Top Gun: Maverick Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
The cool guys are back! After nearly thirty years, Maverick is called upon to instruct new generations of navy pilots. But does he still have what it takes or did time run him down?
Genre: Action / Drama
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Cast: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Monica Barbaro, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris & Val Killmer.
Run Time: 130 min.
US Release: 27 May 2022
UK Release: 27 May 2022
German Release: 26 May 2022
The sequel to Top Gun has been advertised since 2019 and was supposed to be released in theatres in 2020. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic spreading, this action flick was pushed back several times. Finally, in May 2022, Paramount treated us with this second part of the aviation blockbuster. Honestly, I actually wasn’t looking forward to it, believing that a sequel released 30 years after the original, couldn't be any good. Now I am grateful I saw it in cinemas because this action-drama surpassed the ‘86 original by nautical miles. So, put on your aviators and let's talk about Top Gun: Maverick After more than thirty years of service, Pete Mitchell, one of the Navy’s top aviators, is where he belongs. As a test pilot for a hypersonic experimental aircraft, Mitchell is pushing the boundaries of aerial physics, while at the same time dodging any advancement in rank that would ground him forever. Top Gun: Maverick had been in development since 2010, yet due to unforeseen circumstances; first the suicide of Tony Scott in 2012 then the Covid Pandemic in early 2020, the film kept getting stalled or pushed back. Christopher McQuarrie, Ehren Kruger and Eric Warren took Scott’s original idea about focusing the plot on the role of drones in modern aerial warfare, as well as Tom Cruise’s character flying a F/A-18 Super Hornet during a mission and built upon those ideas drastically.
The original Top Gun from ‘86 was a typical action flick with a lot of one-liners, cool dudes but little story. While this sequel mostly stays true to that formula, it was decided to go a few steps further, by trying to include a compelling story revolving around CAPT Pete Mitchell and the impact that the death of his former co-pilot had on his life. That character-driven moment is implemented into the main narrative, in which the US Navy is tasked to take out unsanctioned weapons from a NATO enemy. This combination provides the story with adrenaline-inducing action segments, as well as quieter moments to reflect upon.
The dialogue was also improved upon; we obtain more emotional moments between characters, yet also smug one-liners, as well as a surprisingly amount of funny jokes. Gone are the on-the-nose sexual innuendoes… Thank god for that.
There is also a definitive enhancement when it comes to fleshing out some of the main characters, going as far as even building upon the turning point of the ‘86 original! However, this only is true for the main characters, the rest of the aviators are still depicted as cocky or shallow with too much self-confidence. While those characteristics are mostly true, it would have been nice to see more depth and humanity from the other pilots.
Tom Cruise returns as CAPT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, this time as a Topgun flight instructor, who is tasked with training a group of graduates for a specialised mission. Cruise brought an astounding amount of vulnerability to his character that never felt unnatural. He also had amazing chemistry with most of his co-actors; be it with Miles Teller as Goose’s son or an emotional reunion with Val Kilmer as Iceman! Where he truly elevated, though, are the action sequences. The man is close to 60 years of age, while still giving 100% when it comes to stunt work, and it all looks breathtaking!
This is also more of a character-driven movie for Pete Mitchell, who needs to deal with errors made in his past, as well as people he lost on the way. Still stubborn and unwilling to follow orders, Maverick is on the verge of being grounded for life.
Miles Teller took on the role of LT Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, the son of Maverick’s former RIO and best friend. Teller gives a grand performance, selling the history as well as feelings of bitterness towards Mitchell. Most impressive was how detailed the character was written. Rooster is not just another aviator going through training, he is a persona with depth.
Jennifer Connelly plays a character only mentioned by name in the first film. Penny Benjamin, the daughter of an admiral, as well as Mitchell’s first love, returns in this sequel in person. The inclusion of her character, nonetheless, feels like it was shoehorned in during the last minute. Penny is barely on screen, having no outcome on the overall story. Even the chemistry between Connelly and Cruise was virtually non-existent.
I was incredibly happy to see Val Killmer back as ADM Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, especially after what Killmer went through in the last few years. The reunification of Iceman and Maverick is a love-letter moment to the original, turning it into a delightful scene.
Just as with the cinematography of the 1986 Topgun, this second instalment went beyond the limits of filming aerial action to create one of the best-looking and most intense action dramas seen in a long time. What makes the visuals so great, is the use of practical effects with camera trickery. On top of that Cruise demanded from the actors to go through air force flight training, as he did not want any fake takes in the finished product.
Special cameras were mounted inside the back seats of two-seater fighter jets, to capture scenes that took place inside the cockpit. This meant that the actors also needed to learn about cinematography, as those shots could only be directed by each one of them. Then there were the cameras mounted on the side of fighter jets, plus the employment of CINEJET - a company that films airline commercials using a gyro-stabilised camera system, hooked up to an L-39 Albatross, capturing the fighter jets in the air.
Now of course there is also computer trickery involved, every movie goes through that, but just to polish up the final picture; either by deleting wires on models, elevating the beauty of the scenery in the background or melding two different takes of the same actions sequence smoothly together because what you see on screen would have been otherwise physically impossible. This use of CGI, though, is used in post-production to elevate for example the look of practical models.
The sound design was also off the charts! Worked on by Skywalker Sound, who banded together with GE Aviation to create realistic sounds for the engines. The result sounded like the awakening of a beast, every time one of the jets turned on.
The soundtrack is nostalgia done right! Using Kenny Loggins' “Danger Zone” right from the start, a montage of jets, starting and landing from carrier platforms is projected on the silver screen. Throughout the blockbuster's runtime, the original score is being slowly replaced by the new one, composed by Hans Zimmer and Harold Faltermeyer.
Verdict: I am a huge fan of the original Top Gun, an action flick that made me want to join the airforce back in my teens, so I was unsure about this sequel. Joseph Kosinski, however, managed to blow those doubts away! From the first nostalgia-inducing scene to the last adrenaline-filled action segment, Maverick is a fun action blockbuster that entertains at the highest levels. Does the plot always make sense? No, though, it improves dramatically on the original storytelling. Are the characters fleshed out? Not all, but Tom Cruise is depicted to be more than just a dangerous, stubborn pilot and Miles Teller’s Rooster has layers. Where it exceeds is the camera work, giving us mind-blowing aerial action sequences and a stunning-looking picture. They just don’t make action movies like this anymore, which is why Top Gun: Maverick absolutely deserves a 9.0 out of 10.
So, what did you think of Top Gun: Maverick? If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you go see it in cinemas, it is that good! Thank you for reading, if you enjoyed this review, please leave a like.