Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

“Good Morning, aviators. This is your captain speaking. Todays exercise is dogfighting.”

More than 30 years have come and gone since Top Gun, more specifically 36 years, and one thing is absolutely certain – Tom Cruise is the last of a dying breed, a true action star that defies logical explanation and sanity to do his own stunts. Increasing in risk and reward with each film he does, death is something Cruise is not afraid of. He welcomes it and faces a fear that normal every day, sane people would never think to commit in a right state of mind. But not Tom Cruise – he’s either out of his mind or the bravest person to ever live. How long until he takes the Mission Impossible franchise to space with him in the pilot seat? He has 2 more of them, so it’s only a matter of time.

But this is Top Gun: Maverick, the long, overdue sequel to the classic 1986 film that is 30 years too late but nonetheless, Maverick takes off when the industry needed it most with Cruise fighting tooth and nail for this film to be seen on the biggest screen possible and avoid the pitfall of being released on a streaming service to be lost in obscurity. Was this the right move for Maverick? I’m inclined to say yes because it was – patience will be the key to Maverick’s long term success. In the long run – a film of this caliber deserves to be seen by as many eyes with the loudest speaker system on the biggest screen and format theaters have at their disposal. 

Being born well after the first Top Gun took flight and not having the same connection to the original that some fans may have will not take away from the experience of Maverick. The first film isn’t necessarily a precursor either as dialogue and flashbacks throughout will do the job of bringing newcomers to the characters up to speed. Leave it to the insane likability of Mav to guide us along as if no time has passed between sequel and original. I discovered the first Top Gun 2 years ago and Maverick made more of a lasting impression than its predecessor.

Soaring in at Mach 10 and pushing faster than any human has traveled is Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell (Tom Cruise) who is serving as the U.S. Navy’s test pilot avoiding promotion after promotion over the course of his illustrious career. In Maverick’s eyes, he firmly believes he’s right where he should be, and he’s not wrong. Maverick is the best ‘Top Gun’ pilot the program has ever seen – to deny Maverick of his duty as best that he can serve would be to dishonor the character and everything that Mav stands for. 

After going too far, Maverick is assigned to teach the best of the best the ‘Top Gun’ program has to offer for an impossible mission. Being the hot head that Maverick is, he takes the job rather than being grounded for good. All thanks to his friend and now commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet Admiral Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky (Val Kilmer).

Back in 2015, rumors have circled around Kilmer about having and coping with a tumor and possible throat cancer. Kilmer has since gone through procedures on his trachea which reduced his voice and left the actor short of breath when he speaks. Because of that, Kilmer uses a voice box to speak and has a feeding tube because Kilmer can no longer eat. All of which is explained heartbreakingly in the 2021 documentary Val. Yet still, Kilmer has never lost his youth and happiness. I implore anyone to watch that documentary. 

Kilmer appearing in Maverick serves as the films main emotional center as the character is written to reflect the real-life battle Kilmer has experienced in the last 7 years. Knowing the battle and everything Kilmer has endured, makes the impact that much harder of a pill to swallow when Iceman makes his brief appearance reuniting with his former rival Maverick. The tears will flow, and eyes will not be dry once this sweet moment comes and goes. In every way, this one scene gives much needed depth to Top Gun: Maverick that the first film lacked. For those few moments together, Kilmer steals the show right from Cruises grasp. 

In almost every aspect is Maverick the superior film to its predecessor. Cruise is sharper than ever – with a camera mounted firmly on each plane he’s flying; Cruise goes for the authenticity and nails the rush of adrenaline each flight brings. Going full throttle, Maverick dazzles with action sequences that will raise the pulse of anyone watching and not let up on the gas until the final moments. While the mission may be on the basic side – it’s a trope that has been used many times before – it’s the charisma of the ensemble cast and the energy they all bring in their chemistry together that makes the mission worthwhile. It’s fast and unrelating yet grounded and sweet. 

Part nostalgia, Maverick recaptures the vibe of the first film – leave it to the writing team to throw in a “Great Balls of Fire” karaoke hour, ‘Danger Zone’ blaring outward, or adding in a beach scene to keep the mood more reminiscent of the first. From bitter rivalries to 30 something year grudges, Maverick adds a modern touch to its overall atmosphere. With a new group of candidates, all with egos bigger than the naval ships they take off from, similar character personalities can be found. After all, the best friend and family Maverick had was Goose and it just so happens to be his biggest regret in life. It gives Maverick something to overcome when Bradley ‘Rooster’ Bradshaw (Miles Teller) is under his guidance. Opposite Rooster serving as this generations Iceman is Jake ‘Hangman’ Seresin (Glen Powell) – both with something to prove. 

And both having a blast with their respective roles. With skills like theirs and a slim margin of error between life and death, who wouldn’t be that cocky?

When Mav and class aren’t training for their mission, director Joseph Kosinski brings the drama back to earth – centering his story on character. Mustache aside, Miles Teller is electric and the perfect underdog to root for when he needs it most. Glen Powell is the perfect antihero you love to hate while others like ‘Phoenix’ (Monica Barbaro), ‘Payback’ (Jay Ellis), ‘Fanboy’ (Danny Ramirez), and ‘Bob’ (Lewis Pullman) get their moment to shine. It’s not just Tom Cruise carrying the entire film on his back, the ensemble cast hold their own against the legend of Pete Maverick Mitchell. 

Though we could use more of ‘Bob’. The entire world could use more of a Pullman, Bill or Lewis.

Rounding out the remaining cast in small yet still important roles include Jennifer Connelly as the love interest to Mav, Jon Hamm as a strict commander who takes the rules and law to heart, Ed Harris, and Charles Parnell. All with less to do compared to the Mav and the Top Gun class but still make significant impacts when their time comes.

Top Gun: Maverick comes at a time when the world needed it most. Thankfully Tom Cruise fought for this film to be released properly in theaters as it further proves the staying power of Cruise as a movie star but more importantly the movie going experience. Full of adrenaline, breathtaking action, death defying danger zone sequences and heart that bleeds off the screen, Maverick is the perfect choice to kick off the summer movie slate as the epitome of a blockbuster. Maverick moves fast and never apologies for breaking the rules – strap in, this will be a blast of a ride.

Written By: Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer & Christopher McQuarrie

Story By: Peter Craig & Justin Marks

Directed By: Joseph Kosinski

Music By: Harold Faltermeyer, Lady Gaga, Hans Zimmer & Lorne Balfe

Cinematography: Claudio Miranda

Starring: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris, Val Kilmer

Release Date: May 27, 2022

Running Time: 2 Hours 11 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

Based On: Characters by Jim Cash & Jack Epps Jr.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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