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Review: ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Takes the Military Genre to New Heights With Little Substance

Review: ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Takes the Military Genre to New Heights With Little Substance

I don’t know who asked for a sequel more than thirty years later, but Top Gun: Maverick seems like an unnecessary call to action. Out of all the Tom Cruise films that garner a sequel, this isn’t it. It would have been better to make the film a few years after the original Top Gun and pretend it was far off in the future. At least that way, the momentum from Top Gun would have made a sequel worthy of release. 

Too many mistakes came out of attempting to keep the two films connected. Top Gun: Maverick is one of those films where you might say, I don’t need to watch it, but I’ll check it out, as you shrug half-heartedly. It’s an interesting dilemma to roll your eyes at a film while also having moments of edge-of-your-seat adrenaline thrills. 

Top Gun: Maverick follows Maverick (Tom Cruise), an old fighter pilot who still “feels the need for speed.” After more than 30 years of service, he is still pushing the limits as a test pilot and getting himself into trouble. After causing trouble at home, he is called back to Top Gun to teach the best of the best how to succeed in their latest mission. 

Top Gun: Maverick also stars Miles Teller (Thank You For Your Service), Jennifer Connelly (Snowpiercer), Glen Powell (Hidden Figures), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Lewis Pullman (Outer Range), Monica Barbaro (Splitting Up Together), Jay Ellis (Insecure), Danny Ramirez (Assassination Nation), Greg Tarzan Davis (Grey’s Anatomy), Ed Harris (Westworld), and Val Kilmer (Batman Forever).

Teaming up again with Paramount Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Top Gun: Maverick has been released in 2022 but is stuck in ‘80s cinema. Like Top Gun, the film has its love story, death-defying aerial dogfights, cheesy one-liners, cliches, and classic montages complete with epic music. Top Gun: Maverick attempts to copy that 80s cinematic style and ends up with an uneven film that can be confusing at times. 

While the core of the film succeeds by capturing the 80s film starter pack of alienation, the pressure, the constant struggle for status and acceptance, and a generation-defining soundtrack, it clashes with the 2022 stage. There are these archetypal characters that seem to lack depth and a true connection to the present. It unfortunately feels as if no one can move on. Everyone is stuck in the past whether they know it or not. Even Jennifer Connelly is giving off Farrah Fawcett Charlie’s Angels vibes. I don’t know what period she thinks this film is in. It’s all very confusing.

Top Gun: Maverick is a pop film, reminiscent of its counterparts from the 80s. The action-packed tale of testosterone-high pilots and their big, fast planes, complete with a military setting, cool training sequences, good-looking cast, and competition is the mark of the genre. Who doesn’t love a man in uniform? It’s all a bit formulaic and doesn’t succeed as much as Top Gun did in the 80s. The tone is uneven for a film set in the present. Not to mention, the pacing is off. It seems as if a laugh track or applause cues are in the background for the actors to know when to pause for effect. There are awkward pauses as if someone forgot a line and cliche entrances abound. 

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Confusion aside, no other but Tom Cruise could play Maverick. It’s the swag and the arrogance that optimizes the flying hot-shot. Cruise is Maverick and Maverick is Cruise.  It’s clear why Cruise is one of the bigger names in Hollywood. His commitment to the real to make as stellar a movie-going experience as possible is commendable. He is the superior actor in this film. That being said, the casting was also done very well with Miles Teller as Rooster, the son of Anthony Edwards’ Goose. Visually, the resemblance, cue mustache, is very good. It’s believable. When Teller and Cruise are on the screen together, you can see there is chemistry and also a palpable tension that makes their characters’ stories much richer. 

Some films are made solely for cinematic action sequences with no substance to the story. If there is anything that we all could agree on with Top Gun: Maverick, it is the action. Props to Cruise for insisting on no green screen or CGI aerial shots for this film. Props to the cast who had to undergo extensive G-force training sessions to withstand the physical demands of their roles as fighter pilots. The action sequences are stunning. 

It’s hard not to find joy in the filmmaking process for these action scenes. Top Gun: Maverick reminds us how fun it could be to watch movies like this in theaters again. You can spot a Jerry Bruckheimer production by the explosions and action. Viewers should see this film for the aerial sequences alone. There is a tension born from the action that makes sitting in a theater with a big screen worth it.

Is Top Gun: Maverick the movie that will mark a generation? No. Its predecessor will always hold that title. Is it a fun Hollywood film? Absolutely. Does it have substance? Not really. Does it move the bar higher for believable, tension drawing action sequences? Yes, which I fully expect from any Tom Cruise film these days. There’s no doubt the Navy groups will enjoy this film along with the civilians of the theater. Don’t expect anything more than top-notch action, and you’ll be fine. 

Top Gun: Maverick will fly into theaters on May 27, 2022.

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