In the early days of Top Gun: Maverick, Tom Cruise rode his stylish motorcycle, donning aviator sunglasses and a patched leather jacket, before speeding into a time machine. No, this is not right. It’s actually us on the way back.
More than 30 years later, Cruise rose to the top in the ’80s as maverick Navy aviator codenamed Maverick, who effortlessly took on the role in this new chapter of Top Gun, It’s definitely been a very enjoyable ride – a textbook example of how to make a sequel.
“Top Gun: Maverick” by hitting all the touchstones of the first film – fast motorcycles, song “Danger Zone,” military superstition, navy bosses with no sense of humor, shirtless bonding sports, “hard” deck” to meet the needs of the past. Bar singing and buzzing towers – but still standing on their own. Rather than being dragged down by the past like the last Ghostbusters sequel, it soared by using the second to answer and respond to the questions of the first.
Sure, Cruise is back, his rebel test pilot is now stationed in a forgotten corner of the Mojave Desert, he’s just a captain, but he’s supposed to be a general because he’s been rebelling against authority. The years haven’t calmed the Mavs from his impulsive, hot-headed style. Pilots do it, he thinks; they don’t regurgitate. “You’re thinking up there, you’re dead,” he said. This is Cruise at his best, coiled, sure and arrogant, teeth gleaming in the sun.
His former nemesis, the Iceman – Val Kilmer – is back, too, now a giant navy bastard. Even the goose is back, through his son, also bearded Miles Taylor, who bears a striking resemblance to Anthony Edwards, who played the doomed in the first film Wingman actor. Even 30 years later, death is all the more important to Maverick: “Talk to me, Goose,” he would say to himself.
Of course, some things have changed. The F-14A Tomcat has been replaced by the F/A-18, and the all-male cocky pilot in the first movie has been infiltrated by some cocky women. Unfortunately, this appears to be the last days for the men and women who fuel the world of naval aviation. Drones are more reliable, they are next. “The future is coming, and you’re not in it,” Jon Hamm, the bossy officer played with calm fury, tells Maverick.
But the endangered Mavericks offered the Navy one last job: training a group of young capable men on dangerous bombing missions in Iran. One potential hurdle: The young talent he has to train includes Goose’s son, codenamed Rooster. Will the calf be responsible for cooking the other goose?
Director Joseph Kosinski brings a visceral feel to the film that somehow leaves us feeling claustrophobic in the vast sky as the pilot dives and turns. He switches wonderfully between the loud scenes of the roar of aircraft engines outside and the quiet scenes of almost whispering indoors. He also switched from bright sunlight to dark interiors.
A welcome touch in Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie’s script is a new love for Maverick. Jennifer Connelly plays a divorced bar owner with a townhouse, beach house, sailboat and Porsche, so business is good. But she’s not a capricious maverick either, and in one pivotal scene she’s a comfortable boatman while he’s a clueless guy.
It’s a more thoughtful maverick, more pessimistic. Top Gun: Maverick is in some ways a meditation on the later life of a genius rebel. He’s torn by guilt, and in one scene he’s picked up and unceremoniously thrown out of the bar by the same ace from 30 years ago. Worst of all, he was called “pop”. Notably, Cruise does appear to have found a way to stand in the way of time. His chiseled body and still boyish face were indistinguishable from a pilot 30 years his junior at a soccer game on the beach.
The film tackles Maverick’s personal affairs — courting a barmaid, repairing his relationship with Goose’s kids — while also fulfilling its promise as an action movie. There are jets pulling 10G, the metallic sounds of cockpit joysticks, epic dogfights and the whine of machines, hesitant to ask for it. The action even takes some unexpectedly thrilling turns. So hop on Maverick’s bike, hug him tightly, and join him on the highway to the danger zone.
Paramount Pictures’ May 27 release of “Top Gun: Maverick” was rated PG-13 for “intense action scenes and tough language.” Run time: 131 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.
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