It says a lot about my experience with the ‘Top Gun’ franchise when I say that I finished watching the first movie on the car ride to the cinema to watch this movie. It’s a testosterone-filled movie about aircrafts and American patriotism, it’s safe to say it wasn’t my cup of tea. That being said, after delivering the riveting action-packed juggernauts that were the last few ‘Mission: Impossible’ movies, Tom Cruise earned a sense of trust that I have in very few Hollywood stars. The continuous push to show this movie in theatres and not dump it on Paramount Plus, the unexpected team-up with Lady Gaga for the score and main theme of the movie and the very exciting recruit of fellow ‘Mission: Impossible’ director Christopher McQuarrie, this time helping with screenplay and producing was more than enough to get me excited for ‘Top Gun: Maverick’. It seems that there was a clear sense of anticipation from a ton of people. Lots of movie-goers were wearing ‘Top Gun’ t-shirts, some fathers even wore a ‘Top Dad’ shirt which is honestly cute because they were probably kids when the first one came out. I watched it with my mum who was a huge fan of the first movie when it first came out and it was honestly such a great treat. I am more than happy to report that ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is not only genuinely great but it fixes every single problem that it’s predecessor has and thus, exceeds it in every conceivable way.
major spoilers for ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ are featured in this review.
Putting Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis on every poster and having ‘Take My Breath Away’ be the main theme made it crystal clear that the first ‘Top Gun’ was more concerned about looking like this sexy epic romance story set in the US Navy than anything else. It wasn’t the most concerned with the emotional aspects of the plot, especially not the ones regarding Maverick and his mates, in fact, it did its utmost to avoid them. It was also quite anticlimactic seeing Goose’s death be the climactic point of the movie only for Tom Cruise to mope around on set instead of actually emote and show genuine grief and loss. It only touched upon the emotion that the movie should’ve brought out and in many ways, ‘Top Gun: Maverick‘ would work miraculously as a makeshift third act. I was genuinely surprised when I found myself tearing up multiple times throughout the movie! Making Maverick and Rooster the heart of this movie and its emotional core was an inspired decision. This movie got me to care not only for Maverick and the other characters but it made a movie I personally didn’t care about feel worthwhile and rewarding.
To sum this movie up from my perspective, ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is a super-sized episode of the hit NBC drama ‘This Is Us’ injected with all the adrenaline and suspense a huge blockbuster like ‘Top Gun’ would require. I compare it to ‘This Is Us’ purely because of how it tackles the emotional elements. It uses the past to mirror the present and presents the characters with the opportunity for change, giving them a second chance. The dynamic between Tom Cruise’s Maverick and Miles Teller’s Rooster was genuinely the heart of the film. The ‘Great Balls of Fire’ sequence early one made me tear up despite the fact that they never even interacted but they both sell it so well. It’s a great scene because you can clearly tell not only how much Maverick still feels guilty and horrible about what happened with his best friend but you feel the amount of respect and admiration Rooster has for his father. Maverick’s dilemma is quite a complex situation and it makes their relationship all the more heavier. It’s a touching tribute to the real pilots who genuinely have to face these risks and potentially lose their lives. It honours that through these characters so well and in return paints a very honourable portrait of real-life pilots which is further made even stronger with the huge importance of comradery. The first movie was very much concerned about Maverick and Goose so it never had that going for it meanwhile the sequel makes a strong effort to get us to care about every character which further builds the movie’s emotional integrity, something which pays off massively in the spectacular third act.
It’s quite funny how the biggest blockbuster of the summer will get you dehydrated in more ways than one because if you’re not crying, you are sweating nervously during the intense action-packed finale. Because of the determination to be as practical as possible and as believable as possible, this is a third act that felt refreshingly tangible and real. It is very telling that a movie that looks and feels like this managed to beat the latest Marvel movies and I’m not saying this to dunk on the MCU but the proof is in the pudding that when you actually do take the time and put passion into a movie to be the best that it can, it will make all the difference. Having the emotional weight really gave this finale a much needed sense of urgency and stakes. I couldn’t care less about what was happening in the first movie, truth be told, I don’t remember half of it. Here, however the action was consistently riveting not only because I was scared for the characters but also because of the effective camera-work and insane cinematography and shot composition. It’s a true spectacle in every way.
As a Little Monster, it also goes without saying that I have to talk about ‘Hold My Hand’. Gaga truly powers this ballad with her insane vocals. The big and heavy drums are effective, the guitar at the end is the cherry on top and the lyrics are beautifully sentimental. It’s a wonderful track and I love, absolutely love how it’s interwoven in the score which Gaga also worked on, I am super proud of her and I absolutely think this deserves a Best Original Song nod.
Overall, ‘Top Gun: Maverick‘ manages to exceed its predecessor in spectacular fashion. It manages to take the weaker parts of the first film, expand on them and bring out the best possible result. The prioritization of the emotional weight helps give the film a stronger script and a much more effective finale. The cast is fantastic, despite the fact that Tom Cruise has broken out of his typecasted role, he managed to slip back into that type of role while adding a nuance to it that is only achieved through experience and ageing. Miles Teller makes quite the comeback onto the big-screen and I hope that through a possible sequel we get to see more of him. The same goes for the other members who were just as charismatic. All in all, it’s a fantastic sequel and I truly wouldn’t mind going back to Top Gun if it is with this same cast and crew.
‘Top Gun: Maverick‘ is in cinemas now.