Top Gun Maverick: A Review

This is especially true because the original Top Gun (directed by the late Tony Scott and to whom the sequel is dedicated) hit theaters in 1986. Thirty six years ago. Tom Cruise delivers the goods as an older Captain Maverick Mitchell (who also is a producer on this film) as does his former Top Gun rival Ice Man (in the sequel depicted as a full admiral in charge of the Top Gun program) played by Val Kilmer.

There are so many things that have transpired since the original film was released. Don Simpson’s untimely death in 1996, Tony Scott’s tragic suicide in 2012 and Val Kilmer’s real life encounter with esophageal cancer which has left him unable to eat. Kilmer appeared in Maverick briefly and only whispered. He’s fed intravenously at present. In the movie, Val’s character dies, which may anticipate his eventual demise.

This movie holds a special place in my heart not just because of its period relevance to my own career but because my late dad was a Navy fighter pilot and trained pilots in his later years. I also worked for Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer during their stint as a producing team at Disney close to when the original film was released. It was an exciting time in my life and obviously for Simpson/Bruckheimer.

For me the movie’s theme (which I’d characterize as “never give up, no matter what”) is especially poignant relative to the age question. Ageism comes up repeatedly in this film as does the hero’s struggle to cope with being labeled as “old” and knowing he’s still got it. In the end he has to prove it to himself and everyone else. It’s coming-of-age revisited as a 60something character.

To me, ageism, paired with Maverick’s struggle to evolve the psychology of aging into mentorship instead of irrelevance and the arc of healing old wounds with the next generation (via Goose, the orphaned son of Maverick’s former wingman) are as important as the abundant action sequences. These elements will give the movie longevity. Well done!

There are, of course, a plethora of thrilling , close-up aerial battles that are not just shot using real fighter aircraft but shot in a way that’s reminiscent of original Star Wars (1977). In this way Rooster (aka a surrogate Luke) has to remember to “Not think, Do”, about as close to “trusting the force” as you can get. Even so, it works extremely well.

Tom Cruise opens the movie by breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to the audience. This is a film that was literally decades in the making and uses real Fighter jets and real action footage. Here are the exact planes that appear in Top Gun Maverick.

Cruise, who still looks fantastic at 60, states that they made this movie for us. I believe he means to underscore the idea of not giving in to the idea you’re old, outdated or otherwise done. Because if we give in to that and fold to the irrelevance society has in mind for us, we truly are all washed up.

There were three screenwriters on this project. That’s not at all surprising given the long years this movie was in development and production. The last man on was Christopher McQuarrie, a long time collaborator of Cruise and whose debut movie you’ll likely recall, The Usual Suspects. McQuarrie has penned several Mission Impossible movies, starring Cruise, the next of which screen Summer 2023.

This is one of the best sequels I’ve ever seen. If you haven’t gone already, go see it. You’ll be glad you did! And if you can find a showing in IMAX do that because the bigger the screen the better with this one (and most action pictures). Just be prepared because the plethora of hair-raising flight training sequences and edge-of-your seat dog fights might just make you wish you’d ingested Dramamine.

One final note. The movie ends with an opening for another sequel. At the time of this writing, Maverick sits at number 2 on the Worldwide Box Office.

Do you think there will be a Top Gun 3? I do, especially with this kind of box office. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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