Let’s talk about Top Gun: Maverick.
The original Top Gun may have a claim to be the most 80s film ever. The only thing more 80s than the mixture of Kenny Loggins and American patriotism that the original offers is if a shoulder-pad wearing Ronald Reagan was caughting doing a Rubik’s Cube while listening to the New Order on his Walkman. That makes a sequel interesting. Rather than dating the film though, it is the 80s factor which makes Top Gun so lovable despite being full of clichés. With a sequel, you can’t exactly just go full on 80s again without it being dated and potentially aggravating. After all, we’re in 2022 and it’s not exactly a year where we should be playing ode to the capitalistic excess of 35 years ago. So, let’s see if Maverick can fly high.
Maverick is still a rebel within the Navy, hence why he has never been promoted above Captain. He is given one final chance, to teach the best Top Gun students how to do a near impossible mission that could kill them all.
You know how in so many reboots and adaptations when there is iconic music involved that they’ll make you wait for it? There will be the odd tease and stinger but the music will only come in the final third for that big euphoric feeling. None of that here! Nah, Top Gun isn’t going to make you wait, it’s going to chuck it’s iconic theme at you from the off and then it’s also going to do Danger Zone as well. This while doing a credits scrawl over stock footage of jet fighters on airplane carriers during a sunset. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the modern cast names on this part I’d have probably gone to a staff member and ask if they hadn’t accidentally put the first film on. You can tell from this first scene that this is going to be reverential to the original. It takes a lot of themes from the original, music and even does scenes in its own way. Yes, there is a scene of american football being played on the beach and all the pilots are topless, just like that beach volleyball scene, as if just to prove the female gaze does exist.
But the film doesn’t get trapped by the original and evolves from that first film rather than just replaying it. Maverick is decidedly not the same character as he was back in the first film. Yes, he’s still cocky and willing to break the rules in order to get the job done, I.E. the dream character from the 1980s. But he’s also carrying the scars from that film and from what has happened since then. He still has a lot of guilt from the death of Goose in the first film and that is brought back to the fore here with Goose’s son, played by Miles Teller, being part of the crew he has to teach. And that guilt has played into actions that has happened off screen. The film being like this makes it feel like less of a cash grab and more a story that they needed to tell. I can imagine that if you asked Tom Cruise what Maverick was up to in August 2007, he’d actually be able to tell you because he and the rest of the team behind the film are so in tune with the characters.
But what really makes the film pop are the jet fights. Tom Cruise is a divisive figure in the world of film. He is a proven at being a very likable lead in big blockbusters he has one of the biggest egos in Hollywood hence why he thought he’d be a good casting for Jack Reacher, a character only described in the books as being 6ft 5in, something Cruise is famously not. But his insistence on practical effects in his film has been a godsend in an era of CGI explosions and it makes this film truly unique. It doesn’t matter what you think of the story, seeing jet fighters in these dog fights on screen is worth the ticket money alone. It’d have been so easy to rely on CGI and digital effects for these aerial manoeuvres but seeing it all really done on the big screen is truly something stunning. This is what the cinema is for.
That’s not to say the film doesn’t have its issues and for me, it revolves around part of the ending and also why both of the Top Gun are so good. What I like about this franchise is that even though both films are quite extravagant, they are also pretty realistic. All the dog fights and manoeuvres you see the planes do are also doable in real life. This does stem from the films being recruitment tools for the military, but it benefits the movie in the end so I’m not going to moan too much. The problem comes as there’s a little ten minute section in the final act where the film goes from being Top Gun into a daft action film. Personally, I have a feeling that when this script was conceived that there was a different ending which got overridden and we got the ending here. The film does get back on track and has a very good conclusion, but these ten minutes really do niggle me.
Top Gun: Maverick is a cinematic experience that is definitely worth a trip to the danger zone for. Rather than being a tired retread of a dated movie that only exists to make some nostalgia money, this is a fantastic evolution of a classic that pays tribute to the name and will create new fans in a modern world. You get a very likable cast lead by Tom Cruise and even though they aren’t the most developed characters in the world outside of Cruise and Teller, they all do their jobs well and become guys and the obligatory gal you like having around. You get some incredible action, the like of which you’ll only see in this film. There are those ten minutes in the final act which drag it down due to being daft but not in a fun way, but overall this is a great sequel that will take your breath away.