I have a confession to make at the start of this review: I dearly love the original Top Gun from the 80s, and I like it for a lot of reasons that people make fun of it for. I like its sincere and specifically 1980s brand of goofiness and cheesy moments. While many people often sneer at the idea of a reboot legacy sequel, Top Gun: Maverick manages to be one of the rare sequels that does the original proud and even forges its own path as a great film on its own.
While the film is advertised as a cliche ‘original guy shows his best friend’s son how the old dogs do it’ kind of story, Top Gun: Maverick manages to craft its own original tale and has a way of feeling like a natural extension of the original film. The film gives its dues to the original while not being afraid to take the story of Top Gun into some surprisingly mature places. The film is certainly predictable in some areas, but manages to smooth over those edges with a surprisingly tender and heartfelt story about moving on from past traumas and looking towards the bright future.
One of the major points of the film revolves around how the world has changed, yet Maverick hasn’t. He seems stuck in the past and unsure how he’ll move forward in the new age that he finds himself in. While I often defend Tom Cruise’s talent as an actor. I find that even he sometimes gets into the ‘movie star’ role that he’s found himself in, he gives a very subdued and mature performance as an older Maverick (played by Tom Cruise.) He hasn’t lost his edge or his adventurous spirit that we saw in the first film, but he’s older and more reflective than he was in the first film. He struggles to let go of the past and move forward. He struggles to find his place in the Navy which is growing very impatient with his antics.
I find that this film works for two major reasons. The first is the cast and the chemistry between them. I found myself often smiling at the camaraderie and solidarity between them. They joke around with each other, make fun of each other, have their little jokes, they feel like real people. We also see Miles Teller come out of the hibernation that he has been in for the last several years and give a strong performance as Goose’s son Rooster. I’m impressed with how much he actually looks like the actor who played Goose in the original movie, but he luckily doesn’t do a copy of Anthony Edwards’ performance as Goose, but he proves to be someone that has a lot of baggage of his own. The rest of the cast is terrific as well.
The second reason that this film works as well as it does is because of the incredible action scenes. Tom Cruise’s reputation as one of the hardest working actors in the business proceeds him, and the way that he presents action continues to impress and awe. I was white knuckled through the third act of the film because of the practicality of the effects. One of the things that this film excels at is immersing you into the world of being a Navy Top Gun pilot, the fact that Tom Cruise had the actors take classes in order to become pilots lands credence to the immersion that this film has. The action scenes in this film were among my favorite bits from it, as you find yourself glued to the screen, anticipating what will happen as the action takes place. It feels like you’re witnessing a true dogfight in the air.
This is one of those rare blockbusters that you don’t see as much. It’s one of the best blockbusters that I’ve seen in recent memory, ones that don’t include films from the MCU. Tom Cruise proves once more that he is one of the most productive actors working in the industry. While I have mixed opinions on Cruise as a person, there’s no denying that he’s very good at his job and I can’t help but respect and feel admiration for his incredible work ethic. I really get peeved when people say ‘they don’t make movies like this anymore.’ A lot of that has to do with the fact that I find the over-criticism of Hollywood running out of ideas being an oversimplified critique of a much larger problem. But Top Gun: Maverick can only cause me to shake my head and mutter in defeat. Man, they just don’t make them like Top Gun: Maverick anymore.