Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes
THE DANGER ZONE — I cannot remember anything I have waited for more patiently in my life than the sequel to the original "Top Gun" movie. Thirty-six years later, the wait is finally over and the big question everyone is asking is: "Was the wait worth it?"
Well, my good friends, lucky for you, the answer is a resounding yes.
Now, let me be clear. I understand that I was the target audience for this film 36 years ago and I also understand that I am still the target audience for this film almost four decades later. The long wait, I think, is where the value in this film lies.
For everyone who saw the original, we were able to relate to the main characters — if not relate to, at least able to imagine ourselves in their place. So many years later, as a much older — and arguably wiser — adult with a lot of life under my belt, I am still able to relate to the characters, through the struggles and life experiences we have all endured.
The fact that this film is so self-aware is where its genius lies. Let's get into why.
A movie really is nothing without great writing, and "Top Gun: Maverick" would have been nothing without Christopher McQuarrie heading up the writing team. If you remember movies like "The Usual Suspects," "Edge of Tomorrow" and "Mission: Impossible – Fallout," then you know what kind of talent McQuarrie brings to the table in this film.
What I appreciate about this movie is that it was able to capture that classic 1980s build-up movie feel. Even though you know exactly what's going to happen, you cannot wait for every minute you have left to the inevitable conclusion. Each scene ratchets up the action and tension in all the best ways.
McQuarrie and team do a great job of catching us up on what has happened in the last 36 years between films with creative use of still images of the first "Top Gun" throughout the film. Even if you didn't see the original or forgot most of it, like me, you still know what's going on.
Don't get me wrong, there are some unavoidably cheesy moments in this film, but that just adds to the charm somehow. With so many opportunities for this movie to go off the rails, it held its course and delivered its payload with the precision of a laser-guided bomb (obligatory movie reference).
From the beginning, this movie demands your attention and does not let go until the end credits roll. With a mix of CGI and practical effects, we are given the best of all worlds when it comes to delivering a lot of explosions, intense dog fights, and even digitally replicating Val Kilmer's voice.
What really impressed me was the use of actual U.S. Air Force fighter jets in this film. What's even more impressive is that it cost the studio $11,000 an hour to use them. The results were very believable flight and fight sequences that added to the overall appeal and intensity of this movie.
The pacing of this film and its ratio of storytelling to blowing stuff up was perfect, It will keep you engaged in the story while also on the edge of your seat.
I reluctantly list acting as one of the "good" things about this film, but I do so because the cast was filled with solid actors and everyone did their job to put together at least a believable performance — the standouts being Tom Cruise, Miles Teller and Jennifer Connelly.
I have to give it to Cruise in this film as he yet again proves his dedication to his craft pays off in entertaining movies. With Cruise's insistence on doing all of his own stunts, we get to see him at the controls of some of the military's most impressive weapons. Although he is not indeed piloting the taxpayer-owned $70 million aircraft, he is in the cockpit while a real Navy pilot operates it in some of the most intense airborne scenes ever filmed.
I'll be honest: There is not a lot about this film to not like. It is fun, engaging, entertaining and mathematically calculated to trigger perfectly timed dopamine hits. However, if I had one complaint it would be that not enough time was spent on developing the secondary characters — more specifically the new batch of Top Gun pilots that Cruise has to train.
We care about this new Top Gun team, but only to a point. Then they just become stereotypes and caricatures of who we think they should be. In fact, I can remember specific information about only three out of the 12 we are introduced to in the film.
Should I see it?
"Top Gun: Maverick" will go down in the record books as one of the rare sequels that was better than the first, and not by a little. The film was intense and engaging all the way through. Arguably, the 36 years in between both films was the perfect amount of time needed to tell this story the way it needed to be told.
If I'm being completely honest, the first "Top Gun," at this point, is just the backstory and a little context for "Top Gun: Maverick."
Yes, you should go see it.
Editor's note: "Top Gun: Maverick" is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and some strong language.