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Top Gun: Maverick Review

Top Gun: Maverick Review

After a decade in development and a near 3-year delay to its theatrical release thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Top Gun: Maverick is finally here. And I'll be the first to tell you, it was worth the wait.

Last night I attended an early access IMAX premiere of the film in what was referred to as "Top Gun Tuesday." Goodies that were included with the fan event included a limited edition Maverick helmet enamel pin and collector poster (I just got the poster.) 

Before the film, we were treated to a trailer for Mission Impossible Dead Reckoning: Part One starring Tom Cruise which is set to release July 2023. We also watched a short featurette of Top Gun: Maverick premieres worldwide beginning in San Diego aboard the U.S.S. Midway in which Cruise flew in on a branded helicopter.

courtesy Depositphotos

Cruise also greeted us before the film with a special message, sending his appreciation to the military and to Top Gun fans who have waited patiently to see the sequel.

REVIEW

(I'm trying to keep my review relatively spoiler free beyond what was released in the trailers. If you are avoiding trailers and minor details, then come back to my review after watching the film.)

I really enjoyed the film and thought it lived up to the 3-years worth of hype that I bought into (mainly  from trailer footage.) To be honest, I didn't really care how they were going to continue the story. I was going to be there for the aerial footage and effects which looked amazing in the teaser trailers. The IMAX presentation certainly didn't disappoint and I may look for a chance to go watch it again before it leaves theaters.

What I Liked

Top Gun: Maverick touches all the feels that a fan could want. The beginning and end credits mirror those in the first film with flight deck action, orange sky backgrounds, and the original theme by Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens that we all love. Some of the music from the original soundtrack is used but I did like the new songs that were added.

I really liked the cast, both the young actors and the veterans. Ed Harris and John Hamm bring solid performances opposite Cruise. Jennifer Connelly was great at trying to wrangle Mav back down to earth. The new class at Top Gun did a great job bringing the tension and arrogance that Mav and Ice had in the first film, especially Glen Powell as "Hangman" and Miles Teller as "Rooster."

The dogfighting choreography of the planes and even the training sequences leading up to the mission were well planned and I'm not sure will ever be topped on screen. I know much of the footage was real (stressed by Cruise in his message before the film) but the CGI was so good that it all looked very real and believable.

I'm really glad they included Val Kilmer and how they integrated his current condition into the story. His daughter even called it "very special" and I think fans will agree. I've seen most call it a cameo role but it felt more than that to me.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much the story worked. Like I said earlier, I was there for the aerial footage but where they put Maverick in his career and recalling him to Top Gun felt natural. We all knew Mav would still be flying by the seat of his pants (and he pretty much does throughout the film) yet the story arc showed a progression that really grounded the character at times.

At the end of the film, I really liked how they worked Mav back into the cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat. Of course, F/A-18 Hornets are primarily used throughout the film but the writers were really creative in bringing back the classic fighter.

What I Didn't Like

I rated Top Gun: Maverick 4.5 stars on Letterboxd so most of these are just my personal nitpicks.

There are some very humorous moments in the film, most of them worked but some during more serious moments came off a little over the top.

The film is very ambiguous about the enemy and the "5th Generation" fighters that it possesses. I know that in this day-in-age, Hollywood tends to generalize its bad guys so that films will be shown worldwide. However, having a faceless enemy loses some of the real world tension unlike films back in the day that were all about defeating the Russians and terrorists from the Middle East.

I know that it's not a given to bring back cast members for a sequel. The "cop out" is usually creative differences between the filmmakers and the actors, but there can be many different reasons when there are 3 decades between sequels. I'm not sure what the reasons were for this film but it would've been nice to include the characters that Kelly McGillis and Meg Ryan played into TG:M's story a little more. Only one of them is briefly mentioned and I would've liked just a little more detail written into the script.

Where Does Top Gun Go From Here?

I wouldn't call Top Gun: Maverick a definitive final chapter, but if another sequel doesn't happened, I think there is enough resolved in the film to complete the story. I feel like a streaming series could happen (especially if they can use any of the 800 hours of footage that was shot) but the budget would still probably be too high to justify it happening. However, with critics raving and a box office that potentially has a chance to win the summer, never say never.

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