In both television and film, 2020 and beyond have been the years of the reboot, revival, and franchise expansion — something that’s proven to not always be a good thing. However, I can confidently say that Top Gun: Maverick is an exception. In fact, I’d go so far as to put forth that it was better than the original classic. In a time of lackluster revivals, the second installment in the Top Gun franchise brings the perfect amount of homage and that patented 80s nostalgia to the screen while breathing new life into its storyline and characters.
Right off the bat, part of the film’s charm undoubtedly lies in the callbacks to the original movie. From the fast planes to the pervading theme music (yes, the iconic “Danger Zone” makes a reappearance) to a particular moment in Penny’s bar early on (no spoilers), that leaves no doubt in your mind Rooster is indeed Goose’s son, there are many memorable references and moments that appear in the narrative in some form or fashion.
However, the film doesn’t solely rely on the successes of days past, crafting a new storyline with new characters that will draw you in just as much as ones from the original film (I would die for the sweet, yet sarcastic Bob in a heartbeat). Newcomers like Pheonix and Hangman positively ooze the same spunk and cockiness reminiscent of characters like Iceman and Maverick themselves in their first trips to Top Gun, all hungry to prove they’re the best and jostling to earn their spot at the forefront. And yet, despite these similarities, they bring a distinctly different feel to the screen than the aviators of planes past. This also rings true for Miles Teller, who portrays Rooster, the son of the late Goose (Anthony Edwards), as a distinct personality from his father, but still with obvious influences from him. One thing I would have loved to see was any mention of Charlie, who was a large part of the original film.
Additionally, I found the plotline of Top Gun: Maverick to be more concrete than its predecessor (a tad of Mission: Impossible vibes, but that’s Tom Cruise for you), something that, in my eyes, undoubtedly lends the film some credibility. Unlike in the original, where the somewhat ambling goal was to graduate as the best of the best (subsequent obstacles were encountered along the way), the presence of a concrete mission in the sequel both helped control the pacing of the movie while providing a simultaneously dividing and uniting force that drove the plot forward. Coupled with the conflict between Maverick and Rooster and a new love interest for Maverick, this sequel is more multifaceted and well-rounded in terms of the plot.
And when you’re listing the film’s merits, of course, there’s the action. Top Gun: Maverick is even more fast-paced than the original, with the integration of modern planes really upping the wow factor (those F-18s are sweet). The maneuvers these sleek jets undertake are even more graceful than the ones shown in the original film and will have your adrenaline pumping double-time as they maneuver in the sky. The action becomes even more impressive when you learn of the training the actors went through to prepare for the role (yes, they were actually in the planes) — something lead actor and EP Tom Cruise insisted upon.
Speaking of Mr. Cruise, we can’t forget about the movie’s leading man and namesake — Maverick. One of the best things about the film is that Maverick is still … Maverick — albeit maybe the teensiest bit more responsible (yet somehow still equally reckless). Cruise brings the same swagger and bravado to the character he originally portrayed over 30 years ago, infusing the role with the same energy and spirit of the original film while giving the newcomers their time to shine as well.
Overall, these things combine to make a movie that’ll have you glued to your seats for its 137-minute duration. I’ll be the first to admit that I was a bit skeptical walking into the theatre for this one, but I was pleasantly surprised at the film that unfolded before me. I wholeheartedly believe that fans and critics alike of the 1986 original will walk out of the theater satisfied with the action-packed yet heartfelt story that just unfolded before their eyes. Top Gun: Maverick is one revival this year that you won’t want to miss. The planes are faster, the storyline is stronger, and at the heart of it all, the sequel still encompasses the same spirit of the original. That is why Top Gun: Maverick will be even more successful than its predecessor.