Following Top Gun with a sequel that is 36 years in the making was always going to be a tall order and even more so when the original movie didn’t really lend itself to a follow-up. Director Joseph Kosinski and superstar Tom Cruise knew exactly how to pull this off though and that was to lean heavily into the nostalgia, give the audience familiar aspects they can get behind while bringing the movie up-to-date using the latest technological advances.
So from the moment Tom Cruise’s Maverick returns to the screen, pissing-off his boss, taking unnecessary risks and demonstrating his talents as a pilot, you get the feeling this was the role Tom Cruise was born to play. The story doesn’t feel too complicated in getting Cruise’s Maverick back to Top Gun and in fact, there feels enough different here that you are invested without feeling like you are just watching the same movie again.
That framing device is a generic, impossible aerial mission that would make Cruise’s other, more famous franchise character proud. This means Maverick has to teach the best and brightest, putting these cocky, brash and competing pilots through their paces in a exercises very familiar if you’ve seen the first Top Gun. Its once this concept has been established that we get the very familiar but welcome aspects of the sequel. The well-staged combat training, the testosterone fuelled rivalries, the sing-a-long in the bar, the sports on the beach and of course, a man named Goose with a dodgy moustache. The new breed play their roles well, with Miles Teller and Glen Powell as stand-outs, and of course stand-ins, for the new Maverick and Iceman.
This level of nostalgia isn’t perfect though. There are times when you feel like you are watching a carbon copy of the original movie and that it could have deviated from the original blueprint slightly more. This is telling when training exercise begin to go wrong, pilots are grounded and Tom Cruise gets a generic love interest. Jennifer Connelly is fine as Penny Benjamin but this love interest adds little to the story and just feels like another tick in the Top Gun box rather than a decent development of the story or character.
This is all forgotten once the final third and that “impossible mission” gets under-way. Time has been a friend to Top Gun and the fact that we can get into the cockpit, see the G-Force on the pilot’s faces and be even closer to the action that we were in the original, helps sell the aerial dynamics and the peril. From the moment the mission begins, the movie becomes an action epic and you will glued to the edge of your seat as you see aspects succeed, fail and dog-fights ensue. There is even a lovely call-back that will raise a smile and a cheer for fans of the original movie.
Overall, Top Gun: Maverick is the way to deliver a sequel with such a long gap. Cruise slots into Maverick’s cockpit perfectly, demonstrating his star power in abundance. The story delivers a justifiable revisit to Top Gun, and introduced potential successors to take Cruise’s helmet. The nostalgia is here in abundance and although it feels sometimes like it steers too close to original, the final third and the action-packed finale help deliver a thrilling action movie.
Rating – 4.5
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