Top Gun: Maverick a Blast from the Past

For me, seeing Top Gun: Maverick is about nostalgia fulfillment, and that couldn’t be any more fun for a child of the 80s. I remember when my uncle installed a “home theatre” projection and sound setup in his basement, and the first movie he wanted to test the experience with was Top Gun. “I hope the F-14s blast us off the couch,” he said. They did not disappoint.

The roaring jet engines, Tom Cruise’s bad boy smirk, and Kenny Loggins’s “Danger Zone” soundtrack epitomized American 80s glory to patriotic highs and parodic lows. Was the original Top Gun just sweaty-pec machismo unleashed or valid entertainment? I think it was both, and some of its dated aspects solidify its spot as a time-capsuled classic.

Top Gun: Maverick will leave less of an impact down the road, but it’s a worthy sequel, respectfully paying homage to its predecessor while capturing the daunting possibilities of g-force in today’s aircraft. The trip down memory lane might even draw a few tough guy tears amidst the action.

After 30 years of test pilot service and dodging rank progression, Maverick is challenged by his uppers to train a new squadron of fighter pilots, including Lieutenant Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), son of Maverick’s late best friend, “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards of the original Top Gun). The setup is straightforward and provides Maverick and the audience the opportunity to face traumatic trials of the past while also wrestling with the self-satisfied millennials of the future. Add a “destroy-the-huge-uranium-bunker” mission, and you’re in for a Dolby-surrounded, aerial-simulated explosion.

Director Joseph Kosinski effectively captures the lightning speed and vertigo of the dogfights, and with Hans Zimmer’s orchestration, Harold Faltermeyer’s familiar score motif produces the necessary, sentimental chills. Refreshingly, the addition of the female fighter pilot, Natasha “Phoenix” Trace (Monica Barbaro), tempers some of the male bravado comebacks.

Although I missed the Charlie (Kelly McGillis) romance storyline and Meg Ryan’s energy from the original, I can understand how a more postmodern approach simply cannot reconnect all the dots from 1986 in a 130-minute movie. The good news is that Val Kilmer’s “Iceman” is back, and without giving anything away, his role in the movie ends up being more endearing and nostalgically pleasing than expected. And, I still have to hand it to Mr. Cruise: Where I cannot condone his off-screen antics, I commend him for his work ethic and consistent physical and mental commitment to every project he’s in. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but he draws in a level-headed empathy in this one.

Overall, Top Gun: Maverick checks all the necessary boxes for summer blockbuster movie fandom. More importantly, Maverick soars above the typical cinematic “retread” label and reminds us of why we have sequels in the first place.

**** out of *****

12 thoughts on “Top Gun: Maverick a Blast from the Past

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  1. Regardless of the years in-between films, it was well worth the wait for me. If there is another film proposed in the future – assuming Cruise doesn’t kill himself doing stunts in the interim – I’m all for it. Plot, acting, sights & sounds all on point. This wasn’t just Tom & Company printing themselves more money – to me it was a labor of love, and the results are there for all to see. I think it is one of the few sequels that might be better than the original.

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    1. Thanks for reading and sharing. I agree: This was Tom’s “labor of love,” and it proved worthy as not only a great sequel but a stand-alone feature that respected its roots and pushed forward at the same time. In the theatre under Dolby sound, it was a marvel to be repeated!

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  2. Good point re empathy. It was harder for a mainstream audience to empathise with Cruise in the 80’s, but age has brought him into a different category; we cheer him now because he’s a survivor, and he’s lasted the course in a way that seems physically impossible…

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    1. Completely agree. Believe it or not, the first time I empathized for Tom Cruise was in Magnolia, and his character couldn’t have been more despicable. PTA draws enough context for us to understand his traumatic upbringing and end result. Add a touch of humor to his shame, and you get a guy you want to hug. In Maverick, I wanted to pat him on the back like a dad. He has really come around. I’m even psyched about the next Mission: Impossible, but I hope he knows when to hang up the boots and pursue more dramas…

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    1. Good to hear from you, OB. I want to not like Cruise, but I just can’t. He’s consistent, professional, and knows how to act (by now). This is actually a very good movie, not just a sequel. Highly recommended in the theatre 🙂

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      1. I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments about Cruise. He won me over with his prowess in Jerry Maguire which I still think deserved an Oscar but lost out to Geoffrey Rush in Shine. He rarely disappoints. I want to see Top Gun with the 4D dynamax (moving seats) experience. I’ll get tickets in the next days to enjoy with the kids next weekend. BTW do you read ‘The Critical drinker’ reviews of movies?

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        1. 4D will be spectacular! I was so impressed by Cruise in Magnolia. (Not sure who he lost to). I am checking out Critical Drinker reviews now. Always good to connect with more movie nerds like me. Thanks for the rec!

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