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1986’s Top Gun never felt like it needed a second instalment. The ballad of Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell told a seemingly complete story about an exceptional naval aviator and his experience of earning his place among the best of the best. And yet, more than 25 years later, we’re met with Top Gun: Maverick: a follow-up to Tony Scott and Jerry Bruckheimer’s blockbuster.
The sequel I never knew I needed begins with a clear tribute to the past, serving up opening titles that will have you believing you’re watching the original movie. On-screen text tells us that Top Gun is the name students use for the fighter pilot training school where aviators learn the “lost art of aerial combat”. This familiarity soon gives way to a more contemporary setup, though.
See the trailer for Top Gun: Maverick here:
Tom Cruise’s Maverick may look only ever so slightly older, but our titular hero is still clearly the same lovable, boyish rogue from his mid-80s heyday. Now working as a test pilot instead of a combat aviator, our hero’s new role feels more suited to the world of Damien Chazelle’s First Man than the call-up movie stylings of Top Gun.
However, that soon changes when Maverick’s renegade tendencies take centre stage, and we’re treated to a tense, engrossing sequence that thoroughly plants us, the viewer, in the reality of Top Gun: Maverick.
Despite many of the characters feeling more like superheroes than soldiers, with their perfect physiques and witty one-liners, Maverick is an extremely immersive movie. Watching in IMAX, it’s impossible not to feel as though you’re sitting in the box with Cruise’s character, watching on as he pulls amazing feat after amazing feat.
Essentially, Top Gun: Maverick feels like you’re on a roller coaster in a more serious sense: it’s thrilling but you are mindful of the risks. The fist-clenching, jaw-tightening stakes of supersonic flight are expertly communicated through the screen, and the whole experience is majestic.
What strikes me most about Top Gun: Maverick is the sheer temerity of it all. It walks a tightrope by being serious and outlandish all at once, and never makes a misstep. Aerial manoeuvres that look and feel impossible are accepted because Maverick is essentially the perfect pilot, and the film somehow stays grounded in its reality despite its supernatural flights.
This is a movie that openly calls back to its past without ever cheapening its impact. The affectionate winks to its history are so well executed that they will in no way hinder the enjoyment of a complete newcomer to the franchise. You just need to look at Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness to see how easy it is to fumble your playful references.
Just as 1986’s Top Gun was a cheesy action romp, Maverick is, too. However, the sequel spends less time talking up the technological brilliance of the U.S. Navy. Instead, our heroes are flying relatively inferior F-18s against a nameless enemy, and this shift to underdog status makes for a more intense affair.
As Maverick and co. are the lesser side, in some respects, the stakes are higher. It’s in these moments that Miles Teller’s Rooster - son of Anthony Edwards’ Goose - excels as a character. Teller portrays an anxious, resentful figure who has bad blood with Maverick, yet never loses our sympathy.
Going back to the cheesiness, there are moments where Top Gun: Maverick feels almost too silly, like a musical theatre production. The cast become visibly choreographed in these instances, but perhaps these scenes are intentional moments of levity from the drama. A brief respite from the heavy tone that dominates much of the film.
Couple this with the blunt, open way Top Gun: Maverick declares itself a blockbuster inspired by days of yore, and it’s incredible how the film feels real despite the brazen self-awareness. The dialogue is so on the nose and yet it’s as if you’re really there on North Island, with the scent of the ocean air wafting in your face.
Most impressive of all are the flight sequences. Watching Maverick’s brow contort as the g-force pulls against him is one thing, but the special effects used to achieve the spectacle of simulated flight are marvellous. I was dumbfounded by how real it all looked, and I almost believed Tom Cruise was really piloting an F-18 at times. Astounding stuff.
I can safely say Top Gun: Maverick is close to perfect. It’s serious yet silly. It’s visually impressive beyond belief. Most of all, it’s a sequel that honours the past while making the most of what films are capable of in the modern day. A must-see movie for fans, and an epic blockbuster for all.
Top Gun: Maverick is exclusively in cinemas 25th May in 4DX and IMAX.
Featured Image Credit: Paramount Pictures
Topics: TV And Film
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