Not sure if this disqualifies me from reviewing this film, but I gotta be honest, I never saw the original “Top Gun.” I know it was a big deal for a lot of people. It was probably a lot of people’s favorite movie, and it’s immortalized in nostalgia and yadda, yadda. Either way, I never saw it, and I didn’t know how important or necessary it was for this film since not everyone sequel relies on previous installments for their story material. I know that Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer were both in the original; they are in this new one, and it is apparently being toted as an even BIGGER, more successful deal than the first film was. “Top Gun: Maverick” is a big deal, and I don’t think anyone expected that even the fans of the original film, so let’s find out why.
Taking place 30 years after the first film, Maverick (Tom Cruise) returns to the US Navy air-born weapons school to serve as an instructor to a new team of recruits who are entering the same program, he and fellow wingman Iceman (Val Kilmer) were apart of years ago. Among the many challenging oppositions from his superiors questioning his teaching methods, Maverick also faces the grim position of instructing Bradley ‘Rooster’ Bradshaw (Mile Teller); the son of his deceased best friend ‘Goose.’ Now Maverick has to overcome these barriers and bring these new cadets up to speed for a new generation to take over the legacy of the TOPGUN program.
Without seeing the original film, one thing I definitely surmise as a highlight is Tom Cruise. Even when he’s playing a character from 30 years ago that I never grew up with or got attached to, I can tell he is bringing his A-game and making the most of this role and this film, and that is an infectious form of charm and energy. Cruise walks, talks and lives this role as if he’s always been playing this character during the entire 30-year gap between the two films. He comes back with natural excellence that inspires a fascination with every line, every snap back at a superior officer, or interaction with a trainee. Whether you have seen the first one or not, the level of dedication that was put into this film can be felt. There is effort, style, and hard work diligently being worked into its development, and even I have to applaud that.
Cruise is famous for doing his own stunts and making them as realistic (and often dangerous) as possible, and “Maverick” is no exception. The film puts you right into the cockpits and makes you feel every turn, spin, and launch off with the camera views and intense visual captures of the fighter jet sequences. It reminded me of a more realistic, better-portrayed version of the fighter plane sequence in “Independence Day,” minus the aliens. Behind-the-scenes reports indicate that all the flight training was real and showed on everyone’s facial expressions. You truly feel the need for speed, and it’s a well-executed experience that makes you feel like you are a part of it.
Unfortunately, all the finesse and style don’t help if you don’t give a damn about your cast, and sadly…I REALLY didn’t give a damn about this cast. Maverick’s trainees feel like a smushed-together group of rando’s meant to fill quotas and demographic carts than actual character arcs. They don’t feel like the next generation of anything; hell, I even forgot their supposed cool trademark codenames the minute I left the theater. The most problematic aspect easily galls to Goose’s sun, Rooster/Miles Teller. The character is irritatingly obnoxious to the point I wanted to slap that laughably fake-looking mustache off his ugly tanned face. If that stache is real, then it just proves that Teller can’t grow a mustache anymore than he can act. I didn’t care for his deal with Maverick, his past, or him or anyone else involved in the team, period.
Overall, “Top Gun: Maverick” will no doubt supremely please fans of the original with flying colors. The attention to detail, incredible flight scenes, and heart-filled effort from Cruise will satisfy any moviegoer looking for something fun to experience, and that’s an impressive feat for a 30-year-old sequel. The rest of the cast is as forgettable as they are pointless, they feel like stock photo inclusions rather than fleshed-out characters, and Miles Teller’s performance and subplot as Goose’s son go absolutely nowhere except in the back of my mind where it will be immediately forgotten. If you’re a “Top Gun” fan, this will be a must-see for you, but if you’re not, then I don’t think you’ll miss out on much if you let this one fly past you.
We give “Top Gun: Maverick” 2 stars out of 4 stars.