Movie Review: Top Gun Maverick
Rating: 3 Stars
In my heavily biased opinion, the best scene of Top Gun Maverick is the opening scene. The beautiful riffs of Kenny Loggins’ biggest hit serenade a screen full of quick hard cuts where indistinguishable workers prepare fighter jets to sail into the sky off of an aircraft carrier. Tom Cruise and director Joseph Kosinski know exactly what you want and they’re going to give it to you. Mostly.
There is so much pompous circumstance and audaciousness in the ideas that play on screen the film demands you set them aside for your entertainment. It was as if the writers sat in a room and said, “you know what would make for a badass scene?” The mission the film builds to feels like it was conceived after Tom Cruise watched the trench run in Star Wars: A New Hope and said, “Let’s do that but with actual planes!”
Top Gun Maverick is a force of deliverance made almost solely for spectacle. For that, I commend it and the insane amount of money that was used to create it and bring it to a theater near me.
What Top Gun Maverick lacks should come as no shock. When the pilots are grounded, expect heavy doses of one-note characters who initiate and engage in awkward dialogue. The writers were deadset on bringing the 1980 moviegoing experience that we got several scenes of Maverick stumbling and bumbling cliche for his love interest, Penny (Jennifer Connolly). If there was a thread to the first film, it flew over my head. There are threads abound connecting this sequel to the first film that I felt somewhat unprepared.
Here’s all you need to know about the plot. The US Navy doesn’t have a need for manned planes on account of technology allowing us to fly these machines remotely. This makes Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell a relic, which he is reminded of countless times. Before Cruise can be grounded for good though, a favor is called in by his old Top Gun wingman, “Iceman” (Val Kilmer, who gets one scene to throw some absolute heat).
There’s a mission so difficult and dangerous that the only man crazy enough to pull it off could be Maverick. But instead of Maverick going on the mission, the idea is for him to teach the mission to the Top Gun academy. One of the students is the son of Maverick’s co-pilot, Goose. Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller) resents Maverick for Goose’s fate.
There are scenes that are so hilariously preposterous that it would be criminal to spoil them this early into the film’s tenure. I can see five years from now conversing with friends, “remember that scene from Top Gun Maverick where he does *explains a ridiculous scene that occurs under ludicrous circumstances*.”
When the fighter jets take off, so does Top Gun Maverick. There was a concerted effort for the jet engine sound design to reverberate through the movie theater. Of course, Hollywood’s busiest man Hans Zimmer was involved programming the synthesizers. The music was composed by Harold Faltermeyer while Lorne Balfe produced the score. Lady Gaga provided a power ballad. The cinematography by Claudio Miranda was picturesque as he provided a scope into a fantasy land where fighter jets glide into gleaming sunsets and every Cruise closeup has a surrealistically painted background. Every closeup of Jon Hamm’s Admiral Simpson dissects his gruff look of discontent or discernment.
The sound and cinematography have to be at the highest standard to convey the moviegoing experience Top Gun Maverick sets to achieve. It’s that commitment to the details that make the action tense and meaningful.
I’ve felt and read this sentiment that Top Gun Maverick is a summer blockbuster in an age where the summer blockbuster is dying. In a Hollywood ecosystem that overflows with comic book material, is Top Gun Maverick being floated as a response to that? Maybe.
But reviving old films with sequels or remakes doesn’t make a grand statement about what the future of cinema is or should be. All Top Gun proves is that movies can still serve as an escape from the throes of reality. It doesn’t take a philosopher to make that argument considering I’ve now seen 500 advertisements for the newest bombastic Jurassic Park installment where maybe this time the dinosaurs will really take over the Earth.
If the artistic measure is pure adrenaline entertainment, Top Gun realizes its mission. When the adrenaline wears off, there isn’t much more to discuss.