Thirty-six years in the making. Granted it was supposed to be thirty-four, but a pandemic almost shut down the movies for good. The sequel to ‘Top Gun’, 1986’s Tom Cruise star-making performance as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, is finally here and it’s magnificent. The movie title’s clarifier is ‘Maverick’ for a good reason – this is Tom Cruise’s show, and he’s made it abundantly clear that he is here to save the movie-going experience. It remains to be seen if this legacy sequel can pull off that monumental task, but for those who want a modern version of an old-school blockbuster experience, this movie truly satisfies.
The reality (or fantasy more like) of the Top Gun experience, is that this is what a projector and a silver screen were created to do – utterly transport an audience via sight and sound into an immersive unknown world (to most). It’s very likely that the filmmakers have taken liberties with the technical aspects of fighter jet maneuvers, and the training pilots have to go through to execute them, but the way they are presented in ‘Maverick’ are some of the most exciting aerial scenes committed to narrative storytelling. The conceit of the film itself relies on a very specific mission (shades of the Death Star run in the original ‘Star Wars’ no less) that requires manned pilots in order to have a chance of success, and of course there’s only one man capable of training them.
The same basic idea can be said about this movie and its destiny (or fate, depending on the box office receipts). An all but extinct species of individual, in this case a fighter pilot in an age of unmanned drone warfare, but who could just as well be a movie star in an age of streaming, must save the landscape with their unique ability. In the case of the movie itself, ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ needed to deliver on creating a unique theater experience capable of blowing audience’s minds with technical proficiency, but also significantly portraying Tom Cruise as the Sun for all other objects to revolve around.
It does so beautifully, glossily photographed, painstakingly choreographed, and rousingly unpolitical (the enemy here again goes unnamed as in the original). ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is smartly and shrewdly a multi-quadrant crowd-pleaser. It surrounds Cruise with gorgeous and capable old and young actors (Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Miles Teller, Glen Powell, and breakout Monica Barbara), but never over shadows him. The movie absolutely begs, yet deserves to be seen on the biggest screen, in the loudest theater possible, thus making the cinema-going experience not only exhilarating, but vital to its success . . .
Directed By: Joseph Kosinski
Written By: Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, & Christopher McQuarrie
Running Time: 130 min.
* * * 1/2 (out of four stars) -OR- A-