At the beginning of “Top Gun: Maverick”, Tom Cruise hops on his flashy motorcycle dressed in aviator sunglasses and a leather jacket with patches, and speeds up in a time machine. No, that’s not correct. It is really us who travel back.
More than 30 years after reaching the egregious heights of the ’80s, codenamed Maverick Navy pilot Maverick, he effortlessly chose the character in a new chapter of “Top Gun,” an entirely enjoyable ride—a Textbook example of how to make a sequel.
“Top Gun: Maverick” satisfies a foot into the past by hitting all the touchstones of the first film—fast motorcycles, the song “Danger Zone,” military fetishism, humorless navy bosses, shirtless bonding sports, “Hard Deck,” the bar The singalong and the tower buzzes – and still stands on its own. It isn’t weighed down by its past like previous “Ghostbusters” sequels, but instead climbs up by using the second to respond to and resonate issues with the first.
Of course, Cruise is taking back his rebel test pilot, now based in a forgotten corner of the Mojave Desert, a mere captain when he’s supposed to be a general as he keeps undermining authority. The years didn’t calm Maverick with his impulsive, hot-headed style. Pilots do, they argue; They do not rejoice. “There you think, you’re dead,” he says. This cruise is at his most cruise-ist, coiled, fixed and arrogant, sun-shining teeth.
His once rival Iceman – Val Kilmer – is also back, now a huge Navy muck-up. And even Goose is back, through his son, the same moustache Miles Teller, who is surprisingly similar to Anthony Edwards, the actor who played the doomed wingman in the first film. . This death is even 30 years older for Maverick: “Talk to me, Hans,” he’d whisper to himself.
Some things have changed, of course. The F-14A Tomcats have been replaced by the F/A-18 and the all-male cocky pilots from the first film are infiltrated by some cocky women. Unfortunately, it seems these are the last days of envelope-pushing men and women in naval aviation; Pilotless aircraft are more reliable and they are next. “The future is coming and you’re not in it,” one official, played by Jon Hamm with deliciously cool fury, told Maverick.
But Maverick, on the verge of extinction, has one last job for the Navy: train a group of young hotshots for a dangerous bombing mission in Iran. One potential snag: The young hotshots he must train include Son of Goose, codenamed Rooster. Will Maverick be responsible for cooking up another goose?
Director Joseph Kosinski brings a visceral feel to the film, somehow making us feel claustrophobic in the open skies as the pilots swoop and spin. He works wonderfully, alternating between loud scenes outside with quiet people inside with airplane engines roaring and almost whispers. He also switches from brilliant sun to dark interiors.
A welcome touch to the screenplay by Eren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie is a new love interest for Maverick. Jennifer Connelly plays a divorced bar owner who has both a townhouse, a beach house, a sailboat, and a Porsche, so business is good. But he’s also not a push-over to the frequent Maverick and, in a key scene, he’s a casual pilot of a boat and he’s oblivious.
It is more thoughtful tramp, more gloomy. “Top Gun: Maverick” is in some ways a meditation on what happens to talented rebels later in life. He is guilt-ridden and in one scene he is picked up and thrown out of a bar by the same hotshots he was in 30 years ago. Worst of all, he’s called “Pop”. What’s remarkable is that Cruise seems to have actually found a way to fail the timing. His chiseled body and still childish face stand out from his three decades of junior pilots during a football game on the beach.
The film handles Maverick’s personal things – wooing the barmaid, mending his relationship with Goose’s child – while also fulfilling its promise as an action film. There are 10Gs pulling jets, the metallic sound of cockpit sticks pulled into gear, epic dogfights and the sounds of machinery on the demands placed on it. The action also comes with some unexpected and thrilling twists. So jump on Maverick’s bike, hug him tightly and join him in the danger zone on the highway.
“Top Gun: Maverick,” a Paramount Pictures release that hits theaters May 27, is rated PG-13 for “intense action and some strong language scenes.” Running time: 131 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.
MPAA definition of PG-13: Strong warning to parents. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Mark Kennedy is here http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits