Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Top Gun: Maverick


In his more than three decades of serving in the navy, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) remains a test pilot, intentionally avoiding any kind of career progression. After destroying an expensive aircraft in a test flight which sees him exceeding a G-force of 10, he finds an unexpected exit point as he is called back to become an instructor at Top Gun. The mission involves the nearly impossible task of a preemptive strike of an enemy state’s nuclear production facility guarded by surface to air missile machinery and fighter jets that can rival their own. The crew comprises a new batch of elite Top Gun alums which include cocky Jake “Hangman” Seresin (Glen Powell), WSO Robert “Bob” Floyd (Lewis Pullman), trainee Natasha “Phoenix” Trace (Monica Barbaro), and Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of his late best friend and RIO Goose.

A “requel” done right. Top Gun: Maverick flawlessly achieves, with an astounding franchise gap of 36 years between installments, what The Matrix Resurrections and the latest Scream movie attempted to do with 18 and 11, respectively. While it couldn’t be an apples-to-apples comparison due to the difference in genres, suffice it to say that this Tom Cruise starrer will most likely be the barometer used by Hollywood from now on for the slew of “requels” they’ve been churning out lately. A bar has definitely been set.

If you analyze the plot’s structure, the resemblance to the first film just can’t be easily dismissed. The similarities are uncanny. It’s as if the original premise was that of a reboot but in the end they probably thought why limit themselves to that when they can come up with a sequel at the same time. The proposition is rather tricky, but the cast and crew navigate the waters quite well, ending up with a satisfying storyline that succeeds both as a sequel and a reboot.

Do you have to see the 1986 film before watching this? Not really. Story wise, the two are basically the same movie. The characters just shift roles. Maverick assumes the position of instructor, which was McGillis’ in the first film. Rooster is now the new Maverick, with Hangman acting as his foil like Iceman was to Maverick in 1986. You also have that faithful recreation of the opening sequence: from the opening paragraph explaining what Top Gun is; the jet fighters taking off and landing; all the way to Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone playing in the background. They also use some of the original score from three decades ago.

What makes Top Gun: Maverick stand out is its addition of an entire escape sequence towards the end that somehow lends some sort of Mission: Impossible vibe. It also helps that the mission is simulated ad nauseam before the actual one finally comes to pass. This way, the viewers know how everything should play out. This aspect is conspicuously absent in the first film where some random and messy dogfight over water served as the rather anti-climactic climax.

As for cameos, Val Kilmer is credited but his screentime is short. McGillis was not invited to come back at all, which is understandable because it has been 36 years since the events of the first film. It’s not that hard to imagine that Maverick and Charlie just didn’t work out in the end. Meg Ryan does not appear but is ubiquitous in the first half thanks to footage from the first movie used in flashback scenes as well as stills immortalized as photographs for various settings. While absent, her character is pivotal and considered responsible for the main conflict simmering between Rooster and Maverick.

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