REVIEW: ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Is An Adrenaline-Charged Legacy Sequel

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Top Gun Maverick - But Why Tho

Top Gun: Maverick is finally debuting this week after multiple COVID-related delays – and believe me when I say it’s worth the wait. Decades after the original Top Gun, Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is responsible for teaching the Top Gun fighter program and training some of the world’s best fighter pilots to pull off an impossible mission. One of the students is Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick’s late friend Pete “Goose” Bradshaw. Maverick struggles to push the pilots past their limits while also dealing with his guilt over Goose’s death, in addition to butting heads with his commanding officer Vice Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson (Jon Hamm), and rekindling a romance with local bar owner Penny (Jennifer Connelly).

The “legacyquel” is fast becoming a trend in Hollywood, as long-dormant franchises often receive installments that bring back veterans from their respective series while also introducing new characters. Sometimes this works out – see Blade Runner 2049 or Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Other times, you’ll wish you were just watching the original film – see Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Thankfully, Maverick falls into the former category thanks to director Joseph Kosinski, who arguably helped turn out one of the best legacyquels in Tron: Legacy. Kosinski, who previously worked with Cruise on the sci-fi thriller Oblivion, wrings some intense performances out of his leading man. Cruise runs through a marathon of emotions: exhilaration when he’s in the sky, anguish, and bliss when acting opposite Connelly. One scene, where he reunites with another Top Gun alum, is sure to bring a tear to audiences’ eyes.

The supporting cast tends to be a little hit and miss. While Hamm provides a steady antagonistic presence, Teller never quite matches Cruise in intensity or emotion. Compared to the moments that Garrett Hedlund and Jeff Bridges shared in Tron: Legacy, this is a miss on Kosinski’s part. It’s a shame because the rest of the pilots, including Monica Barbaro‘s Natasha “Phoenix” Trace and Jay Ellis‘ Reuben “Payback” Fitch, feel like much more interesting characters and could have made for a great dynamic with Cruise. Connelly’s part is also fairly brief, though she and Cruise have plenty of chemistry in the handful of scenes they share together.

Maverick‘s screenwriters – including Mission: Impossible steward Christopher McQuarrie and The Batman co-writer Peter Craig, who helped develop the story – find the right balance of old and new. Much like Maverick and his fellow Top Gun pilots, the new class is full of a mix of competing personalities, especially Jake “Hangman” Seresin (Glen Powell). Viewers will more than likely want to punch Hangman throughout Maverick‘s entire runtime, though that’s a testament to how good Powell’s performance is. And with its emphasis on Maverick’s refusal to take a promotion and the pilots having to push their F-18’s against the enemy’s more advanced technology, this film could be seen as meta-commentary about a movie star like Cruise proving that old fashioned spectacle can win in a world where special effects often do the heavy lifting in most blockbuster films.

It wouldn’t be a Top Gun movie without some aerial combat, and this is where Maverick really shines. Kosinski worked with the Navy to develop a new system that would place multiple cameras alongside the interior of a fighter plane’s cockpit. The end result makes the audience feel like they’re actually inside the cockpit with the pilots, and there are plenty of heartstopping moments – especially during the final act, where the Top Gun cadets must dodge everything from surface-to-air missiles to the very forces of gravity. But as anyone who’s seen the Mission: Impossible movies can tell you, Cruise’s bread and butter is surviving things that would kill a normal man. This even gets lampooned in the film’s first act, when a Navy admiral (Ed Harris) tells Maverick: “Despite your best efforts, you refuse to die.”

Top Gun: Maverick proves to be a near-perfect legacyquel, with its adrenaline-laced dogfights grounded by a top-tier performance from Tom Cruise. If you’re a fan of the original Top Gun or you love a great action movie, you owe it to yourself to check this one out – preferably in IMAX.

Top Gun: Maverick will premiere in theaters nationwide on May 27, 2022.


Top Gun: Maverick
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    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

Top Gun: Maverick proves to be a near-perfect legacyquel, with its adrenaline-laced dogfights grounded by a top-tier performance from Tom Cruise. If you’re a fan of the original Top Gun or you love a great action movie, you owe it to yourself to check this one out – preferably in IMAX.