It’s rare that a sequel, especially one 36 years in the making, delivers exactly what its most dedicated fans desire – but that is exactly what Top Gun: Maverick has done, and why it has managed to surpass $1B worldwide in less than a month.
After countless delays due to a global pandemic, Top Gun: Maverick was finally released to audiences worldwide on May 27, 2022 and to say the reception was warm might be the understatement of the century. This is the biggest film Tom Cruise has ever done, and many would say it’s also the best. Reprising his role of fighter pilot Pete Mitchell, aka “Maverick”, Tom Cruise has done something truly inspiring and downright badass – he has brought the blockbuster back to life. And it was worth the wait.
Sure, there have been big movies released in 2021 and 2022 – Spider-Man: No Way Home, F9: The Fast Saga, No Time to Die, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Jurassic World Dominion – but Top Gun: Maverick is distinctly different in that it doesn’t rely on CG and an established brand (not to mention 7+ other films in the series) to capture the audience. Unlike the movies listed, almost everything you see in Top Gun: Maverick is real, and that’s what audiences have come to expect from Tom Cruise as an actor and filmmaker, a dazzling spectacle of epic stunts and a perfect balance of excitement, humour, and heart.
Top Gun: Maverick picks up 30+ years after the original 1986 film. Maverick is a test pilot who isn’t afraid of pushing the boundaries of an airframe or an Admiral’s patience (Ed Harris). He ultimately finds himself back at the Top Gun school at the request of “Ice Man” (Val Kilmer) – a former Top Gun classmate who is now a respected Admiral – and is asked to train a handful of fighter pilots for an impossible mission. The problem? He’s not a teacher, he’s a pilot. The other problem? One of the students is the son of his “back-seater” Goose, who died after a terrible accident in the original film (which he still feels responsible for). The result is tension between Mav and his superiors (Jon Hamm, Charles Parnell) – no surprise there – as well as his students as he tries to figure out a way to teach them how to fly with reckless abandon, push themselves to the absolute limit, and survive the upcoming mission.
Of course, there has to be a love interest, and it’s pure genius that they decided to weave in a reference from the original film (Penny Benjamin, the infamous “Admiral’s daughter”) so that audiences instinctively know the two have an established history. Penny is played by beautiful, yet age-appropriate, Jennifer Connelly and the pair make for a good enough on-screen match to satisfy the audience. She provides a sounding board for Maverick when things go sideways and gives him the confidence boost he needs.
Newcomers Glen Powell, Jay Ellis, Monica Barbaro, and Lewis Pullman are perfectly believable as a group of young, cocky fighter pilots and that’s because every one of them were in those F-18s at the behest of Tom, pulling all those Gs and suffering through endless flight training. Miles Teller was probably the best casting choice, rocking a Goose-inspired moustache and using his acting chops (if you haven’t seen Whiplash, watch it) to make us believe he is royally pissed at his Dad’s best friend and has his own confidence issues to work through. He is also the source of a couple of the film’s biggest laughs, so you have to give him props for his comedic timing.
“Maverick is just what every cineplex in the country has been crying out for.”The Atlantic
You can tell that every aspect was carefully crafted by Tom and Director Joseph Kosinski to cater to Top Gun newbies as well as the most dedicated super-fans. There is so much to be impressed with, that the story (which is actually quite good) is almost secondary. Much like the original movie, you have intense training sequences, a love interest, a shirtless game on the beach (naturally..), and then a dangerous mission with real bogies and real stakes.
The runtime is a bit over two hours but the pace is really good. There is enough downtime between flying scenes that you don’t get overly exhausted (looking at you Mad Max) but you also don’t get bored. For those worried about the cringey ‘80s-ness of the original Top Gun, fear not; Top Gun: Maverick is as 2020s as it gets, but with enough nostalgia to make you grin ear-to-ear (and perhaps shed a tear or two).
Parents don’t have to be worried about a long, slow, awkward sex scene like the first movie – thankfully they opted to skip that part completely – and the only aspect that some might be concerned about is a bit of profanity and one perfectly-placed f-bomb that is typical of PG films. Young kids might be bored during the scenes that don’t involve flying, but overall it is a very family friendly film that even 5-year-olds can enjoy. It might even inspire the next generation of pilots, much like the original did when US Navy recruitment spiked by 300% after it was released in 1986!
It’s preferable that you see it on the biggest screen possible and with the loudest sound system. It was made for the theatre, so do your best to get out and see the biggest movie of the year. Whether you join the Navy or not, you will absolutely feel the need for speed and will probably talk about it all the way back home. You might even plan to go see it again like 16% of the movie’s audience has done (according to Paramount Pictures). From personal experience, I can say for certain that the second (and third) time does not disappoint!