TOP GUN MAVERICK Review – Pushing The Eighties Memories To Eleven

In the spring of 1987, I distinctly remember going into a small four-screen theatre in Orange, California excited to see a double feature. Though uncommon these days, double features were popular with some studios late into their theatrical runs, and Paramount had a deal to see CROCODILE DUNDEE and TOP GUN back-to-back. My family was on a California trip at the time and after all the sightseeing, runs at Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm and even a jaunt down to San Diego, we needed some movies and air conditioning. 

While I remember laughing through CROCODILE DUNDEE, I was more excited to be a seven year old kid seeing TOP GUN. My mind was blown. It was loud, jets were flying everywhere and things went boom. My eyes were also covered during the “love” scene by my mom, mind you. I went on to buy the VHS tape and have had many copies of the movie over the years with great rewatch value (even leading to my recent Blu Ray review). 

But enough about my 80s memories. For years, there was talk about some kind of sequel or follow-up to the original movie in one way or another. Out of the entire pandemic, the new TOP GUN MAVERICK movie has been one of the most anticipated by movie buffs, as both Paramount and Tom Cruise decided to wait it out and let the pandemic do its thing and release in theatres rather than just get it immediately onto streaming services. Well here we are, two-plus years later, and it was worth the wait.

MAVERICK’s set-up here is rather brilliant, matching the original opening and title card but with modern flight equipment and some pretty impressive new cinematography and sound design. After Pete Mitchell (Cruise) has some fun as a test pilot and pushing past Mach-10, he is called back to be a Top Gun instructor to a group of recent graduates, the most notable is Lt. Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller) who is the son of “Goose” from the first movie. 

Their latest assignment is one of the best jokes in the movie, also carried over from the first one, with pilots flying below the “hard-deck”. Right after a sequence where pilots break this rule and Maverick is chewed out by his supervisor Cyclone (a terrific Jon Hamm with multiple great acting-is-reacting faces throughout), the assignment is some foreign targets that need to be destroyed with accuracy as close as demolishing the Death Star in STAR WARS, but Maverick has a plan hatched that breaks every rule of the hard-deck. 

Even from the opening moments, I can tell that great care was taken with making a follow-up movie decades later. A LOT can go wrong here, but we are also now in an era where the majority of audiences want the old mixed with the new, and they want it right. There are a lot of call-backs to the original movie; along with the already mentioned opening title cards and credits, there are many amusing references and even a few quick film clips placed here and there. Even a brief mention to Maverick’s pass on an admiral’s daughter, Penny Benjamin, comes back here in the full form of Jennifer Connelly, who Maverick runs back into at a bar in an amusing interaction early in the picture and develops a relationship with. All of this leads to a delirious, non-stop climax that completely took me out of my seat and into the screen by way of characters we give a damn about matched with near flawless pyrotechnics, flight photography and even some great humour thrown in.

Jason Whyte | Get Reel Movies

Filmmaker Joseph Kosinski, who I first noticed with TRON: LEGACY all the way back in 2010, is at the helm here this time and can tell he clearly loves Tony Scott’s vision and wants to honour the late, great director. While I didn’t love TRON overall, I did see a great visual style and design in him, and I knew it was going somewhere. A few years later, he greatly impressed me with the futuristic OBLIVION (2013), set in a post-apocalypse environment that also tried to have a positive outlook on its own future and this also his first collaboration with Cruise. Here, he modernizes a lot of the jets and their technology but also respects the then-futuristic planes of the original, especially in a later scene where a jet from the original movie is featured. Kosinski and his regular director of photography Claudio Miranda, who lenses the fight sequences in the large IMAX format, clearly understand how to wow the audience with aerial sequences that really did have me on the edge of my seat here. 

All of this comes back around to Cruise, an actor and entertainer that never seems to age. He I always at the top of his game and as per usual he’s terrific to watch, clearly valuing the hard work and going above and beyond. I was an instant fan of his as a kid seeing him on that big screen at a young age, and he still remains awesome to me all these decades later. TOP GUN: MAVERICK will be a movie I hope now-parents will bring THEIR kids to and keeping the cycle going.

Jason Whyte | Get Reel Movies

TOP GUN: MAVERICK is now playing in theatres. 

Boring Tech Notes: I saw the premiere of the movie in the IMAX format, where the movie has several sequences shot entirely in the IMAX digital aspect ratio but also has regular 2.39:1 sequences in between, of which came across a bit soft in comparison to the breathtaking IMAX footage. If you are able to see an IMAX version and your theatre does the projection well, it’s recommended, however if you have a theatre with a proper wide scope screen, seeing it in non-IMAX is a perfectly fine way to watch the movie as well. 

Leave a Reply