It has been over 35 years since Mav, Goose and Iceman were introduced to audiences around the world. It’s also been close to 4 years since Top Gun 2 aka Top Gun: Maverick was supposed to hit the big screens. These delays and all the years of waiting to see exactly what happened to Pete Mitchell have helped this film in a number of ways. It gave time to perfect the script and story. It also gave more than enough time to complete reshoots in particular for the aerial sequences. But most of all, the hype of pushing it back; in what ended up being five times, made this film one of the greatest to grace the screen in modern times.
Pete Mitchell has continued his service to the U.S. Navy. His latest project testing new and advanced aircraft for the navy to use. But as has many times before, Mav’s time is coming to an end as his project has been marked to be shut down as technology advances and the use of pilots becomes obsolete.
But, just in the nick of time Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet Lt. Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky calls upon Mav to come back to the Top Gun program and help the latest cadets on one of the toughest missions the program has ever embarked on.
In come the latest cadets from around the country to showcase their skill and determination to be the best in some of the toughest conditions they will ever face. As expected Maverick’s approach to teaching is questioned by his superiors, but in the end, it is only Mav that gets these cadets ready for a life and death mission.
That is exactly what he does. Building a team to not only trust each other to ensure they survive, they also help each other grow as pilots and as people. Mav knows exactly what it takes and ends up putting them in a friendly football match on the beach rather than training within their very strict timeline.
All the while Mav is battling his demons still struggling with the guilt of the death of Nick ‘Goose’ Bradshaw. Made worse by the fact he is trying to be the father figure of Nick’s son Bradley ‘Rooster’ Bradshaw when Nick resents him.
Quite simply, movies aren’t made like this anymore. More often than not movies are long and you find yourself starting to drift off thinking about how much you think this film is too long. CGI has taken away from making any movie seem “real”. Sex scenes require full-frontal nudity from all parties involved. Too often are sequels, prequels, requels and remakes more about cashing in than making something worthy of being made.
Top Gun: Maverick can be classed as a requel, sequel and maybe even a legacy film. But either way, it not only welcomes an entirely new audience to the world of Top Gun. It also gives so much back to the original with a whole lot of nostalgia and even more for all the fans. From that first sound of the opening sequence song, everyone will remember the original. To the colour scheme of the sun-kissed Californian skies is reminiscent of the original. The best part, is the original soundtrack still very much holds strong as it’s repurposed in the latest film.
There is a sense of the 80s that comes with this film. A time when a movie about muscled men in the Navy flying really fast aircraft was made for the boys and men who would watch it. But it became so much more than that over the 30 or so years since its release. It became a cult classic for anyone and everyone about defining a generation and a time to showcase U.S. strength. Top Gun: Maverick does something that hasn’t been done in some time, it made a movie about muscled men in the Navy flying really fast aircraft for the boys and men who would watch it. It doesn’t shy away from this. But the important thing to note here is this, it’s for the fans.
The film doesn’t have time to pretend it’s anything other than exactly what you would expect from a classic. The sex scenes are that of the 80s and imply what is going on in a respectable and “PG” way. There is no need to “tick boxes” by having a token nationality or sexual identity as any modern film would now have as a pre-requisite.
Top Cruise (Jerry Maguire, Mission: Impossible, Jack Reacher) reprises his role as Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell. Despite being the young age of 59, you’d be excused thinking he was younger as he is in amazing physical shape shown by his flat stomach and constant shots of a bulging bicep. Cruise manages to tap into his cheeky and confident demeanour but with a more rounded understanding of how far and when he can push. It is only fair to point out that Cruise himself was (according to online sources) the only actor to handle the G-forces in excess of eight or nine Gs.
Cruise is on record saying it was important to have Val Kilmer (Batman Forever, The Doors, The Sant) return as Iceman. Kilmer recently battled cancer and despite being cancer-free the tracheotomy damaged his voice permanently. That didn’t stop him or Cruise in one of the more emotional scenes of the film as he helps Mav navigate some of the guilt he still holds for the death of Goose.
The ever beautiful Jennifer Connelly (Hulk, Labyrinth, A Beautiful Mind) enters as Penny Benjamin. Penny is implied to be an old romance of Maverick in the original film when the character of Meg Ryan blurts out she heard about the time Mav went “ballistic with Penny Benjamin” the Admiral’s Daughter. Connelly is perfect in playing the “catch me if you can” chase with Cruise. Their chemistry on-screen is many things, sensual, real and for the most part believable. The best part is, that she manages to hold her own against Cruise but also not make it about her. It’s wonderful to see her work her way through a scene.
The new recruits are each in their own exceptionally cast from Lewis Pullman as ‘Bob’ to Monica Barbo as ‘Phoenix’. But more so Miles Teller (Whiplash, Project X, Divergent) returns to the big screen to do what he does best, being wholly consumed by the character he is playing. Teller plays Bradley ‘Rooster’ Bradshaw the son of Maverick’s best friend Goose from the original Top Gun. There is a lot of emotion and unspoken anguish between Rooster and Maverick which Teller taps into with the acting ability of anyone beyond his years. There is a power in Teller’s performance of all the things he doesn’t say as he navigates his emotions.
What makes Top Gun an amazing visual adventure is the aircraft and aeronautics the audience is taken on the ride with. It is first and foremost credit to the actors of the film who spent months training to fly. While not everything you see in the film will be performed by the actors themselves for obvious reasons, what you see is not CGI. Everything is real and with some clever editing, I’m sure. Actual pilots completed the insane manoeuvres you see in the film. The mission itself sees these pilots in excess of 9 or so Gs. If it looked hard on the pilots in the scene it’ll be hard for the audience to not be on the edge of their seats or moving side to side along with the pilot. The action is so intense it makes the original Top Gun look like a children’s film.
It’s not only the aeronautical acrobatics that makes Top Gun: Maverick the great film that it is. It’s also the storyline. One of the major plotlines is the death of Goose. In the original film, the audience is made to adore Goose to make his death even harder. Somehow, this film manages to tap into that emotion and build on it. They use that same technique and build your love for Rooster. You quickly become attached and invested in these new characters and feel their emotion and have pride in their successes.
The film navigates very carefully between bringing back old storylines and characters but not overdoing it. There is the perfect use for nostalgia like the soundtrack and homage to the original with things like the bar and his patched leather jacket. But it also brings a new modern feel to it with aircraft and technology.
Overall, Top Gun: Maverick is exactly how a requel, sequel or a legacy should be made. It doesn’t remake, it doesn’t carry on. It stands alone and reminds you why the original was so good and gives you exactly what you want to continue the adventure. With an emotional and uplifting storyline that will have you smiling and tearing up. Not to mention the outstanding aeronautical visual splendour. You will be on the edge of your chair and enjoying every moment of this film because this is how a film should be made and exactly how a requel should be.