Tom Cruise is back to save summer blockbusters with Top Gun: Maverick, the highly-anticipated sequel to Top Gun. Thirty-six years ago Tony Scott’s Top Gun took the 80s by storm with Maverick’s (Cruise) need for speed, but it also broke the hearts of moviegoers everywhere with Goose’s (Anthony Edwards) devastating death. That sore spot is the driving force behind the plot of Top Gun: Maverick and it delivers everything that fans of the original film could have hoped for.
It’s difficult to approach Top Gun: Maverick without hyperbole because Joseph Kosinski’s sequel is everything that the recent cinema slate has been missing. It’s a high-flying action film, featuring jaw-dropping stunts and awe-inspiring cinematography to match, while still managing to stay grounded. The film may be a sequel that looks toward the past, but it also paves the way for a new story, with a new cast of characters that have the potential to be just as iconic and era-defining as Cruise’s Maverick. The film also recognizes the quagmire of nostalgia. It underlines the notion that hotshot pilots are a thing of the past in an era of military drones operated by computers, but it also pointedly shows the audience that sometimes the old-fashioned way is actually the better route. Tom Cruise is still out here acting circles around the modern stars while staying true to the tenants of the art.
After thirty years in the military, Maverick is still just a Captain and still teetering on the edge of getting in serious trouble for his actions. The only thing standing between him and getting dishonorably discharged is Iceman (Val Kilmer) who went on to become a decorated Admiral after the first movie. And it’s Ice that calls Maverick back into action, forcing him to let go of the past, and finally face Goose’s son Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller).
Despite Maverick’s best efforts, Goose has followed in his father’s footsteps as a Naval pilot, and he finds his way into the Top Gun program right as Maverick is brought in to train a new generation of hot shot pilots for a deadly mission abroad. The night before Maverick is supposed to report for duty, he makes a pit stop at a local bar where he gets to observe this new cast of characters in their “natural” habitat. There’s the arrogant Hangman (Glen Powell) who thinks he’s better than everyone else; the nerdy engineer-type Bob (Lewis Pullman), and the generally good natured Phoenix (Monica Barbaro), Payback (Jay Ellis), Coyote (Greg Tarzan Davis), Fanboy (Danny Ramirez), and Fritz (Manny Jacinto). There’s a great moment at the bar when Rooster arrives that allows Maverick to face a ghost from his past, and also share flashback moments from Top Gun to refresh the audience on the friendship between Maverick and Goose.
While Charlie Blackwood (Kelly McGillis) doesn’t reprise her role in Maverick’s life, the movie does introduce audiences to Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly) who was briefly mentioned but never shown in the original Top Gun. Penny and her daughter Amelia (Lyliana Wray) act as an unexpected anchor for Maverick. He never settled down, he never got married or started a family. He always had his planes and his need for chasing the next high. Crossing paths with Penny at this exact junction in his life is a best-case scenario for him.
History repeats itself in a lot of ways as Maverick works to turn the pilots into a team, with friendships, rivalries, and sweaty team-building activities bearing similarities to the same situations he went through when he was a young pilot. The rivalry between Rooster and Hangman is reminiscent of the rivalry between Maverick and Iceman in Top Gun—and seeing that played out in juxtaposition to the bond between Maverick and Iceman is icing on the proverbial cake.
Val Kilmer has been steadily working since his cancer diagnosis and subsequent recovery, but there is something about how Top Gun: Maverick incorporates him into the storyline that is just really poignant. Bring your tissues, because there won’t be a dry eye in the audience after his scenes. Iceman’s sage wisdom is the guiding force for the best pay-offs throughout the movie.
Top Gun: Maverick may make you cry at points, but it is a feel-good, crowd-pleaser through and through. The stakes are high, the stunts are death-defying, but you’ll leave the theater with a need to speed right back into the theater to watch it again. This is what movie theaters have been missing—a movie that isn’t going to make anyone mad or lead to unbearable discourse online. It’s good, straightforward, thrilling fun for the whole family.
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This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Image Credit: Paramount.
Maggie Lovitt is the Managing Editor of Entertainment at Wealth of Geeks where she covers her favorite topics: Star Wars and pop culture nerdery. She is also a freelance writer and News Editor at Collider. She has had bylines at Inverse, Polygon, and Dorkside of the Force. She is also a member of the Hollywood Critics Association.
When she is not covering entertainment news, she can be found on one of her numerous podcasts or on her YouTube channel. In her free time, she is also a novelist, screenwriter, actor, and member of the Screen Actors Guild.