Top Gun: Maverick is officially in cinemas after a two-year pandemic delay — and the wait has been well worth it. Maverick, directed by Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy, Oblivion), takes everything that worked in Tony Scott’s original film and amps it up. The outcome is a picture that honours the Top Gun history (loved characters and storylines, as well as enthusiasm for the 1986 film itself) while also integrating new heroes and modern blockbuster effects to provide an emotionally complex and pulse-pounding ride. Top Gun: Maverick, which arrives 26 years after the first film, is an unique sequel that is not only better than the first but also retrospectively deepens Top Gun’s tale.
Set three decades after LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) and LT Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer) overcame their rivalry to save the SS Layton, Maverick sees the titular hero summoned back to the Naval Fighter Weapons School at Naval Air Station Miramar — aka Top Gun — to train a squad of talented but young fighter pilots for a highly-dangerous assault on a heavily-fort Maverick’s unconventional teaching style (combined with his proclivity for defying orders) puts him at conflict with his superiors, as is customary. Vice ADM “Cyclone,” played by Jon Hamm, is one among them. The most difficult aspect of Maverick’s mission is managing a convoluted and tense relationship with LT Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, a stick jockey picked to train for the attack and the son of Maverick’s former closest buddy LTJG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (who died training with Maverick).
Character Posters From Top Gun: Maverick Introduce The Pilots
Kosinski and Cruise have created a sequel that not only stands on its own, but also gives the events of the original Top Gun more weight and purpose. The sequel converts Goose’s death in Top Gun from a character-defining incident into a film universe-defining pillar, based on Maverick’s lingering remorse and how that guilt interacts with Rooster’s hatred (and subsequent) concerns. In lieu of heavy-handed dialogue, Kosinski ties this through line with subtle and sensitive moments that rely on a great cast and unsaid emotions to remind spectators of past events and stir current tensions.
Returning to his legendary arrogant pilot after two decades, Cruise adds new layers to his iconic cocky pilot, establishing a journey for the character that is probably more genuine to Maverick than where Top Gun really left him. The titular hero is older in the sequel, but he is still capable, and Cruise weights him down with remorse rather than the “too old for this” clichés that comparable movies normally rely on. This round, Maverick’s weakness isn’t a rash drive to be the best or hubris in the face of authorities. (Though there is still plenty of the latter). Instead, he’s faced with a life of decisions and avoidances that have left him with nothing but a passion for flying and no choice but to slow down and embrace his fragility (in order to save his crew and himself). Fortunately, Cruise, who is approaching 60 years old, has become just as skilled at expressing fragility as he was at projecting “cool” in 1986.
In the part of Rooster, Miles Teller shines. Teller and Cruise have scant and constrained exchanges at first, but there’s much for them to unpack as the plot progresses. Teller masterfully conveys Anthony Edwards’ restrained and deliberate nuance as Goose, while also pouring a bit of Maverick’s zeal into the junior Bradshaw. This produces a volatile mix that sets the stage for a satisfying family drama in the Maverick story. The supporting cast is mostly remakes of the people and dynamics that made Top Gun so unforgettable (and fun). While Maverick is introduced to a dozen trainees at first, the film quickly narrows its emphasis to those who will play a key role in the events that follow.
Glen Powell, as LT “Hangman” Seresin to Teller’s Rooster, stands out from the crowd as an Iceman-like contrast. Monica Barbaro steals the show as the attractive and astute LT “Phoenix” Trace, while Lewis Pullman is likely to be a fan as LT “Bob” Floyd, an uncomfortable and bookish squad member who gets several of the film’s most humorous (and dry) gags. Penelope “Penny” Benjamin, played by Jennifer Connelly, joins the franchise as a seductive new (but old in the tale) love interest for Cruise. Maverick skips over a lot of their history together. Penny is fleshed out sufficiently by Connelly to feel like a good counterpoint to Maverick (particularly because Kelly McGillis’ “Charlie” Blackwood isn’t in this round). Coleman, played by Bashir Salahuddin, is a funny, albeit also contemplative, addition to Maverick’s right-hand in training his pupils, and is frequently used for understated comic relief. Finally, despite Val Kilmer’s diminished ability to speak due to his battle with throat cancer, Top Gun: Maverick finds an innovative and gratifying method to incorporate Val Kilmer as Iceman, and fans will undoubtedly enjoy watching how the Iceman/Maverick bond has matured over time.
With eye-popping aerial combat, Kosinski and Cruise knew they’d have to boost the ante, and Maverick delivers. The Top Gun sequel has created one of, if not the most spectacular dog battles ever filmed on film, by combining real cockpit video with well-placed (and sparingly utilised) VFX shots. Other heart-pounding set pieces in the film guarantee that all of the excellent character drama is matched by equally unforgettable action. Top Gun: Maverick is currently showing in IMAX theatres, and the extra money is well worth it. While premium viewings aren’t required, the addition of high-quality sound and screen space enhances already dramatic set pieces.
While moviegoers may find some aspects of Top Gun: Maverick to be too similar to the original, the picture manages to weave an exceedingly challenging set of hurdles. Maverick is familiar and wise, but still has room to develop, and Rooster presents the elderly pilot with a new dilemma, making the events of Top Gun all the more tragic. And it’s all set against the backdrop of a thrilling mission and high-flying combat. Fans waited three decades for Maverick’s comeback, and given the series’ overall amazing growth, mythology, and characters (not to mention jaw-dropping combat), it’s fair to think that audiences won’t be as patient if they had to wait another 30 years for Cruise to return to the cockpit.