Tom Cruise and the summertime movie going theatrical experience are back, with Top Gun: Maverick. Top Gun: Maverick (TG:M) is a movie that demanded a global pandemic chill the fuck out long enough so that it could get into theaters and remind you that movies used to be about the magic, the fun, the thrills, the chills, and of course, The Tom Cruise. I’m not going to lie; I’ve never seen the original Top Gun and I very much had every opportunity to do so prior to seeing TG:M but I elected not to. I figured if Tom Cruise was touting this as the movie that was going to bring people back to the theaters, then I wanted to judge it based solely on its own merits, not the merits of a closer to 40 than 30 pre midlife crisis man boy hoping to rehash some nostalgia. So here we go, a review for a 36-year-old sequel, from a 36-year-old who has never seen the original.
TG:M starts off with our hero from the original, Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell (Tom Cruise), preparing for a test flight which hopes to set a new air speed record of Mach 10 to keep his department funded. Clearly time has passed, Maverick has aged, but don’t worry; even though Maverick is probably about 63 years old he only looks about 43 at most and has the muscles of someone in their 20’s, he’s going to be fine, he looks really good. There’s a sense of urgency because someone from the military played by Ed Harris (I assume Ed Harris played a bad guy in the first movie, but I don’t know because I didn’t see it) is coming to shut the project down the same day. Maverick defies orders to stay grounded, gets in the test plane and goes full Mach 10. The theater clapped.
Although the test flight is successful and Maverick hits the Mach 10 goal, the experimental plane is destroyed in a crash landing. Instead of being court martialed and sent to prison, Maverick receives the punishment of being grounded as a pilot and sent to be an instructor at his old stomping grounds, the TOP GUN FLIGHT SCHOOL. Although shaken at the idea of having to return to face his past, Maverick hops on his motorcycle from the first film and rides a highway all the way to the Danger Zone, and the box office. Seriously, if I knew the first film there’s probably about 10 call backs that I was missing. I know this from all the damn clapping and cheering for someone just riding a motorcycle down the road.
Once established as an instructor at the school, we are introduced to our new cast of young, hot shot pilots. We meet Ice Man 2.0 aka Hang Man, Rooster: Son of Goose, Girl Pilot with lines of dialog, Bob, and of course Grandpa Simpson and the rest of his platoon from the Flying Hellfish. They’re all suitable replacements for the original cast because they look and sound like the original cast and I think that is exactly what they were supposed to be. Naturally, the young new pilots haze and tease their gracefully aging instructor as is commonplace within military environments but the old man has a few tricks up his sleeve and shows these whipper snappers who’s still large and in charge around here. His names Maverick, and this guy fucks.
Speaking of which, Jennifer Connelly shows up not to long after and she looks older too. She looks older than Tom Cruise, but not as old as Ed Harris and Tom Cruise really likes her. She works at the bar the pilots all drink at, I assume this is the same thing she was doing in the first movie too but again, I don’t know because I didn’t see it. I’m also going to assume that Penny (Jennifer Connelly) was the love interest of Maverick in the first movie because of their clearly outlined past. I don’t have much to say about this or how it plays out honestly. TG:M is a movie made in 2019 that plays out like a sequel made in the 80’s but for modern day audiences. He totally gets the girl and it’s super respectful, my only complaint is that I wanted to really hear Take My Breath Away by Berlin during the romantic scenes, but it never happened. Guess I’ll have to go shopping at the grocery store at 11:30am on a Tuesday if I ever want to hear Take My Breath Away playing organically.
Before we can get on to the actual plot of the movie, let’s knock out one more aging piece of living nostalgia, shall we? I debated marking this section as a spoiler or even including it at all. Ice Man (Val Kilmer) is in this movie, and he has throat cancer and dies. I guess this is a cool part of the movie if you want to see that, but I thought it was weird because Val Kilmer has throat cancer and might die. This was weird, this was a weird part of the movie.
The plot to this movie is that an unnamed terrorist faction in a far away country has been developing a Uranium processing facility that needs to be destroyed located in an isolated mountain valley in the high desert. If there’s a country or military that exists in the real world attached to this threat, I never caught it. I’m not sure if maybe this movie had an identifiable enemy when it was originally intended to release in 2019 or not. It’s entirely possible with all the recent world events that at the last minute they reedited the film to remove any traces of a real people or country for the antagonist but in the end, there are no identifiable markers on any enemy planes, buildings, or landscapes. It was a very safe decision I suppose. Don’t worry too much about that though, the dangerous antagonists of the film are only present for the final act, let’s talk about our true bad guy of the movie.
A white storage container in the middle of the desert is the biggest threat of this movie. It almost kills more pilots than the surface to air missiles or enemy attack planes. The reason this white storage container exists in the middle of the desert is to simulate the difficult attack run the pilots must take on through a training exercise. It involves very high speeds, a high climb out of the canyon which causes the Gs to make you pass out, surface to air missiles, and many other dangers that will be presented during the mission. But in the end, it is a white storage container that gets more screen time than Ed Harris did, that is our true antagonist. Maybe it’s not important, but I feel like if I don’t mention it then it could go unnoticed. The plot to this movie is Star Wars: A New Hope, or maybe Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The plot of blowing up a tiny ventilation port inside of a hazardous canyon while outrunning stationary guns and enemy crafts is the plot line for the trench run on the Death Star in A New Hope. It’s also like The Force Awakens in that we do the same thing except this time the characters from the original are old. But it is the same plot and we’re going to see a lot of near hits and even more misses as our heroes try time and time again to land a shot on this white storage container sitting in the middle of the desert, mocking them. Mocking Tom Cruise.
In the final act, our heroes complete their mission and no one with a top billing dies. Damaged relationships between Son of Goose and Maverick are restored, the girl is got, plans for the future set-in motion and all’s well that ends well. A new team of Top Gun pilots are ready to take to the skies and defend our great nation. Movies are back baby, safer than ever and ready to receive your claps in the theater. All in all, I enjoyed this movie quite a bit, it really was a true summer blockbuster and the only movie I’ve seen in theaters within the last three years that had more seats filled than empty. It’s fun, it’s good for eating popcorn and it may be better if you haven’t seen the first film. I clapped so hard at the end that I went and bought a Chevy truck during the Memorial Day sale at your local Chevy dealer.