Top Gun: Maverick took nearly four decades to make. That in mind, much has changed since Top Gun first took audiences into the danger zone in 1986, so it would be easy enough to wonder if a sequel it even necessary thirty-odd years later. Like it’s namesake, Top Gun: Maverick is out to prove its relevance in the 21st century. Director Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy 2010, Oblivion 2013) flies Top Gun into the modern era, artfully showing off tricks that put this film high in the running for the best Action film in recent memory. See for yourself when Top Gun: Maverick finally soared into theaters nationwide May 27, 2022 through Paramount Pictures.
There can obviously be no Top Gun without Tom Cruise (Jerry Maguire 1996, Mission: Impossible – Fallout 2018). As executive producer this time around, Cruise’s thumbprint is visible in every frame. Truly one of the last of kind, his vision and dedication are the driving force behind the film. Maverick is every bit the charming, insubordinate pilot with a chip on his shoulder that you remember, just with a few more chips this time around.
When Maverick is called back to Top Gun to train a group of hotshot youngsters to fly an impossible mission against a nameless enemy, he finds more at stake now than ever before. Among this group of lovable newcomers is “Rooster” (Miles Teller: Whiplash 2014, The Offer 2022), son of Maverick’s beloved partner “Goose.” Their fraught history ties together the old and the new—a balance that Kosinski manages exceptionally well.
If you are expecting nothing more than a nostalgia trip with Top Gun: Maverick, you’ll be disappointed. Of course, there are plenty of callbacks and parallels, but each serves a distinct purpose. For all its similarities—like a topless round of sports on the beach—Top Gun: Maverick never panders to its audience just for the sake of it. It is a film made for Top Gun fans, yes, but in the same turn, it is every bit a modern Action blockbuster that brand new viewers can get lost in. If you haven’t seen the original (why not?), the story will catch you up on what you missed.
Those die-hard fans will of course get the most out of this experience, of course—Val Kilmer’s brief re-appearance as “Iceman” is particularly emotional—but Top Gun: Maverick wastes no time in getting viewers attached to its new class of pilots, especially Phoenix (Monica Barbaro: The Good Cop 2018, Stumptown series). These characters get just enough screen time to get attached, though it would have been great to see more of them. Also new to the cast is Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly: Labyrinth 1986, Alita: Battle Angel 2019), Maverick’s love interest and admiral’s daughter who you may remember Maverick mentioning back in Top Gun. While Maverick doesn’t really need a romantic interest, Connelly does her best with the thin material she’s given.
Remember, though, this is Maverick’s movie. Cruise gives his all to every scene, proving that he is every bit the action star he has always been. Cruise and the other actors are in real planes, enduring rigorous training with the help of the Navy to provide audiences with some of the most authentic, edge-of-your-seat action sequences. Every time Maverick is in the air, the stakes are higher and the stunts are so intense you can’t help but hold your breath. Years of work went into bringing this film to life—and it was worth it.
On top of everything else, Top Gun: Maverick’s got style. Saturated colors that call back to the deep oranges, greens, and blues of the original, coupled with striking camera work make every frame something worth exploring. Again, Kosinski and Cinematographer Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi 2012, Oblivion 2013) strike a perfect balance between past and present.
You can bet that you will not see anything soaring past the heights of Top Gun: Maverick anytime soon. Practical effects, slick editing, all-star performances, and remarkable cinematography steer this ’80s classic into the modern era without losing sight of what makes the original so beloved. Any wrong maneuver could have this film feel forced or dated, but instead Top Gun: Maverick proves its relevance with every heart-pounding scene. For an incredible ride back into the danger zone, Cryptic Rock gives Top Gun: Maverick 5 out of 5 stars.