There’s no doubt that “Top Gun” has earned its fair place into pop culture over the years as it brought the action-hero side persona, of Hollywood’s now biggest action hero, into focus back in the 80s. But one doesn’t really associate or view that film through an emotional lens. Well, at least unless one doesn’t get too nostalgic about it. The 1986 film, mostly based on aesthetics, has permeated into pop culture not just due to the cool looking aviation and beach volleyball scenes it provided, but due to its very central focus on American individualism itself.
More than 35 years later, in “Top Gun: Maverick”, navy aviator Pete Mitchell is back and this time he’s banished back into a program where he teaches new recruits to fly at dangerously low altitudes. The emotional and dramatic stakes are way higher than they ever were in the original, partly because the writer-director of previous few Mission Impossible films- Christopher McQuarrie- produced and co-wrote this sequel as well. If the innumerable MI films weren’t enough to fuel in the myth of the 59 year old actor, this film immortalizes him. There’s evidently a lot of touches from that franchise over here in all the right ways. The film is surprisingly, very conservative- and is filled with extremely poignant moments. And yet, the kinetic energy and the sheer momentum with which the film takes off is simply outstanding- making Top Gun Maverick one of the best summer blockbusters we’ve had in a while!
We get an ailing Val Kilmer appear as Iceman (now Admiral Iceman), who was Pete’s rival in the first film and has now become his protector in the Navy bureaucracy. As Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, Miles Teller as Goose’s son does bear a striking resemblance to Anthony Edwards. The sequel does loop in the events of the first film- mainly the tragic death of Maverick’s long time friend Goose- in sparse moments. And yet, it never gets overly melodramatic or in the face.
There’s inevitable parallels the new Tom Cruise starrer has with 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Episode VII)”. The technically far superior aviation sequences (compared to the original films) aside, the two films also follow the same story structure in relation to their original source material. While doing so, both the movies assure the fans of living upto the age-old myths of their respective characters while also being inclusive and appealing enough to introduce the very myth to an entirely new generation.
Joseph Kosinski’s ultra-crisp direction combined with Claudio Miranda’s camera-in-the-cockpit cinematography adds an ineffable vigor to the visual language. In fact, the dogfights this time around are way more vivid than anything in the first previous film.
“Top Gun: Maverick” is a surface-to-air missile of a summer spectacle that balances itself between the thrust of high-flying aerial footage and the pitfalls of reinvigorating a famous IP. The 1986 film connected with millions as it captured a moment in time when American men felt like they would live forever. The illusion, however, breaks and the film’s most indelible moment comes when one of the lead pairs dies. The sequel makes the most of those amped up emotions and channels them in a seamless way into the screenplay. Ultimately, Maverick provides everything one would expect out of a Top Gun movie and more! Go grab your popcorn and make sure you experience the summer’s biggest adventure in IMAX.