Tom Cruise flies in the sequel that was worth the wait.
The original “Top Gun” from 1986 got mixed reviews, but became one of Tom Cruise’s most popular films. I saw that at a special IMAX showing, and was easily entertained by the look and feel of it. I’m glad I ignored the negative Nancies. No. I’m glad we ignored the negative Nancies, because we have the long-awaited and delayed sequel “Top Gun: Maverick,” which in a recent trend of sequels that took decades to be conceived (“Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Blade Runner; 2049”), will make fans feel like a million bucks.
You know it wants to live up to the original’s standards, when Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” is on the soundtrack, when Cruise’s test pilot character Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is able to keep his persistence and style in check, when there are new shots of the planes getting ready for take-off that nearly resemble the original shots, and when it allows Val Kilmer to reprise his role of Iceman while suffering from the aftermath of his throat cancer.
It’s often suggested that sequels, reboots, and remakes are supposed to be the big studio’s only source of their finances, but that’s not true, because they can create originality if only they had the right filmmakers who want to reach unreachable levels. Even small studios want to reach that full potential, like how “Everything Everywhere All At Once” has become A24’s highest grossing film, and opened up to the infinite possibilities.
Besides with sequels like the ones I’ve mentioned above, there’s a sense of nostalgia and faithfulness that knows how to remind fans why they loved the predecessors to begin with. You have to look past the cynicism, and sense the miracles and dangers that emerge. “Top Gun: Maverick” senses those things wisely. Oh, Hell with it. It’s popcorn entertainment for the early Summer box office season.
In this sequel, Maverick has to train a bunch of new recruits to destroy a base dedicated to destroying the United States. They include the cocky Hangman (Glen Powell), the spunky Phoenix (Monica Barbaro), and most importantly, Rooster Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick’s late best friend and RIO pilot Goose. He tries to prevent the son from meeting the same fate as his father, even if means they have to have a falling out or two.
The all-star supporting cast also features Jon Hamm as the Vice Admiral who dislikes Maverick’s reckless behaviors, Ed Harris as the superior who sends him to train the recruits, and Jennifer Connolly as a single mother and new love interest.
This time, “Top Gun: Maverick” was directed by Jospeh Kosinski, whose credits also include “Tron: Legacy,” “Oblivion,” and “Only the Brave.” The screenplay was also done by Ehren Kruger (“The Ring”), Eric Warren Singer (“American Hustle), and Christopher McQuarrie (the latest “Mission: Impossible” sequels); and the story was also written by Peter Craig (“The Batman”) and Justin Marks (“The Jungle Book”). Even Jerry Bruckheimer is back as a producer. Millions of dollars have been spent to make sure this sequel lives up to the expectations of its predecessor, without being so pigheaded or self-congratulatory about it. I know I use the “S-C” word a lot in my work, but I must distinguish it in various senses.
Cruise is back in his own territory. If Ethan Hunt can survive the early 2010s, why can’t Maverick survive the 2020s? He’s still able to merge his best and worst qualities of the character, and his scenes with Teller, Connolly, Hamm, and Kilmer are all memorable and emotional on different levels.
I’m concerned with how “Jurassic World: Dominion” will play out, considering that I hated the last film “Fallen Kingdom.” Maybe it’ll be good or maybe it’ll be bad. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. But “Top Gun: Maverick” is beyond entertaining for its ability to look at the flight scenes and feel the empathy for the characters at the same time. It’s a trip down memory lane for everyone who saw and loved the original.
The late Tony Scott, who made that 80s hit, would have been really proud of this sequel.