets up the pace during its first 15 minutes with who’s who, what’s what, and why! Then it takes off beautifully and picks up speed when called upon. The execution of MAVERICK gives its audience exactly what it intends to. It pulls no punches and elevates objectives for all characters in play as the story moves along.
One of its appreciated standouts is how it plays to contemporary times. It’s a lot more diverse, plays up modern tech, and has respect for what the story wants to present. Especially between the characters of Maverick and Rooster. There’s a string of consciousness that presents such a great arc for both characters along its run time. While a lot of it still feels the same (like is opening sequence), the upgrade is seen and felt. It’s been almost 30 years and the subject matter doesn’t feel like its missed a beat. If anything, it’s evolved. An additional upside is that it summarizes a lot of what transpired in the first film, that one doesn’t even have to see (or have seen) the first film in order to appreciate and understand this one all on its own; therefore, buckle up, sit back, and enjoy your flight.
Genre: Action/Adventure, Action, Sequel | Rated: PG-13 | Run Time: 2:11
Starring: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Charles Parnell, Bashir Salahuddin, Monica Barbaro, Jay Ellis, Danny Ramirez, Greg Tarzan Davis with Ed Harris and Val Kilmer
Directed by Joseph Kosinski
Official Movie Site: TOP GUN: MAVERICK