Top Gun: Maverick is an action film taking place over thirty years after the first film, Top Gun, which was directed by Tony Scott. The sequel is written by Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie. Peter Craig and Justin Marks apparently conceived the story. The film was directed by Joseph Kosinski. Tom Cruise reprises his role of Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who has made it to the rank of captain in the United States Navy. The cast also sees the return of Val Kilmer and includes Miles Teller, Jon Hamm, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, and a bunch of younger actors playing the hotshot pilots that Maverick has to train for a specific and very dangerous mission.
I am usually rather skeptical of these sequels coming out decades after the original, however I am relieved to report this one does indeed live up to the hype. Captain Mitchell’s career has stalled and is working as a test pilot. He finds himself handpicked to return to the Top Gun training academy to train and lead a team of pilots to destroy a nuclear facility nestled inside a mountainous terrain. He finds that the son of his dead best friend is one of the recruits which brings up some painful memories for Maverick. He does get to see about rekindling a previous romance with a pretty bar owner played by Jennifer Connelly.
There are lots of elements that work well here. The young actors playing the new team of fighter pilots are well selected. It is quite amusing to see Maverick try to manage egos and machismo that can rival his own. Although some of the pilots can get a little overboard with the arrogance, no one ends up being completely unlikeable. Teller plays the someone uncertain son of Goose Bradshaw and really does well with conveying his conflicting reactions to being stuck with Maverick as his instructor. There apparently is a tense past between the two which unfolds nicely as the story goes on. The reunion between Maverick and Iceman was well played between the two in spite of Kilmer’s serious health issues which robbed him of his normal voice. Cruise really demonstrates his talent in this scene particular when Maverick struggles to hold back tears at some of the memories being invoked by Iceman’s advice. The relationship between the two evolved into a strong bond with a tinge of their old rivalry from the first film. It was well written and well executed by the two veteran actors.
There are times that the story seems a bit far-fetched, but so much of it worked well enough for me to easily forgive that. The callbacks to the first film managed to not feel overdone either. Maverick still manages to live up to his moniker, but he also conveys the seasoning brought on by age and experience which makes the character seem a bit more genuine.
This appears to be one of the rare sequels that manages to not disappoint. The mixture of nostalgia and a sense of newness came off quite nicely.
I am still going to remain skeptical of these type of sequels overall, however I will make Top Gun: Maverick an exception to the expectation. The film isn’t without a few questionable decisions, but the strengths are fortunately plentiful enough to receive more than enough satisfaction from the ride.