By Jason Delgado
Time makes you bolder, even Maverick’s grow older, and I’m getting older too. The new movie Top Gun: Maverick makes me think of the song “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac (besides the above age reference, we see Tom Cruz in the snow-covered hills). It’s been thirty-six years since the original Top Gun was released, and now the long-awaited and much delayed Top Gun: Maverick is here. So was it worth the wait? Only if you feel the need, the need for speed, and haven’t lost that lovin’ feeling.
There are a lot of cool callbacks to the original: The one used the most often is the iconic score by Harold Faltermeyer, but we also get the equally legendary song “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins, muscle-bound beach football (complete with posing) instead of volleyball, a crowd-stirring rendition of “Great Balls of Fire,” and Jennifer Connelly riding on the back of a motorcycle with Tom Cruz, a la Kelly McGillis (has there ever been a better looking onscreen middle-aged couple than Cruz and Connelly?).
The major theme of Top Gun: Maverick is time. Even though Cruz is an ageless wonder, his character can’t escape the effects of Father Time and he knows that he’s running out of it. Maverick is still devastated over losing the ultimate wingman (in both aviation and life), his best friend Goose. He’s forced to face that reality head on with Goose’s son Bradley aka Rooster (Miles Teller), who joins the Top Gun training program, while Maverick is back as an instructor.
It’s one of many interesting character relationships in the film. The dynamic between the two hard-headed characters of Rooster and Maverick makes for some good drama, while Cruz and Teller have great chemistry together. I love that Iceman is back, and to see Val Kilmer grace us with his presence on the big screen once again (check out the documentary Val on Prime video if you haven’t yet), and his character is essential to the movie.
The new Top Gun recruits are tasked with going on an almost impossible mission that is reminiscent of the Star Wars: A New Hope X-wing mission on the Death Star, or as Luke Skywalker said, “It’ll be just like Beggar’s Canyon back home!” The new cast members of Glen Powell as a Maverick-like ace pilot named Hangman, Monica Barbaro as the tough as nails Phoenix, and Lewis Pullman as the comic relief character without a cool nickname, known only as Bob, are all great additions to the franchise.
The third act of the movie is a lot like a Mission: Impossible film. There are many improbable, death-defying stunts and action, but it’s all a lot of fun. It’s so gratifying to see a movie that is filled with practical effects, with actors and stunt people flying real jets for the most part, as opposed to the CGI-filled films that we’ve become accustomed to.
Jennifer Connelly is another welcome addition to the Top Gun family, because she’s an Oscar winning actress who can also flash a megawatt smile as bright as Tom Cruz, and that’s rare to find. Her character of Penny is introduced at the bar she owns, while a David Bowie song is playing, which is so apropos since she co-starred with Bowie in Labyrinth. Penny and Maverick have a complicated history, but their relationship is another bright spot in the film.
Top Gun: Maverick is filled with awesome action, and that was to be expected, but I didn’t expect it to be as deep and contemplative as it is. You can feel Maverick thinking about growing older (much like the song Landslide does), and where his life has gone, and where it’s headed. It’s a maneuver that is so tricky for a summer blockbuster to pull off, but kudos to director Joseph Kosinski for being able to do it, while managing to “Take My Breath Away.”
I give Top Gun: Maverick five hot sauce packets out of five. It’s so spicy that you had better watch out for its afterburners!