Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Top Gun: Maverick

From the opening credits, Top Gun: Maverick lays heavy into the nostalgia by recreating the opening of Top Gun. Not much has changed since we last saw Maverick (Tom Cruise), the film is deliberately vague about what year the movie takes place and exactly how much time has passed. Pete Mitchell is still the maverick who flies by the seat of his pants even if that has left him at yet another crossroads of his decorated, but rocky, career.

The film skates by on nostalgia and some impressive dogfights for as long as it can but struggles when it eventually is forced to move the story forward. More than a sequel, Top Gun: Maverick feels a bit like a reunion show but with only one person brought back. To be fair, Val Kilmer does get limited screentime in a role that plays a large part in explaining just how Maverick has managed to avoid a court-marital for all these years. And, of course, Goose is still mentioned (and even prayed for in the cockpit).

As for the rest, the only other characters represented from the original film were both marginal characters as Miles Teller is cast as Goose's son Rooster, a fighter pilot with some personal baggage towards Maverick, and Jennifer Connelly gives life to the admiral's daughter mentioned twice during the original film from the glory days of Maverick's womanizing. Teller's character seems like he could have been Goose's son, although he isn't given much else in the way of definable characteristics other than being the least daring of the pilots selected for the mission.

Stepping into fill the obligatory gruff military roles to scowl and yell at Maverick are Jon Hamm and Ed Harris while the rest of cast is filled out by younger actors all playing Top Gun graduates brought back for Maverick to train for a suicide mission. Most of the students blur together with only a few such as Teller, Monica Barbaro, and Glen Powell (the last being a blander, and smarmier, new generation version of Iceman to rival Rooster).

The film works reminding us of Maverick's strength and weaknesses both as a man and as an instructor, but when he needs to deal with larger emotions or hand over the reigns to other actors the film stalls. It doesn't help that film is at least a half-hour too long including some ridiculous lengths the script takes to make Maverick's job even harder during the second-half while deliberately spelling out the film's lessons in dialogue over, and over, and over again. Apparently subtlety has no place in this man's Navy.

While Top Gun: Maverick isn't quite the train wreck I was expecting, it's nowhere near as enjoyable as the first Top Gun. Going for a more grounded approach, well... as grounded as a Top Gun film can be, director Joseph Kosinski's film lacks the spark which Tony Scott, to whom the sequel is dedicated, brought to the franchise. There's still action and there's still plenty of hero time for Maverick (albeit much of it ridiculous), but even when deliberately recreating scenes from the original, the magic just isn't quite there or at least can't sustain itself for any length of time.

Watch the trailer
  • Title: Top Gun: Maverick
  • IMDb: link

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