“Top Gun: Maverick”: Making It Like They Used To


Source: Skydance Media

Will Teare

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Starring: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Bashir Salahuddin, Glen Powel with Jon Hamm, Val Kilmer and Ed Harris

Release Date: May 27, 2022

Rating: 4/5 

Let’s start this off with a bang; I’m not a huge fan of the original Top Gun. I know, I know…but hear me out. At its best, I’m really taken with how much effort the movie puts into making the audience think “wow these guys are so cool.” and I find the cultural impact of this specific movie really interesting. At its worst, it’s a messy, unintentionally funny movie that glorifies the military-industrial complex and has a romantic subplot entirely devoid of any hint of chemistry. On the other hand, I find the interpretation of Mav’s struggle with his sexuality and how crazy homoerotic the original is and it going over people’s heads really entertaining. Additionally, I love every single quote. Like all of them. But beyond that, Top Gun never did it for me, at all. I like my cheesy movies, but this was never the kind of cheese I could ever get behind.

But this isn’t a review of Top Gun. This is Top Gun: Maverick.

For the last 30 years, Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell has been a test pilot for experimental aircraft for the Navy, dodging promotions that would keep him out of the skies. But after pulling a stunt, the Navy threatens to ground him permanently, but the next generation of pilots need him, the Navy needs him. At the behest of Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky(Val Kilmer), and much to the dismay of Goose’s son, “Rooster”(Miles Teller), Mav is going back to Top Gun. 

Now, I love action movies, it’s easily the genre I’m most well versed in and the one I think about the most. What I mean to say is that I know what makes good action and bad action in movies. That being said, I have the pleasure to tell you that Top Gun: Maverick has the best aircraft action scenes in cinema history. I wish I could replicate the craft of it with words but you have to see it to believe it. The way the actors actually trained to be pilots, actually flew the jets, and filmed themselves in the air sets this film apart from others and creates a next level of immersion whether you realize it or not. Additionally, with action like this, the editing is paramount. Thankfully, this is a masterclass of editing action. Think about it, you have to cut in between cockpits and aircraft while keeping the dialogue and geography of the action engaging and legible with multiple simultaneous moving parts all going at supersonic speeds. They do it flawlessly. It’s a display of genuinely incomprehensible levels of skill, talent, and efficiency in the editing room. 

Most likely due to the addition of Christopher McQuarrie in the writers’ room, this sometimes feels like a Mission: Impossible movie in the best possible way. The ticking clock, the high stakes, and it all builds up to a heist movie-type climax, it’s all there, it’s all done perfectly. 

But when it gets beyond the action, it gets a little dicey…but still good! The supposed crux of this whole story is between Rooster and Maverick. Rooster is the son of Goose, Maverick’s backseater and best friend who tragically died in the first Top Gun. Rooster resents him and he should’ve been a bigger part of the movie. Sure, they have their scenes together and it has a clean arc, but that should’ve been the main focus. Instead, we see a lot of time go to a relationship we don’t care much about. 

The relationship between Penny(Jennifer Connelly)and Mav never earns its place in the story. Sure, Jennifer looks as lovely as ever and she does great with what she’s given, but she never seems more than Mav’s conscience during the act 2 low-point and a girl to kiss the hero at end of the film. For an action movie like this, you need some heart so I see why they put a relationship B-plot in…but the heart should’ve been a relationship between Rooster and Maverick. I honestly think they would’ve been better off getting Meg Ryan back as Rooster’s mom instead of this whole thing with Penny.

Additionally, as much as we all love Maverick, I wish we called his character and his skill into question a little more. This movie deals with Maverick(and by association, Tom Cruise) getting older and aging out of the Navy(or being a movie star). However, Maverick is still as good as he always was, maybe even better. He saves the day and does it all being just as dangerous as he was in 86’. I think the story would’ve been so much better if he was actually passing the torch and letting go. “Letting go” seems like the theme here, but the finale(although one of my favorite third-acts in recent memory) seems to contradict that entirely. 

What if Rooster was the pilot in the F-14 at the end? Maverick gives up his seat to finally trust Rooster to trust himself, therefore making for a great character moment for the two of them. Unfortunately, knowing Cruise, I feel like his ego would’ve never let that happen despite that being beneficial to the story, which is a very Maverick move when you think about it.

At the end of the day, those are nitpicks. This isn’t a rom-com with Penny and Mav or a drama with Rooster and Maverick. Top Gun: Maverick is an action movie, and it’s being an action movie that this film does best. I’d even go as far to say it’s one of the better action films I’ve seen in quite a while. Even when it’s not action, it has some genuinely good laughs, great performances(shout-out to Glen Powell in particular), and some actual heart-wrenching moments. There’s a scene near the start where Maverick delivers a certain line while looking into the sunset where I felt pretty moved about characters I didn’t care much about with the original. That’s what sets Top Gun: Maverick apart from other “legacy sequels”, it feels so sincere about how it handles the legacy of Top Gun. This movie shouldn’t be able to pull off what it does in the opening seconds without it feeling tacked on to artificial. But the two hours afterward sold me completely on what it was trying to accomplish. 

Now, it is my honor to present to you the words I’ve been wanting to say since this film was first announced to come out in July of 2019. Top Gun: Maverick is better than the original.  Rating: 4/5 

P.S. This movie is bringing back the older generation to theaters and single-handedly saving movie theaters at least for this moment. Big win for the community here just had to recognize this massive W for the industry. Additionally, having a bunch of extras cheer for our heroes at the end of the movie will never not be cool, something this movie remembers. Oh, sorry last thing, having a blockbuster with heart that doesn’t have superheroes in it AND making money AND being well made makes me very, very happy. Massive dubs all around here.