The first trailer for Top Gun: Maverick dropped on July 18th, 2019. So it’s no exaggeration to say I’ve been waiting quite some time for this movie. Tom Cruise has been on something of a winning streak as of late, largely thanks to his Mission: Impossible franchise and his commitment to practical stuntwork. He applies this ideology to Top Gun: Maverick by flying real fighter jets with IMAX cameras mounted in the cockpit. We’ll talk about that in a bit, but is Maverick a good movie or one that simply has a really good party trick?
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The Review of Top Gun: Maverick
Tom Cruise returns as Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, the hotshot pilot who has missed out numerous times on promotions due to his reckless behavior. After flying a little too close to the sun, Maverick is summoned to return to the Top Gun academy to instruct the best recent graduates in anticipation of a dangerous mission in enemy territory (which is conveniently never named). One of those students is Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Nick “Goose” Bradshaw from the first Top Gun. If you need a refresher, Goose died while flying with Maverick, who in turn blamed himself for the act and ended up being extremely protective of Rooster out of fear of history repeating itself. This in itself created some tension between the two aviators and is one of the main plot threads of the sequel.
Maverick has just three weeks to get these aviators into fighting shape. Apart from Rooster and Hangman (Glen Powell), the other pilots feel more like set dressing. It’s a minor gripe but it never compromises the story. Likewise, unlike the original Top Gun, I found that there were no iconic lines of dialogue akin to “need for speed” or “you could be my wingman”. When not in the skies or the classroom, Maverick spends a lot of time with Jennifer Connelly’s Penny, who is an Admiral’s daughter that’s mentioned in passing in the first film. Her plot does feel a little added on and in service of Maverick’s story, but she’s never a boring character nor does she drag the plot down in any way. Honestly, those are my only gripes. Top Gun: Maverick is awesome.
The Practical Effects
So you’re probably wondering if the aviation scenes are any good. The answer is a resounding yes. If you go and see this movie on the big screen, which you should-don’t wait for streaming, you should most definitely see this in IMAX. The film boasts a lot of jaw-dropping sequences filmed with special large format cameras, allowing for a much larger aspect ratio for those sequences. The cameras are mounted in the cockpit and around the body of the plane, and it’s insane to see the planes whiz around at breakneck speeds. The way the light bounces through the cockpit is so dynamic and the way the Gs pull on the actors’ faces is just something that can’t be faked. It’s just so refreshing and inspiring to see a movie like this use practical effects as opposed to CGI like most films opt for these days.
Rooted From the 80s
That’s one of the interesting things about Maverick is that it feels like a movie from yesteryear, but released today. They just don’t make them like they used to, and Top Gun: Maverick feels like an ode to a bygone way of filmmaking. Not just in the practicality of the filmmaking, which is the highlight, but also in the pacing, the story, and the characters. It’s a summer blockbuster straight out of the 80s, just with modern technology. The movie also boasts a killer soundtrack: I burst into a huge silly grin when a certain stunt was synced to Pete Townshend’s scream in The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again. The story also has a decent amount of heart, especially a key scene with a legacy character, and ties well into the events of the original film, while also standing on its own. You can easily just watch this movie, even if you didn’t like the original. It’s surprisingly funny too, much more so than the original, but the humor never feels quippy or “Marvel-y” if you know what I mean. So while it may lack those iconic lines, it did offer up quite a few chuckles.
Top Gun: Maverick is an ode to aviation, practical effects, and big fun. As mentioned, they just don’t make them like this anymore. Tom Cruise fought tooth and nail with Paramount to have this movie released theatrically over being dropped on Paramount+ as he knew this was a movie made for the cinematic experience. It was so much fun and must be seen on the biggest screen possible. Wildly entertaining, engaging, and jaw-dropping, Top Gun: Maverick surpasses the original and stands as one of the best blockbuster films in recent memory.