Top Gun: Maverick (2022): Tom Cruise Pilots His Way Through a High Flying Sequel

“Top Gun: Maverick” is directed by Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion, Tron: Legacy) and stars Tom Cruise (Mission: Impossible, Risky Business), Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind, Hulk), Miles Teller (Whiplash, Fantastic Four), Jon Hamm (Keeping Up with the Joneses, Baby Driver), Glen Powell (Scream Queens, Hidden Figures), Lewis Pullman (The Strangers: Prey at Night, Bad Times at the El Royale), Ed Harris (Dumb and Dumber, Apollo 13), and Val Kilmer (Batman Forever, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). This film is a sequel over three and a half decades in the making, and follows Pete Mitchell once again as he finds himself in a situation where he teaches younger fighter pilots at Top Gun, including the son of someone he previously flew alongside, making matters personal.

“Top Gun” is a weird movie. I imagine that some people consider it to either be their favorite Tom Cruise movie or maybe even their favorite movie in general. To me, it’s neither. It’s a solid film, but in terms of Cruise’s filmography, it ranks down the middle for me. For all I know, part of why people like it so much could be for nostalgic reasons. I did not grow up in the 1980s, and if you want me to be real, looking back at “Top Gun,” despite the film’s evident advancements in capturing cinematic dogfighting, it feels like a product of its time. It has some cheesy dialogue here and there, the songs feel very much out of the 1980s time period, and the stakes for me did not feel as high as other movies. Then again, it is hard to have stakes when you have fighter pilots that are not actually going up against other fighter pilots, for the most part. But I will also give “Top Gun” credit because for a film where there is almost no threat to begin with, the film still has plenty of intrigue and gives us enough reasons to care for the characters, and not just because they are spiking volleyballs without shirts on.

The best thing about this sequel is that it successfully builds off of a key point of the original. Despite what I said about the stakes being low, there is a moment in the original movie where the main character of Pete Mitchell has to face an event with potentially dire consequences. Thankfully for him, the consequences are not as bad as they could have been. That is, until the events of “Top Gun: Maverick,” where they come back to haunt him, in addition to haunting one of his students.

I am glad that this movie has as good of a story as it does, because without those things, the movie would still be watchable for what it is, but I am satisfied to say that “Top Gun: Maverick” is not a movie that mainly relies on big, loud spectacle, and instead, blends such a thing perfectly into the material written for its respective pages.

On that note, however, my biggest positive for “Top Gun: Maverick” is the spectacle. Through my six years on Scene Before, I have always forwarded a singular thought. Movies are ALWAYS better in the theater. Even a movie as terrible as 2019’s “Cats” is better in a theater because of the weird spectacle. That said, if there is any movie that I recommend you go see in a theater right now, I not only recommend “Top Gun: Maverick,” but this movie commands your attention and it is one you need to see on the biggest screen you can. I had the privilege of going to see “Top Gun: Maverick” at a true IMAX cinema ten minutes from where I live. It was their first weekend open since the beginning of the pandemic, and walking out of the theater, I could barely even move because of how boisterous this movie was. And this movie was not boisterous because it looked like yet another cranked out Hollywood production with tons of digitzed effects, but because a lot of it was actually done for real.

Many of the film’s actors ended up using and flying real planes throughout the film. In an age where more and more movies are relying on green screen, or more recently, StageCraft, it is thrilling to see a film that pushes the boundaries of human limitations while also putting a pinch of reality in our fantasies. Tom Cruise, unsurprisingly, pilots a plane in this film. There are restrictions to his piloting, but knowing and seeing that only enhances the final product. I have had conversations with people where they said Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is perhaps the manliest person alive. Sure, he’s got the LOOKS of a man with his big strong arms and attractive bald head. But let me know when he pilots a real military jet for audiences around the world to witness, as they bite their nails thinking, “this is the part where he crashes, isn’t it?”. No, seriously. I have watched a lot of movies. Between the previous “Mission: Impossible” and this movie, Tom Cruise is on a trend where he continues to captivate me harder into a scene than most actors, including ones that are perhaps more likely to be nominated for Oscars. And it is not because of how he goes through a scene delivering his dialogue, managing his physicality, and keeping his fellow actors in check. It is because of how much of a daredevil he has become over the years. Even in movies that were not well received like “The Mummy,” you could still look at Tom Cruise’s stuntwork and recognize the effort put into it. I am not saying “Top Gun: Maverick” is my favorite movie of the year. But it is a contender for the movie I will thinking about this year the most in terms of how it has projected me into an environment where I may has well been so close to falling to my death. For that reason alone, you should see “Top Gun: Maverick” on the biggest screen you can find.

However, “Top Gun: Maverick” also faces a problem depending on how you look at things. The movie, even though I believe modern audiences will enjoy it, gets too caught up in the good old days. The opening scene, while an amazing welcoming back to the “Top Gun” universe, only works because of how much it rips off the original movie. The midpoint of the film features an incredible scene between two characters. I will not say much more, but let’s just say that I, an aspiring writer, could not have written a better, more engaging scene between these two characters. You will know it when you see it.

However, there is another moment where everyone starts singing a particular song that did not feel authentic. It felt like nostalgia bait for the sake of nostalgia bait. There are movies that tend to rely on fan service and nostalgia that do such things well. I think “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” did it well when that movie came out. “Top Gun: Maverick” on the other hand, was a little on the nose and it did not land as well as it could have. Some might enjoy it, some might not. Although I thought it was great to hear “Danger Zone” once again. But that also goes to show how one can be emotionally attached to something and therefore perceive something as good. I liked the original “Top Gun,” but I never thought it was my favorite movie. The original “Star Wars” trilogy was something I watched incessantly as a kid, enjoyed immensely, and therefore it is part of why I felt a spark of joy when certain things happened in “The Force Awakens.”

That’s a minor nitpick, but I want to point out a couple things in regard to this film’s depth. First off, I think at times, the relationship between the characters of Pete Mitchell and Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly) felt a tad forced at times. They had chemistry, but it was overall very off and on. I personally think Cruise had better chemistry with Kelly McGillis’s character of Charlie back in the 1986 predecessor. In my review for the original “Top Gun,” I said that I learned of Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise, the actors, not getting along on set. Having searched more information on that as of recently, I would not know if that is actually true because the only source I have telling me that as of recently is the “Top Gun” IMDb page, which may not be the most reliable place to base one’s information. I will note that McGillis spoke out regarding this love interest shift not long ago, saying she is happy for Jennifer Connelly, so I am glad to see there are no hard feelings.

Speaking of depth, let’s talk about the enemy of “Top Gun: Maverick.” There are multiple references to “the enemy” in “Top Gun: Maverick.” We do not know who they are. Apparently this is also the case in the original movie where the Top Gun pilots have to go into actual combat against another force. In today’s age, I kind of get why they never specifically identify an “enemy” in “Top Gun: Maverick.” The film business is about money, and if Paramount makes a “Top Gun” movie where they identify Germany as the enemy, then chances are they are never going to release the film in Germany as it would tick some people off. If the movie identifies Japan as the enemy, then they can kiss a Japanese release goodbye as some viewers would probably dislike seeing their country as the antagonist. Maybe this is to suggest that the pilots could go up against multiple enemies at the same time, but nevertheless. At a certain point of the movie, there is one specific enemy force that comes into play, but again, we do not know who they are. This movie is fiction, it is not based on actual war. It is not like we are watching “Dunkirk” or “The Patriot” where the sides are specific of an actual time and place, even if they involve fictional characters to further the story along. That said, even though I prefer the story of “Top Gun: Maverick” to the original, it is not free from nitpicks. Even so, you should see this movie. I give it a thumbs up, and I think it is a film that almost anyone can have a good time watching.

In the end, “Top Gun: Maverick” is a blockbuster you should see this summer on the biggest screen possible. I do recommend watching the original first as it does help you appreciate the story of this sequel more, there are many ways to watch “Top Gun” from home, but I do not recommend skipping out on “Top Gun: Maverick” during its theatrical run. Do not wait for Paramount+, do not wait for VOD, do not wait for the Blu-ray. If you are going to watch this movie, find the biggest screen with the loudest sound you can. Buy some popcorn, grab a soda, have a good time. Take your friends, take your family, this is certainly a crowd-pleasing movie that delivers the thrills. As of writing this review, I have tickets to go see this movie a second time with someone close to me. I am going to give “Top Gun: Maverick,” despite my nitpicks, a really high 7/10.

“Top Gun: Maverick” is now playing in theaters everywhere, including large formats like IMAX and Dolby. Tickets are available now!

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review for “Top Gun: Maverick” and want to see more of my thoughts on the franchise, check out my review that I did in 2020 for the original “Top Gun” as part of my special Tom Cruise Month! Fun fact, I did this special partially because “Top Gun: Maverick” was not able to come out in 2020! Also coming up on Scene Before, I have two reviews on deck. Pretty soon you will see my thoughts on the new Netflix film “Hustle,” starring Adam Sandler as a basketball scout. My next review after that will be for one my most anticipated movies of the year, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” I waited forever to see this film, I finally got to watch it with my dad last night, and I promise you I have plenty to say about it. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Top Gun: Maverick?” What did you think about it? Or, which is the better movie? “Top Gun” or “Top Gun: Maverick?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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