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July 2022

Top Gun: Maverick

Platform(s): Movie
Genre: Action
Publisher: Paramount
Release Date: May 27, 2022


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Movie Review - 'Top Gun: Maverick'

by Adam Pavlacka on May 13, 2022 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

After more than 30 years of service as one of the Navy's top aviators, Pete Mitchell is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him.

If you had told me a month ago that "Top Gun: Maverick" was going to be better than the original, I wouldn't have believed you. A long-delayed sequel to a classic '80s movie was always going to be a hard sell, but between director Joseph Kosinski and Tom Cruise, they somehow manage to knock it out of the park. Not only is "Top Gun: Maverick" better than the original film, but it's also one of the best movies of 2022.

The most masterful act of the film is how well Kosinski balances nostalgia with the necessity for a story that can stand on its own. Callbacks to the original movie abound. Some are blatant, like the title card and opening sequence that look like they were copied shot-for-shot, while others are more subtle. If you've never seen the original, you won't feel like you're missing a thing. All the necessary plot elements are referenced, but for those who have, the past is treated with the appropriate reverence.

Time has passed for the characters in the film at the same rate as it has in real life, so the Maverick we're introduced to at the start of the film is a bit older, a bit wiser, and somewhat haunted by the demons of his past. He'll still do anything for his team, and he puts loyalty over rules, but he can't shake the guilt of Goose's death. That guilt is the driving force behind Maverick's character development.

Despite pissing off yet another admiral, Maverick finds himself back at Top Gun, training a set of flyers who all graduated top of their class for what is considered an impossible mission. One of those pilots happens to be Rooster (Miles Teller), Goose's son, who holds a grudge against Maverick. Teller does a fantastic job of both channeling Anthony Edwards as well as pushing back against Maverick's tendency to take unnecessary risks. The level of resentment is palpable, but it's conveyed with a subtle look or a sideways glare. Teller manages to say volumes without having to spell it out.

Cruise has the same level of depth, expressing Maverick's personality through actions rather than words. Yes, some of this is his smartassery, but other parts are like the moment when he learns he'll be behind the stick and he's giddy with excitement, even if he can't say anything.

As Maverick works to pull the team together, he also reconnects with Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly). Penny is one of the deeper nostalgia cuts (she was the admiral's daughter mentioned in the first film, but she never appeared), and she also served as foil to Maverick's freewheeling lifestyle. It's obvious that the two had a past, but Penny moved on with life, while Maverick got stuck in place. She's also an integral part of helping him realize (and move past) his issues.

While the story and characters give "Top Gun: Maverick" a solid base, the star of the show is the dogfighting and aerial combat, and the movie delivers on all fronts. The close-in camera work will make you feel like you're right there, especially when viewed in IMAX. "Top Gun: Maverick" makes excellent use of the large-format IMAX screen ratio and pulls you into the action. At some point, I want to see an in-depth behind the scenes because I'd swear the producers had to slap an array of GoPros to the F/A-18s in order to get some of those shots.

If you think I'm exaggerating the level of crazy, the attack plan that the pilots are training for in the film looks like something right out of a video game. It's impressive that the movie makes it look risky yet plausible.

"Top Gun: Maverick" takes a break from the bombastic action at one point for a nod to Val Kilmer and his Iceman character. It's both a key moment in the film and a way to honor the veteran actor who was very much a part of the original movie but has suffered from cancer in recent years. It could have easily come off as cheesy, but Kosinski made it happen with class.

"Top Gun: Maverick" is a movie that channels nostalgia, has moments of self-reference, and rides the line of military propaganda, but it never overdoses on any of them. Kosinski keeps it all at the level of a tasting menu, resisting the urge to overindulge, and the movie is all the better for it. If you can make it to the theater for this one, do it. It's not only one of the best films of the year, but it's also a movie that should be seen on the biggest screen possible.

Score: 9.0/10

"Top Gun: Maverick" is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 131 minutes. It is showing in theaters in 2D and IMAX.

Editor's Note: You'll be able to continue the "Top Gun: Maverick" experience with free DLC for both Microsoft Flight Simulator and Ace Combat 7. The game DLC is set for release to coincide with the theatrical debut of the movie.

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