Movie Review - Paramount's Top Gun: Maverick (SPOILER-FREE)

Feel the need...the need for speed.

Top Gun: Maverick is a 2022 action drama film directed by Joseph Kosinski, written by Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie, produced by Skydance Media and Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films, and distributed by Paramount Pictures. The film stars Tom Cruise and Miles Teller. This is the second film in the Top Gun franchise. It was preceded by Top Gun.


"You don't have time to think up there. You think up there, you're dead. Believe me." - Pete "Maverick" Mitchell

Plot


Thirty years after graduating from TOPGUN, Pete Mitchell returns to his old stomping grounds to train a new batch of pilots for a ridiculously dangerous mission that only the best of the best can take on.


Maverick / Direction / Other Characters / Audience Investment / Emotional Story / Layers and Complexity / Script / Action Sequences and Stunts / Unpredictability / Being a Great Sequel to Top Gun / Nostalgia / Romantic Subplot / Underdeveloped Elements


Should you go see Top Gun: Maverick?


Final Score


The Sweet


I don't like Top Gun. Everything, and I mean literally everything, about Top Gun: Maverick is better.


My favorite part of the film is our titular protagonist himself. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell was a charming lead in the first film that learns how to keep his ego in check after his best friend dies and he spirals into a deep depression. This film sees Maverick still dealing with the death of Goose, and that leads him on one of the most intelligent and amazing character arcs I've seen in a while. He still has that bit of ego and pride to him that was present in the first movie. He does these things throughout the movie that will make you smile. But the emotional journey that he goes on with his relationship to Rooster, Goose's son, and how he learns through being a teacher is absolutely stunning. After this film, Maverick has legitimately become one of my favorite movie characters. I was amazed at what they did with him.


I don't really know who Joseph Kosinski is, but his direction is absolutely incredible. Tony Scott, the director of the first Top Gun, is a great director in his own right and has made some of my favorite movies, but Kosinski brings a sense of nostalgia to Maverick. It has the same vibe of Top Gun without being a re-tread. It's beautifully shot. Kosinski makes the action more exciting than it was in the original. He did a great job with this movie. I was really impressed.


The side characters in this movie are also great. Top Gun has likable characters, but Maverick ups that ante. Maverick shows them interacting in a different way than Top Gun did. You can tell that this is a group of characters who care about each other. There's little rivalries here and there. But from Rooster to Phoenix to Hangman to Bob, all of these characters were just incredibly memorable and very likable. They feel like people you would want to hang out with. Maybe play a game of Poker with them. I don't know. They're great.


One of the cardinal issues with Top Gun is its failure to encapsulate the audience. I wasn't invested in the story. Goose's death was sad, but had I been truly invested in the movie, I would've felt a punch to the gut. Maverick got me so invested in its story and characters. You as the audience will feel every moment. The victories, the losses, the redemptions, the tensions, all of it...every moment evoked some kind of emotional response from me. I can't remember the last time I cared this much about a movie. I was just so wrapped up in this film!


Part of what makes Maverick lightyears better than Top Gun is the emotion that comes along with the story. It wastes no time getting into the film. We are introduced to Maverick and we see where he is in life, and then we go straight to the main plot. However, it doesn't rush its plot points. It lets everything breathe and settle in so that you care about everything going on. Like I said before, I was so invested in this movie that almost every single moment earned a response from me. The film lets the story and characters wash over you like a nice, soft wave. It doesn't smack you over the face with plot points and rushed character development. It sits and takes its time to just engulf you in this story. It was amazing.


The story also had a surprising amount of depth and complexity to it. When you think Top Gun, great writing and deep storytelling is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. However, Maverick is able to give you a fairly straightforward story that also has tons of extra levels and layers to it, whether that's character relationships or Maverick's inner battle with himself. There's so much more than what's presented on the surface. I love when a movie needs multiple viewings to fully capture the essence of the story, with all of its themes and extra bits being discovered upon a second or third viewing.


Maverick also has a shockingly good script. Three people wrote this movie. It's been in production since 2010. It got delayed, like, forty times because of the pandemic. How on Earth did it manage to have one of the best screenplays of the last twenty years? The film has some great dialogue that makes you love the characters, but it also has incredible amounts of setup and pay off that are so satisfying. As I said before, the characters and their relationships are a key part of this movie, and they are written so well. I am still stunned at how great of a movie this is.


As I talked about in my section on Kosinski's direction, the action sequences here are pretty good. I've never been a huge fan of plane action because I have a hard time distinguishing who is in which plane and all that jazz, so I really don't like the action in the original Top Gun. However, Maverick sets up its action sequences really well. Like I said before, Kosinski is also a great director, so he handles the action in a way where you know what's going on. There's proper tension and payoff as well as excitement because you know which plane has which characters and which plane needs to do what at which exact moment. There's a little intro that's played at the beginning of the movie where Tom Cruise says that he wanted to make Maverick feel "as authentic as possible"...and it absolutely does.


The film also does a great job of subverting your expectations (in a good way). You think the film is heading in one direction, and then there's a complete curveball and something really unexpected happens. That happens multiple times throughout, and every time it did, I smiled. It sets up all the cliches, but it doesn't really follow them.


What shocked me most about Maverick was it's ability to be a great standalone movie, but also be an amazing follow-up to Top Gun. As I've stated multiple times throughout this review, I do not like Top Gun. I think it is a legitimately bad movie. However, it ends on a higher note than the rest of the movie, and Maverick follows through on that high note. The film incorporates Maverick's arc from that first film while also giving you proper continuations of Goose's character and Iceman's character. I was genuinely amazed at how great it was at being Top Gun 2.


Finally, the film also does do a good job of playing the nostalgia card. There are clear callbacks to the first movie. It has that 80s vibe to it while eliminating most of the terrible cheese that clouds the first Top Gun. If you grew up with Top Gun, you will love this movie even more than I did...and I loved this movie a lot. But it will be a special film if Top Gun is one of your favorite movies.


The Sour


The biggest problem with the film is the romantic subplot involving Maverick and Jennifer Connelly's character. In Top Gun, Maverick's love interest is Charlie Blackwood, played by Kelly McGillis. McGillis does not return in this film, and is replaced instead by Penny Benjamin, played by Jennifer Connelly. The film does a nice enough job of implying their history together, but it also feels like it assumes we know Penny, even though she wasn't mentioned in Top Gun. It's a strange subplot that sometimes works, sometimes doesn't, but feels a little bit awkward and clunky overall because Penny is a new character. It also seems like they needed to squeeze a romantic subplot in there for Maverick, so that storyline feels a bit tacked on and unnecessary.


While the screenplay for Top Gun: Maverick is near perfect, it is not. There are definitely elements of this movie that could've used a little more development. I think they needed to give us a few more moments between Maverick and Rooster to make you fully feel the impact of their relationship. While I did still feel their moments, it seemed like they could've developed their relationship just a tiny bit more to make those moments even more powerful.


But that's it. Top Gun: Maverick is a fantastic movie.


Should you go see Top Gun: Maverick?


Guys. Top Gun: Maverick is the blockbuster of the year. Rush out to see it as soon as possible AND see it on the biggest screen possible. This is definitely an IMAX-worthy experience.


Final Score


After nearly forty years, Tom Cruise returns to TOPGUN in one of the best blockbusters of the 21st century. Please go see this movie, especially if you are a Top Gun fan. It's incredible.


I will give it a Sweet. Age range is 8+.


SWEET N' SOUR SCALE

Sweet (Great) Savory (Good)

Sour (Bad)

Moldy (Terrible)


"Top Gun: Maverick"


Fun Factor: 9/10

Acting: 8.5/10

Story: 10/10

Characters: 9.5/10

Quality: 9.5/10


Directed by Joseph Kosinski


Rated PG-13 for moderate violence and action, language, suggestive material, thematic elements


Released on May 27, 2022


2 hours and 17 minutes


Tom Cruise as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell

Miles Teller as Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw

Jennifer Connelly as Penny Benjamin

Glen Powell as Jake "Hangman" Seresin

Monice Barbaro as Natasha "Phoenix" Trace

Jon Hamm as Beau "Cyclone" Simpson

Val Kilmer as Tom "Iceman" Kazansky

Lewis Pullman as Robert "Bob" Floyd

Jay Ellis as Reuben "Payback" Fitch

Danny Ramirez as Mickey "Fanboy" Garcia

Bashir Salahuddin as Bernie "Hondo" Coleman

Charles Parnell as Solomon "Warlock" Bates

Ed Harris as Chester "Hammer" Cain

Greg Tarzan Davis as Javy "Coyote" Machado