Thursday, May 26, 2022

Top Gun: Maverick: Movie Review

Nice nods to the original and spectacular action.
It has been a long time since I last saw Top Gun but I’ve remembered how much fun it is. The first half of Top Gun: Maverick seems to want to recreate all of the individual elements of the original without capturing any of the movie magic, but don’t worry that changes just as quickly as Maverick can change course in an F-18. The final act, their mission, is dazzling. It’s fun, engaging, breath-taking and just really impressive movie-making.   2022

Directed by: Joseph Kosinski

Screenplay by: Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie

Starring: Tom Cruise, Jennifer Connelly, Miles Teller and Glen Powell

It opens with a wistful Tom Cruise (Pete “Maverick” Mitchell) alone in a hangar looking at old photos of his team. Don’t worry in case you forgot what a young Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards looked like, there are a ton of photos from the original. At one point it becomes too much, but hey, nostalgia is a tough balance, and this was 36 years ago.

Given his name and who he is, Maverick continues to break as many rules as he can get away with. He’s now a test pilot captain with all those notorious rule-followers in the Navy desperate to get rid of him. Admiral Ice (Val Kilmer) won’t allow it. There’s a new dangerous mission that the Top Gun flyers are needed for so Maverick is brought back. There’s some decent humour as he’s introduced to his new commander (Jon Hamm) and the devastating realization that they haven’t brought him back as a pilot but as a teacher.

The new crop are all the recent elite graduates. The actors are a slew of big names in their 30s: Miles Teller, Glen Powell, Jay Ellis, Manny Jacinto; and the first two are, respectively, a literal and an obvious, recreation of the original stars. Teller is Bradley (aka Rooster), the son of the late Goose, complete with a mustache and dyed hair to look exactly like his famous father. Glen Powell is Hangman, a loose (but not subtle) younger version of Tom Cruise’s Maverick. The ghost of Goose looms large over the film, but it's mostly pulled off as a nice and respectful tribute.

The first practice missions with Tom Cruise as teacher and the new team all jacked up on ego and testosterone have some awful dialogue. It also seems like whatever mission they’re training for is nonsense. And then – and I’m not kidding – a game of shirtless dogfight football on the beach. The film gave a reason for such silliness, called it “team building”, but it was really just because they wanted a scene with Cruise and all those other hot actors shirtless so they can use it in all the advertising – which they have done.

But it all leads up to the mission. First, it actually makes sense by the time we get there – a simple and effective story of what the Navy needs these elite fighter pilots to do, and secondly, it is just really good action. Never particularly suspenseful, but always engaging. The second half easily makes up for all the silly cheesiness from the first half. Tom Cruise has always done really good work with action sequences to make sure they are as dynamic for the audience as possible, and he has literally spent decades working it out for this sequel, and the result is spectacular.

On the whole, Top Gun: Maverick is more for the older generation than the younger one. Teller gets his emotional story given that he’s playing the son of Goose, but none of the other new characters have any backstory or personal side. Powell’s Hangman has clear personality traits, but we don’t know their lives outside of Top Gun. The romance story belongs to none other than the 60-year-old (aka ageless) Cruise and the 52-year-old Jennifer Connelly in more obvious but fun nods to the original.