Viewing Top Gun: Maverick in the theaters was an intense and enthralling experience. I absolutely loved it. One of the best Tom Cruise movies I have seen and my current favorite film of the year (have yet to see Everything Everywhere All At Once). It was unbelievably good. Not only was it enjoyably satisfying but it was emotionally compelling. I was spellbound for the whole runtime.
Top Gun: Maverick enhances everything from the first film and builds off the events taking place decades later to construct a story that concludes the narrative surrounding the legacy characters in a gratifying manner. 36 years have passed since the first Top Gun was released and that sense of time is felt intimately within Top Gun: Maverick. Even the tragedy within the first film was further elevated emotionally and thematically in Maverick.
There are two climatic moments within the film (you’ll know which ones they are when you watch it) that were undeniably exhilarating and had me clenching hard. My left hand was reactively squeezing my right bicep to keep myself stable from the immense rush of intensity and excitement. I am not joking when I say that those climatic moments are crafted with such precision and care that you are instantaneously engrossed within that experience. The emotions you develop for the characters as a viewer becomes the context for which the drama can be leveraged to further enhance the entrancement taking place.
As the title conveys, Maverick is the heart of the film. His development across the first film is brought forward into the current time to both build off of who Maverick grew into and to take him on a new experience to evolve from. In Top Gun (1986), Maverick goes on a journey of self-discovery where he learns to better understand himself. His past of losing his father in an event undisclosed to the public due to confidentiality created an uncertainty within Maverick that attributed to his penchant for recklessness. Not knowing what happened to his father led to him garnering an intense belief behind his own self. The “truth” in Maverick’s mind wasn’t something set in stone, so where others saw implausibility, Maverick saw possibility. The line of danger Maverick walks was a choice seemingly derived from his grief. A choice that was ultimately met with consequences during the events within the first film which Maverick found perspective in. Those events themed around love, ambition, friendship (/bromance) and tragedy aptly play a part in deconstructing Maverick for the audience to understand. The manner in how Maverick is built back up in both the Top Gun films provides a character whom naturally comes to invoke motivational thoughts within the viewer.
Within the first film, Maverick developed from a character apprehensive toward the truth to one embracing of its uncertainty. He comes to understand himself AND others more which explains him throwing Goose’s ‘dog tag’ and his decision to become a Top Gun instructor. While that role did not last long, Top Gun: Maverick provides Maverick with a second chance to mentor a new generation of pilots and impart his knowledge, skills and spirit onto them. The tragedy from the first film sources the grief Maverick feels within this film but what sustains Maverick through the uncertainty is his role as instructor. The responsibility he feels, the awareness of his capabilities and the support of Penny (an old associate) within this film all provide Maverick with the perspective he needs to arrive at answer on how he can challenge the obstructions he encounters within this film.
On the topic of Penny, I didn’t initially realise Jennifer Connelly was in the film too. I loved her in Alita Battle Angel (an anime to live-action adaptation that worked incredibly) so I was pleasantly surprised to see her in Top Gun: Maverick. She is 51 years old and still gorgeous.
As for what happens to Top Gun going forward, this film does lay down the foundation for a potential path forward beyond Maverick. The film doesn’t handle itself with any intention of initiating a sequel as it was solely focused on establishing a great movie experience but if Paramount wishes to continue the story of Top Gun, there is a way forward (think Creed). Overall, Top Gun: Maverick was a phenomenal experience which I enjoyed thoroughly. I had high expectations coming into the theater and I was not disappointed at all. An easy grading for me and a definite recommend.
Enjoyment level: 10/10