Top Gun: Maverick Review: Shatters expectations through strong storytelling and engaging action
In an era of constant reboots, remakes, and requels of beloved franchises, mostly from the 80s, the long-awaited sequel to Tom Cruise’s 1986 breakout film Top Gun is truly a diamond in the rough with how it balances old and new flawlessly.
On the surface, Top Gun: Marverick has all the ingredients that most reboots and requels have. It’s story of Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Cruise) returning to the Top Gun program to instruct a new group of young pilots, including Goose’s son Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), comes together like a passing of the torch story. There are plenty of moments and story beats recalled from the original film, especially when it comes to certain narrative bits. The overall tone hits the same competitive and charmingly snarky vibe of the original. Even the opening is a carbon-copy of the original with the same visuals and stylized opening credits playing over Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone and bits of the original theme can be found within Hans Zimmer’s epic new score.
Yet, Maverick doesn’t solely rely on its nostalgia to get by or feature the same kind of story. Every reminder or reminiscent aesthetic of the past has a distinctly unique effect on the present and that does a lot for both generations of characters and their stories. Cruise’s return as Maverick is as refreshing as ever with how he instantly slips back into Maverick’s charm and tough-willed personality. He’s so relaxed and confident that he perfectly evokes the idea of “he’s back, but it’s like he never left.” Cruise has stellar chemistry with every character on-screen and even the audience and he totally excels with Maverick’s very personal arc in the film.
In the original, the death of Maverick’s partner Goose totally wrecked him and although he finds some ways to move on, Goose’s death still affects him, and his grief takes new form with Rooster being one of the young pilots. It’s great how Maverick’s fear of being responsible for another pilot’s death is a persistent part of his actions and a major aspect of his strained relationship with Rooster. Maverick’s fears and care for his young pilots is a big driving force in how he pushes them to the limits during training and constantly instills the danger and challenge of this mission. The stakes feel higher than ever because of this, and these inner demons are confronted well and ultimately make Maverick have a more compelling story.
There’s a great moment where Maverick really opens up and Cruise’s performance make it surprisingly emotional. Maverick is undoubtedly one of the most iconic action heroes in film, but it’s really great how his story here emphasizes why he’s defined as a hero. His arc is a great reminder of the real dangers in these missions and adds in an impactful shade of humanity to the overall story. Even the new romantic relationship Maverick finds himself in with Penny (Jennifer Connelly), a character just briefly mentioned in the original, is incredibly sweet and brings out the more personal side of Maverick. With time, there’s no doubt that Cruise’s performance here will be looked at as one of his all-time best and the writing for Maverick’s arc in the film can’t be praised enough.
Thankfully, Maverick isn’t the only great thing about Top Gun: Maverick’s story as the newbies hold their own incredibly well and their side of film is just as engaging. The rivalries and distinct personalities within this new group of pilots have shades of the atmosphere of the first film with their competitive nature and charming banter, but they’re not just carbon-copies. Their part in the story isn’t to have a young vs old generation battle, but rather be a reminder to Maverick and his superiors of the importance of them making it home. They’re an instantly loveable group with great performances all around and Teller is especially great as Rooster. His personal arc dealing with his father and Maverick is a great story weaved excellently with Maverick’s arc and adds some emotional layers and stakes to the film’s finale with Rooster and Maverick.
Top Gun: Maverick might have come out decades after the original, but that time was clearly used well in crafting the right story and delivering unforgettable action. Maverick will constantly blow you away with how cinematic and epic its high-flying action is and with the emotional stakes being higher than ever, you are instantly invested in every moment in the air. The action here is some of the most engaging, thrilling, and unique of genre in years and the decision to have the cast perform inside the cockpits of moving planes pays off in immersing viewers into these moments. The entire end sequence is especially action packed, albeit a little dragged out too, and never takes its foot off brake in upping the thrills and making every second matter.
Top Gun: Maverick defies the odds in what audiences can expect with reboots and reqeuls nowadays by finding excellent ways to expand the stories of its characters, especially Maverick, and deliver action unlike anything we’ve seen in quite some time. It’s a thoroughly excellent sequel that will easily please fans and likely hook newcomers and is one of Cruise’s best films.
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