REVIEW: Maverick’s new mission in ‘Top Gun’ sequel is worth seeing

In the past 20 years, sequels have been made to 80s franchises like “Rambo,” “Rocky,” “Die Hard” and “Indiana Jones.”

It just feels right that “Top Gun” joins the club.

“Maverick” follows the titular character (Tom Cruise) as he enters what looks to be the last stage of his career. Rather than move on to other ranks and jobs, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell has remained a captain in the United States Navy, with the decision based on his love of being a pilot.

At the request of Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer), Maverick is taken off his current assignment as a test pilot for new aircraft and placed back in San Diego at Top Gun. He was chosen because he’s the only pilot with enough experience to train the top aviators in the country for a dangerous, nearly impossible mission. The situation is complicated by Maverick’s guilt, though, as his late wingman’s son Bradley (Miles Teller) is one of the pilots he intends to train.

As mentioned before, “Maverick” certainly isn’t the first film from years past to get a long awaited sequel. This “Top Gun” may be the best of these types of sequels, though.

Like others of its kind, “Maverick” does acknowledge its past, playing on the audiences nostalgia. For example, it starts with classic images of jets at sunrise with “Danger Zone” playing in the background. The film never over does it, though, as it seems much more interested in the future than the past.

It’s reflected in the main character’s journey. Maverick is in a world where drones are becoming more common. One where many of his colleagues have either retired or died. It’s a reality he’s been running from, doing so by being up in the sky.

His work in San Diego forces him to confront where he’s at in life, and it makes for some exceptional moments. Perhaps the best scene exploring this is a somber moment where Maverick meets with Iceman to discuss his current assignment.

Courtesy Paramount.

The passing of the torch also comes into play, with a new crew of hot shot pilots ready to lead the military’s warplanes into the future. As one would guess, the main focus is on the son of Nick “Goose” Bradshaw. It’s a fairly standard movie mentor relationship, but it’s certainly well executed, reminiscent of the one featured in the “Creed” films.

The rest of the new pilots are not quite as interesting. The various crew members are pretty generic. For example, one of them is a cocky flyboy who thinks he can do just about anything in a plane. These characters aren’t really a detraction, though, as they lead to some fun, crowd pleasing moments for the picture.

What doesn’t add as much is the romance. In the film, Maverick starts a relationship with a bartender, Penny (Jennifer Connelly), and it is far from the film’s most compelling segments. It feels more like a quota is trying to be met, like it wouldn’t be a “Top Gun” movie without a romance.

That’s not to say the romantic scenes are bad, but they don’t feel as integral as they did in the first movie.

What I had no issue with, though, were the air scenes. The sequences in this film with fighter jets were absolutely wild, and the the final third of the picture is absolutely stunning. The airplane imagery from the first film made it worth seeing, and that’s true again this time.

The dogfight scenes alone are worth the price of admission for “Maverick.” Combined with some really solid work from Cruise, Teller and other cast members like Jon Hamm as an admiral, and “Maverick” becomes a summer blockbuster must see.

It has its share of shortcomings and isn’t a particularly deep film. For example, America’s opponents remain nameless, so no geopolitical discussion comes into play. However, as an engaging action drama, it succeeds, and once again shows Cruise’s acting chops as a tent pole star. 4.25 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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