Top Gun: Maverick Review – IGN
Top Gun: Maverick debuts in theaters on May 24, 2022.
The spirit of the ‘80s soars sky-high in Joseph Kosinski’s Top Gun: Maverick. Every scene drips with the neon-yellow cheesiness that makes Tony Scott’s beloved flyboy action flick so tasty. The original Top Gun rarely took itself seriously amidst all the sweaty co-pilot homoeroticism, and the same goes for Top Gun: Maverick outside a few modern tweaks. Women are no longer relegated to solely being love interests, and someone installed an air conditioner in Fightertown, USA — yet none of the renegade attitudes, forced overdramatics, and aerial thrills throttle backward. The iconic title theme guitar riff wails within seconds and takes our proverbial breath away.
Top Gun: Maverick can’t help but indulge the original film’s emphasis on soap opera drama without any wasted time. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is still the same rule-breaker 30 years later, who we meet breaking protocol and defying orders for a special operation that’s about to be canned. Cruise is still fearless, showing that same giddiness inside a cockpit, and his character finds himself sent back to Top Gun after pissing off yet another admiral (played by Ed Harris) who can’t believe Captain Maverick lives to fly another day. Familiarity is the name of the introduction, as Maverick finds himself an instructor amongst ace Top Gun graduates summoned back by commanding officer “Cyclone” (Jon Hamm) for what’s assumed to be one notch below a suicide mission.
It’s the Top Gun sequel purists will crave. Miles Teller as Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, the son of Anthony Edwards’ “Goose,” is the spitting image of his late on-screen father, from his piano rendition of “Great Balls of Fire” to his bushy caterpillar mustache. As Penny Benjamin, Jennifer Connelly steps comfortably into the role of Maverick’s ex-fling and rekindled romantic interest, replacing Kelly McGillis’ Charlie with nary a mention. Glen Powell’s “Hangman” is the hot-shot that reminds of Maverick’s in-flight cockiness, and so comparisons continue. Plotlines thicken with the speed of quick-drying cement, because Top Gun: Maverick is the butteriest type of popcorn entertainment. You’re here for the cowboy antics, shirtless beach sports, and close calls with multi-million-dollar aircrafts — which Top Gun: Maverick delivers without all those messy storytelling complexities.
New additions to the formula are welcome, like “Phoenix” (Monica Barbaro) — and actress Kara Wang to a lesser degree as a background Top Gunner — breaking down the boys club towel-whipping that dominates the original. That’s not to say all the screaming about butts and skin-on-skin caresses in shower rooms isn’t missed — it’s part of Top Gun’s DNA — but writers Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie create a tighter yet equally silly screenplay. Dialogue is still torn from some Hallmark Naval academy program because the film can’t resist throwing Goose’s son into the mix or handing Maverick a seemingly impossible task. Although, Maverick loves impossible odds and making Jon Hamm’s tight-buttoned commander pucker in frustration as much as we love watching Maverick’s insubordinate behavior — so that’s not entirely an issue.
Nearly 40 years after the original’s release, Top Gun: Maverick impressively capitalizes on advancements to dogfight filmmaking. Top Gun was revolutionary for its time, but Top Gun: Maverick leaves the outdated ‘80s action flick in the dust thanks to Claudio Miranda’s breakneck cinematography. Whether it’s green screens or cockpit-mounted cameras, everything from routine training drills to overhead combat looks immeasurably crisp. Kosinski suspends us in mid-air for a bird’s eye view of Maverick’s hazardous teaching methods — zooming between his pupils with a smile while they gasp at the playful negligence. Everything, down to the misty streams that flow around the glass bubble that protects the pilots, exists with excruciating detail as Maverick, Rooster, and the rest race against time and once-friendly lessons turn to free-fire military applications. When Kenny Loggins was singing about danger zones, he probably imagined what would become Top Gun: Maverick.
There’s no argument that Top Gun: Maverick manages to rocket into our hearts, but it’s not exactly the tidiest screenplay. It all returns to that trademark silliness because the emotional stakes are often scooped in single servings. That didn’t rob me of any smiles, but I couldn’t ignore how much Top Gun: Maverick honors Top Gun — even down to ridiculous plot advancements that always put Maverick on the path to personal reconciliation or victory. Expect no-stakes entertainment in terms of showing up to a movie theater and disconnecting for about two hours as airplanes go “whoosh, where Maverick swears never to let another wingman or wingwoman die on his watch [slams fist on the table for dramatic effect]. But rest assured, that’s not entirely a killjoy ding – I type that having just smiled through Top Gun: Maverick.