REVIEW: Top Gun: Maverick

Posted by Matthew Thornton on Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Director: Joseph Kosinski
Writers: Jim Cash(based on characters created by), Jack Epps Jr.(based on characters created by), Peter Craig (story by)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jennifer Connelly, Miles Teller
Runtime: 130 mins
MPAA Rating: PG-13

      The 1980s military aviation extravaganza known as Top Gun might be the definition of a product of its time. What boils down to an elaborate showcase of the Navy’s aerial vehicles became a vehicle for a young Tom Cruise as leading man. And there is not much else to it besides its infamous homoerotic undertones that the Internet has blown way out of proportion. In fact, it is quite boring. If you do not have time to sit through the whole film in preparation, I would recommend cranking up Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” and watching a supercut of the dogfight scenes followed by the beach volleyball scene. That should give you everything you need.

      Thirty years after graduating from TOPGUN, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is a test pilot pushing the boundaries of supersonic flight technology when he gets called up to return to TOPGUN as an instructor. The Navy concocts a hair-brained strategic fighter strike mission that requires Maverick to train the best and the brightest young TOPGUN graduates for success. With the increasing prevalence of unmanned military aircraft, Maverick struggles to prove the days of the traditional fighter pilot are not numbered, although he does little to endear himself to his commanding officers or students by disregarding safety protocols and taking a decidedly unorthodox approach to teaching.

      Fortunately, Top Gun: Maverick takes everything positive about the original, supercharges it, and blasts off, this time without aimless direction. The vibe and trappings of the original remain but this film is executed with much clearer narrative intentions and slightly more mature machismo. It is a simple story of a dying breed of fighter pilot finding a reason to exist in the face of obsolescence due to technology. That being said, I do not want to give the impression that this film is terribly profound. There are plenty of groan-inducing moments in this script, and the highs and lows of the plot are carefully orchestrated to cater to mass audience appeal. While you can knock the story for lack of novelty and the-sun-rising-tomorrow-morning levels of predictability, it blows past such criticism by cranking up the bravado and entertainment factor. Top Gun: Maverick knows exactly what movie it is and leans heavily into what it does well. This film does not exist to subvert expectations but to please the audience. And pleasing the audience is what it does well.

      Tom Cruise’ Maverick is more than charming and bold enough to carry the film while sharing the screen with a host of cartoonish military types, mostly young fighter pilots with comical degrees of self-confidence and dedication to one-liners. Maverick’s relationships rooted in the original film are surprisingly heartfelt as he briefly shares the screen with a cancer-afflicted Iceman (Val Kilmer) and has to manage a strained pedagogical relationship with Roostsr (Miles Teller), the son of Tom Cruise’s deceased backseat partner Goose from the first movie. The characters are simple and likable, and nothing annoying is ever on screen very long. However, none of this stuff is why you came to the theater. You want to see some fighter jet combat!

      In every technical department, the filmmaking is exceptional. The sheer abundance of expertly shot practical footage of the F/A-18E Super Hornet is astounding. Enhanced by absorbing sound design, a large aspect ratio, and skillful editing, every aerial action sequence is easy to follow and exhilarating to experience. The visceral reactions generated by the flight sequences are most effective at communicating the perilous stakes should the protagonists fail their mission. When introduced, the CG effects are top-notch and blend seamlessly with the practical shots. Without a doubt, the movie soars highest during the action scenes.

      On top of being action-packed fun, *Top Gun: Maverick” signifies the reinvigorated American spirit post-COVID-19 and the return of the summer blockbuster. The American spirit cannot be locked down and grounded forever. It yearns to fly free. The box office does not lie. Movies have been off doing whatever they want for awhile now, it is about time a movie did something for its audience.


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