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Film Review: Does “Top Gun: Maverick” Live Up To The Hype?

May 27, 2022

Ah, the 80s. A simpler time in the world of Hollywood cinema. The movies made during that era are still considered classics. Sure, some of them are cheesy but you know what? They are still great! We still quote those movies and a lot of us weren’t even born when they came out. My father tells me stories about going to the theater to experience those movies and the first one that comes to mind is Top Gun. Back then, movies didn’t come out on streaming or DVD after, but linger in the theater for months and you would go back multiple times to see it.

Now 36 years later, Top Gun: Maverick, the long-awaited sequel is finally here! I went into the danger zone to see if it lives up to the hype.

Top Gun Maverick begins many years after the end of the first movie with Capt. Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell (Tom Cruise) running tests on a brand-new stealth jet. Once he receives word that the program is about to get cut to allocate money for unmanned aircraft, he jumps in the jet and breaks the Mach limit.

Well, something ensues and instead of being punished, he is sent back to Top Gun, a school for the top Navy aviators, at the request of his former wingman, Adm. Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky (Val Kilmer). Maverick is given twelve students and is tasked to narrow them down to six for a near suicide mission. One of the students is Lt. Bradley ‘Rooster’ Bradshaw (Miles Teller) – the son of Goose, his back seater that was killed in the first movie during a training accident. Maverick is still distraught over his friend’s death and coming face to face with his son is no easy task.

Adm. Beau ‘Cyclone’ Simpson (John Hamm) is ready to accept multiple casualties for the mission, but Maverick is convinced that the mission can be done without losing American souls. Maverick trains the eleven men and one woman to beyond their limit in order to prove to command they are wrong and to make sure they come home safe.

While back at Top Gun, Maverick reconnects with Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly), an old flame from his last visit to the area. Will they succeed in their mission? Will Rooster and Maverick make amends? I’m not going to spoil it, but this movie is one heck of a ride.

I don’t think anyone wanted a sequel to Top Gun for a while. It was a perfect 80s movie by all accounts. I must give Tom Cruise credit, he waited and timed this out perfectly, and the result is nothing short of a near perfect sequel. Most sequels that come after the original movie by 20 years rely on too much nostalgia and try to force something that isn’t there. Top Gun, Maverick does not do that at all. It’s call backs to the original are there but flow effortlessly into this story. When we are introduced to Rooster, he plays “Great Balls of Fire” just like his old man did in the first movie, which is heartbreaking for Maverick to watch, and brings me into my next favorite thing about the movie: Maverick.

His character development is amazing. The first film he started out as cocky and full of himself before being humbled. In this movie, we find out that he is confident in this role and this reasoning behind how he behaves. He is a Navy Captain, while all her peers are at least a 2-star admiral or higher with Iceman being a 4-star admiral. He is comfortable where he is. Goose’s death still haunts him, and he doesn’t want Rooster to end up like that. But Maverick has the same spirit has he did in the original. This movie is the perfect continuation of the story so many people love. 

Now, how is the rest of the movie? It’s an adrenaline rush. The film makers used practical effects as much as possible and made use of real F/A-18 Super Hornets and it shows. The cinematography is awesome. I’ll argue better than the original. This is by far the best movie to show dogfighting and aerial combat to date. I felt like I was there flying with them. At one point I thought about putting in paperwork to switch to the Navy to become a pilot, then I realized my eyes are bad so that wouldn’t work.

Anyway, I can’t think of another movie that comes close to it. The dialogue is good and not as cheesy as the original. I can’t find really anything wrong the movie other than how two of the pilots are at each other then suddenly become friends like nothing happened. But that basically happened with Maverick and Iceman so I’ll allow it.

I’m also glad the movie didn’t try to push any politics or social issues with the use pilots since one of them is a female. She proves her worth without the script making her look better than the guys. She is at their level, hangs with them and is part of the team. We have great performances all around. And Miles Teller is the standout to me as Rooster. He and Tom Cruise work well together and play off each other great.

The last 30 minutes of the movie is the best part – the mission they have all trained for comes to fruition. I won’t say what happens but there many twists and turns (both literally and figuratively). Some twists I saw coming, others I did not. At many times this movie can be a bit predictable, and you know what, I’m ok with that. It feels like an 80’s movie and I believe that is exactly what we need in movies right now. Just a good old fashion movie to show how awesome humans can be and what we can achieve when pushed beyond our limits. We have story of duty, sacrifice, dealing with lose and regret, and pushing to do the right thing. All good lessons we should strive for in our lives.

Top Gun: Maverick is a movie you will want to check out multiple times. Please attempt to see it in a theater with an amazing sound system – you will feel like you are there. I’m going to give this movie an 8.9/10. It is a solid sequel that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Also please watch your speed as you drive home. I was… going a “little” over the speed limit after the movie.

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