From the very onset of Top Gun: Maverick, you should be 100% into the movie. It starts with the classic Top Gun theme by Harold Faltermeyer and then goes into shots of jets taking off the runway to “Highway To The Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins. This would normally seem like a cheesy way to pop fans of the original film, but it feels right and refreshing in whatever way. It doesn’t start like most modern action blockbusters these days with a car chase and combat. Instead, it’s just the pilots, planes, and rocking tunes. From there Top Gun: Maverick starts with a bang and keeps going until the very end; gripping the audience, keeping you on the edge of your seat, and providing some surprising emotional weight.
The original Top Gun wasn’t devoid of emotion, but it’s garnered a reputation for being among the most “dude-bro” movies of all time. Maverick doesn’t shed that, but it gives us a Top Gun for the new age. It stars Tom Cruise, Jennifer Connelly, Miles Teller, Monica Barbaro, Lewis Pullman, Val Kilmer, Glen Powell, Jon Hamm, and Ed Harris. Joseph Kosinski directs a script by Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie.
It might sound like “high-class film critic trying to pump up a movie” talk, but I was floored by just how much Top Gun: Maverick made me think. It makes me question my own mortality and my place in life. The film ponders the question of how older people fit in with this new generation. There really isn’t a blockbuster like it these days. If you can glean one thing from Top Gun: Maverick, it’s that the film harkens back to a movie of yesterday, without feeling like it’s pandering to an older crowd.
Paying Tribute To The Past
The whole plot of Top Gun: Maverick is pretty simple. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is called back to action to teach a new group of Top Gun pilots for a perilous mission. The stakes are enormous but don’t feel that way in the film. It’s primarily contained in the base and the surrounding area until the third act. That helps keep the focus on the human element of the film. While Tom Cruise/Maverick is doing almost superhuman feats in a jet, the human stories at play here carry Top Gun. Miles Teller plays Goose’s son, and that whole subplot drives some of the motivation for Maverick in this mission. The rest of the new recruits are fantastic in their roles.
It’s hard to overcome the performances in the original film by Michael Ironside, Val Kilmer, Tom Skerritt, or Tim Robbins, but these new blood do really well. Glen Powell is the absolute highlight as Hangman, who provides an “antagonist” to Teller’s Rooster and gives the group some much-needed edge. Monica Barbaro is the only female member of the Top Gun team, but thankfully the film doesn’t play that up or make jokes about it. She’s just as good as these guys and it doesn’t need to draw attention to that. The other callsigns get plenty of time together and their own places to shine like Bob, Fanboy (complete with Star Trek font), Payback, Coyote, and some other great ones. They might not beat out Iceman, Merlin, or Maverick, but they did a good job thinking up some cool names for the film.
Ed Harris and Jon Hamm team together to give the first act and the second act a real “antagonist” to the film. Hamm is just trying to keep the mission going and when Maverick falters, he has no option but to pounce. The whole film is the Navy hierarchy versus Maverick. The one man standing in the way of Maverick being discharged is Iceman, who’s a high-ranking officer now.
Are You A Fan Of Val Kilmer? You Will Cry
The emotional portion of Top Gun: Maverick comes out of nowhere. I didn’t think one could regard the original film in such a respectful way. Clearly, Joseph Kosinski and the creative team have a soft spot for Top Gun. It doesn’t ever verge into parody when they’re paying tribute to the original film. Beach volleyball in jorts would be a joke these days, but somehow, the beach training scenes in this film, complete with ridiculous physiques from Glen Powell, Miles Teller, and Monica Barbaro, are not as cheesy as they would seem. The film is about building a team out of the best of the best; it’s about Maverick confronting his past, his limitations, and overcoming those shortcomings.
Jennifer Connelly might not actually be in the original film, but her character fits right in. She adds some much-needed romance to the proceedings, but also provides a more human element among the pilots. Her character might not be in the original film, but she feels pulled right out of that era. Connelly and her daughter played by Lyliana Wray offer up some comedy when Mav and Penny are acting like teenagers, but it completes Maverick’s arc as a character as well.
If you didn’t think you would cry during a Tom Cruise-led, action blockbuster, think again. Val Kilmer is in this film as Iceman, and it’s safe to say it’s a tear-jerker. He suffered from throat cancer and lost the ability to speak; thankfully, new technology can recreate his voice. The scenes between Maverick and Iceman in this film are the turning point for the story. They’re poignant and as a fan of Val Kilmer, it’s lovely to see him on the screen again.
Outside of that, there are also some emotional beats between Rooster and Maverick, where they confront their own issues with one another. Unfortunately, Miles Teller doesn’t quite pull it off which dampens it slightly. However, his look/mustache in the film definitely makes him look exactly like Anthony Edwards as Goose. His performance is the weakest of the new cast but still offers enough to hold the emotional moments together.
A Throwback Blockbuster
Top Gun: Maverick is the pinnacle of blockbuster films. There’s certain throwback energy to the whole film that isn’t there with many big-budget films we have these days. The dogfights and plane combat in the film are practical. The cast is in real airplanes, for the most part, so what you see is what you get. Tom Cruise might be the most classic movie star we have left. His work with Christopher McQuarrie and Paramount has been something to behold over the last decade. This movie only furthers that legacy and how he pumps out great action films into his 50s.
Throughout the whole third act of the film, you’ll be on the edge of your seat, which builds and builds until we get a satisfying conclusion. It proves that the old can mix with the young to solve issues. Top Gun: Maverick is a triumph of the action genre, it’s a triumph of blockbusters, and you don’t want to miss it. They don’t make movies like this anymore.
Top Gun: Maverick releases in theaters on May 27th, 2022.
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