I’ve made no secret over the years about the fact that I’m seemingly one of the few people on the planet who doesn’t get all the fuss made about Top Gun (1986). In fact one of my very first posts after starting this page was a debate over which film was better: Top Gun or Cocktail (1988). You can probably guess which one I prefer.
Regardless of my non-love for, and confusion over the adulation this 80s testosterone-fuelled classic gets, it’s been impossible to ignore the buzz its belated sequel has been getting since finally arriving in cinemas, and more recently, streaming services.
I could deny my curiosity no longer, so at the weekend decided to see what everyone’s been going so crazy about.
Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
Before I get into the nitty gritty and alienate those of you who don’t read these long posts, I have a confession to make. I actually watched this film a week ago when it first came to Sky. However, I’d consumed several pints of ale at my local pub in the afternoon prior, then followed that up with the best part of a bottle of red wine whilst watching the film (I’m not an alcoholic…honestly). The result? I couldn’t remember a bloody thing about it the next morning. There was only one thing for it. I had to watch it again - sober.
Thank God for Sky’s “Buy & Keep” option!
If you haven’t seen this film yet, it’s an action/drama, and the long awaited sequel to the original 1986 movie, Top Gun - the film that launched Tom Cruise into mega-stardom.
Cruise of course reprises his role as Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, alongside Miles Teller (Whiplash), Jennifer Connolly (A Beautiful Mind), Jon Hamm (Richard Jewell), Glen Powell (Hidden Figures), Val Kilmer (Heat), Ed Harris (The Rock) and many others.
It’s directed by Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion, Tron: Legacy) with Jerry Bruckheimer (Armageddon, Bad Boys) returning as one of the producers.
Here’s what it’s about according to the internet:
“After more than 30 years of service as one of the Navy's top aviators, Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Cruise) is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him. Training a detachment of graduates for a special assignment, Maverick must confront the ghosts of his past and his deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who choose to fly it.”
If you’ve been following this page for a while you’ll no doubt be familiar with my ‘Belated Sequels’ feature where I look at a sequel (released over a decade after the previous instalment) and try to ascertain whether it was worth the wait. Sadly, more often than not the answer is no, with these kind of sequels regularly being disappointing due to lazy and unimaginative execution (just bring back the original stars and it’ll do it’s own work right?) Dumb and Dumber To (2014), Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) and Coming 2 America (2021) are just a few examples of this.
Despite the failures though, sequels to movies made years earlier can work, with films like Blade Runner 2049 (2017) and Tron: Legacy (2010) proving that when you have a decent story, a good team and a great cast you can produce not just a worthy sequel, but also a good film that can stand strong on its own. I have to say, Top Gun: Maverick is the latest one to do it. It’s superb!
Unfortunately, because I wasn’t overly excited about watching this movie I waited for it to come out on streaming services.
Right from its theatrical release everyone I know (and those of you I only know through my Facebook page) told me “you have to see this movie on the big screen!” Alas I didn’t, and after watching it on the not-so-big but nonetheless fairly respectable 55” screen in my living room I’m gutted I didn’t go to see it at the cinema. I can only imagine how amazing it must’ve looked!!
To be honest I’m not sure why I wasn’t more excited. Regardless of not being a fan of Top Gun (1986) I am a fan of Tom Cruise and the movies he makes. You just know that they’re going to be quality entertainment and this is no exception.
Right from the opening credits I had chills. The way the film opens in an almost identical way to the first movie with that iconic Top Gun Anthem instantly got me in the mood for what was to come. It doesn’t hurt either that, just like in the original Top Gun it’s abruptly interrupted by Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” (the quintessential 80s anthem) just as the action kicks off.
I think a lot of my reservations about this film came after seeing the trailer. The things that no doubt got fans of the 1986 movie excited made me concerned that it was going to try too hard to retread old ground in terms of certain themes - in particular the volleyball scene (or in the case of this film, American football), the “Great Balls of Fire” piano scene in the bar, and the rivalry between two egotistical pilots, not to mention the 80 moustaches!
Who knew that these “concerns” would end up being some of the film’s best ingredients?!
All of those things I mentioned actually have their own very specific place in the movie and are handled extremely well (even the volleyball scene which surprisingly plays a really important role in the story). Hell, even the moustaches seem to work, especially on Miles Teller who does (spoiler alert) look convincingly like his character’s dad, “Goose” (Anthony Edwards) from the first film.
The cast (some familiar, some not so familiar) are brilliant, although some stand out more than others.
Miles Teller who plays “Rooster” and Glen Powell who plays “Hangman” are great as the new generation’s "Maverick and Iceman", while Jennifer Connolly who plays Penny Bradshaw, a character only referenced in the first movie replaces Kelly McGillis as Maverick’s new love interest and confidant.
John Hamm, who’s fast becomming a favourite actor of mine is a welcome addition and plays a more antagonistic role as Maverick’s superior, Vice Admiral Beau "Cyclone" Simpson. He isn’t much of a fan of Maverick’s approach to training and quite frankly doesn’t think he should still be in the Navy. He was one of my favourite characters in the movie.
A really nice touch I thought was the inclusion of Val Kilmer as Maverick’s rival from the first Top Gun, Tom “Iceman” Kazansky.
I think most people are aware by now that Kilmer has had a rough time of it in recent years following his throat cancer diagnosis in 2015 that resulted in him undergoing two tracheotomies.
These days sadly he’s barely able to speak, and that, as well as his actual illness were written into the movie in an extremely tasteful and moving way I thought.
As good as the story, the characters and all that other stuff is there’s one thing that makes this movie particularly special and it’s the thing that sets it apart from any other like it: The real in-flight cinematography. It’s phenomenal!
As we know, Tom Cruise is no stranger to doing his own stunts. He’s always pushing the boundaries of technology and safety in the name of giving us, the audience as genuine and enjoyable a movie experience as humanly possible (not to mention he’s also a bit of an adrenaline junkie).
In order to make this film as authentic as possible he and the other filmmakers decided to go one step further than ever before and put the actors in the cockpit and send them up with real navy pilots - yes, the actors are actually in those planes during the aerial scenes (unlike in the first movie).
According to Jerry Bruckheimer, each cast member had to go through “three months of gruelling training” as well as a challenging underwater program. This was (among other reasons) to prepare their bodies for the kind of g-force they’d experience during the real in-flight scenes.
Everything we see when the actors are in the cockpit is real, and to know that their reactions to some of the aerial acrobatics are genuine totally makes you feel like you’re in there with them. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s a truly exhilarating cinematic experience!
In short this movie is incredible! It’s a well conceived, well acted, impressively filmed, adrenaline-filled thrill ride that manages to deliver not only an excellent story, but also somehow tap into the 80s magic that made the first film such a hit in a way that it still feels relevant today. It does it to such effect that it doesn’t even have to rely on the viewer's love for the first film for it to work.
It’s very rare these days that a sequel is anywhere near as good as its predecessor, and although it’s been a good while since I watched the original Top Gun I feel confident in saying that Top Gun: Maverick surpasses it in almost every way (except maybe originality and of course). I already can't wait to watch it again!
Even if, like me you’re not a huge fan of the first movie you HAVE to watch this one. It’s excellent!
Seen it? Let me know below.