REVIEW: ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is a near-perfect, crowd-pleasing movie sequel and well worth a trip to the theater
SALT LAKE CITY — It’s been a long wait to see Pete “Maverick” Mitchell back in the seat of a Navy fighter jet. 36 years to be exact, the longest wait ever for a sequel to a live-action movie.
To be fair, the last two years of waiting for the sequel to 1986 megahit Top Gun were because of a pandemic and star Tom Cruise’s insistence that the movie be released in theaters and not on streaming. But what a great choice that was.
Top Gun: Maverick is a thrilling cinematic experience that should satisfy anxious, long-time fans of the characters while also bringing a new a generation to enjoy it.
After more than thirty 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 Bradshaw (Miles Teller), call sign: “Rooster,” the son of Maverick’s late friend and Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Nick Bradshaw, 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.
THINGS I LIKED
Honestly, it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few things. I thought pretty much everything worked in this film.
Cruise re-assumes the role of Maverick as if he’s been playing it during all the years since. Miles Teller with a mustache looks uncannily similar to 1980’s Anthony Edwards and brings great emotional heft as Rooster.
Jennifer Connelly still looks gorgeous and her character Penny Benjamin, mentioned only in passing in the original film, brings a strong female presence and an emotional counterbalance to Maverick’s lonely machismo.
All of the new pilots bring a little something different to the team dynamic and were surprisingly diverse without it feeling forced or unnatural. Each has a moment or two to shine and each plays a key role when the time comes.
As a sequel it makes reference in many spots to the original 1986 film, including some footage shown as memory flashbacks, photos from that era, cameos from several characters that fans will recognize, and situations and camera shots that mirror the first movie, but tweaked for the new film.
I was pleased that the story stands really well on its own, and even if you haven’t seen the original Top Gun, character dialogue fills in whatever knowledge gaps you might need to understand character motivations and maybe why all the other people in the theater are laughing or cheering at things that may not seem to have any particular meaning otherwise.
But, without question, the best part of Top Gun: Maverick was the pilot action and air combat. Late-2010’s camera technology combines with some great plotting from scriptwriter Peter Craig (based on the characters created by Jim Cash & Jack Epps Jr.) to create some spectacular aerial stunts and combat.
This film is gorgeous, especially on the IMAX screens, and will likely be another powerful recruiting tool for the Navy just like the original was in the 1980’s.
The soundtrack was nowhere near as spectacular as the original movie’s, despite an original song by Lady Gaga, and the musical score from Gaga, Hans Zimmer and Harold Faltermeyer was at its most goosebump-inducing whenever Faltermeyer’s classic Top Gun anthem would play.
Top Gun: Maverick is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action, and some strong language (including one use of the F-word). But, surprisingly, it actually felt more family-friendly than the original Top Gun. But beware, you may find yourself tensing up during some of the action sequences and I suppose some of the shots of the flying could make some people motion sick.
The run time is 2 hours 11 minutes.
Do you HAVE TO see the original movie to understand or enjoy this one? No. But there is no way you’ll get the same level of emotional satisfaction as you would if you have seen 1986’s Top Gun.
Top Gun: Maverick lives up to the hype. It gave me ALL the feels and I can’t recall a sequel that has left me feeling so satisfied in a long time.
It is immediately among the gold standard of how to revisit beloved characters years after the fact. Properly balancing legacy characters with new cast members and characters is an art that not every movie franchise has mastered. But director Joseph Kosinski handled it well and I have to give him and Peter Craig credit.
Props to Tom Cruise for fighting to keep this as a theatrical release. I recommend that you it on the biggest screen you can to get maximum enjoyment.
It also probably worth pointing out that the extra delay only has heightened anticipation, yet against the odds, Top Gun: Maverick delivers in every way!
Andy’s final rating: FOUR out of FOUR stars
WHERE TO WATCH
Top Gun: Maverick is playing only in theaters. If you want to see it in IMAX, I recommend you don’t wait too long. Future summer films are already contracted by the theater chains to take over the large-screen auditoriums on a certain schedule no matter how successful this movie is.
Hopefully you & your family found this review helpful! Andy Farnsworth does a weekly “What To Watch” segment for KSL 5 TV in Salt Lake City and also hosts the Fan Effect podcast for KSL NewsRadio. Check out his other in-depth reviews of movies and streaming TV series on KSLTV.com.
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