Maverick Soars to Action Blockbuster Heights
Chris Kavan - wrote on 06/06/22
Top Gun: Maverick perform the rarest of rare feats - not only is it a sequel that is as good if not better than the original, it is also one that bucks the trend of being good despite the vast amount of time between entries. And it all rests on the shoulders of Tom Cruise who has proven to be an action movie star of the highest caliber.
Maverick doesn't waste any time diving right into the action as we find our still-captain Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell once again ignoring higher-ups in order to perform a risky speed test for an aircraft that is about to be scrapped in favor of a drone project. With Chester 'Hammer' Cain (a serious and tough-as-nails Ed Harris) on the way, Maverick takes off to prove their experimental plane can hit Mach 10 - ahead of schedule. But Maverick being Maverick, of course that's not enough and it results in a less than ideal outcome.
Not to worry, nothing can keep our hero down and despite facing court martial and immediate retirement, instead an old friend calls him back to Top Gun where he is to teach the best of the best how to perform a seemingly impossible mission (or mission: impossible?). But before class begins, he catches up with old flame and bar owner Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly) and sits back to check out his new recruits, which includes a surprise in the form of Bradley 'Rooster' Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Goose (Anthony Edwards - shown in many a picture) and with whom he has a decidedly rocky history.
Despite the misgivings of Adm. Beau 'Cyclone' Simpson (Jon Hamm - playing the foil), Maverick takes on the roll of teacher once again. The class is made up of your typical characters - the brash and bravado of Jake 'Hangman' Seresin (Glen Powell), the warrior woman Natasha 'Phoenix' Trace (Monica Barbaro), the unassuming Robert 'Bob' Floyd (Lewis Pullman) and the solid wingman Reuben 'Payback' Fitch (Jay Ellis). Also along for the ride is Bernie 'Hondo' Coleman (Bashir Salahuddin) serving as the go-between between Maverick and Cyclone, as well as a damn fine referee (yes - there is an oiled-up, shirtless football scene - was there ever any doubt?) as well as Danny Ramirez, Jack Schumacher, Manny Jacinto, Kara Wang, Greg Tarzan Davis, Jake Picking and Raymond Lee as the rest of the flight teams.
However, the biggest surprise little cameo has to be the return of Val Kilmer as Tom 'Iceman' Kazansky - now leader of the Top Gun school and the reason Maverick has a job. While he has only a small part and his lines were dubbed over using technology, just seeing Kilmer back on the big screen, reprising one of his most famous roles, is a heartfelt and powerful moment.
The film doesn't skimp on the action - and that's why you're here (well, maybe that and a nice hit of nostalgia - of which there is much). The flying scenes are simply put - amazing - and if you have a chance to catch in IMAX - by all means, don't pass up the opportunity. The aerial maneuvers are a sight to behold and the impact cannot be understated. Plus, the film is almost all practical effects - real actors in real jets doing real flying. Cruise likes to keep things as real as possible and Maverick is proof that doing things in person can make a big difference.
The conflict the film throws out is mainly between Maverick and Rooster - who he serves as a surrogate father-figure even while finding it hard to let go of what happened with Goose. Teller has excellent chemistry with Cruise and manages to look a lot like he could truly be Edward's son (the mustache helps a lot). While the romance angle isn't nearly as good, Connelly does her best with what she's given and is helped along by Lyliana Wray, who plays teen daughter Amelia and has a nice impact for what screen time she is given.
There is an interesting theory surrounding Maverick that the entire story after the opening act is actually a dying dream and that the story almost works out TOO good for Maverick - including his reunion with Iceman, making up with Rooster, finding love and, of course, taking on an impossible mission only HE can teach AND lead. I actually think this little theory makes the film even better and doesn't cheapen anything - it's like a culmination of his life's work, real or not.
Maverick proves the summer blockbuster is far from dead - no superheroes required - and that the theater experience is also alive and well.