“Top Gun: Maverick” Review

Review Rating: 4 Knight Heads Out of 5

On May 16, 1986, Paramount Pictures released one of the most iconic films of the 1980s. Its purpose was to create a fun, energetic, and heartfelt film about Navy pilots, that also showed off the many up-and-coming actors of the decade. They succeeded. Today, a sequel has been released. The studio named it: TOP GUN: MAVERICK.

In the follow-up to 1986’s Top Gun, Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell finds himself returning to the Navy’s elite piloting school… this time, as an instructor. Among many fresh faces, Maverick struggles with one student in particular: Lt. Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, son of Maverick’s deceased wingman and best friend, Lt. Nick “Goose” Bradshaw. The tension between the two permeates the whole of the story, and as Maverick begins to teach these new pilots how to push the limits of their flying abilities for a top secret mission, Rooster must learn to view Maverick as a mentor and ally, instead of an enemy.

Top Gun: Maverick far exceeds the original Top Gun, not only in terms of modern spectacle, but in story and character as well. Maverick’s whole supporting cast of young Top Gun recruits plays incredibly well into Tom Cruise’s strengths as an actor. Maverick is still the fiery, gung-ho, thrill-hungry pilot he was over 30 years ago; but, Maverick, much like Tom Cruise’s other iconic character from the Mission: Impossible franchise, Ethan Hunt, is viewed by his peers as an old man still far out of his depth.

Top Gun: Maverick pushes the third act to limits the original was never able to achieve. The high risk maneuvers required by the pilots within the film keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. Tensions are high throughout the film, between the character dynamics, and the degree to which the characters are putting their lives at stake. The real SR-72s used in the film certainly helps to build the realism that generates much of the tension.

The only falter of Top Gun: Maverick is the romantic lead, Penny, played by Jennifer Connelly, who doesn’t quite match up to the original instructor-student dynamic of Maverick and Charlie, portrayed by Kelly McGillis, and the classic track “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin. Luckily, the romantic storyline isn’t as central of a focus as it was in the original, so the film doesn’t suffer too terribly from this.

It’s very rare that sequels coming out over two or three decades after the original ever lives up to, much less surpasses, its predecessor. However, Top Gun: Maverick shouldn’t only please long-time Top Gun and Tom Cruise fans, but new viewers who have never had much of an interest in either before. As one of the best blockbuster films of the year so far, and arguably of the post-pandemic era of theaters, Top Gun: Maverick will likely stand the test of time as a legacy sequel and Tom Cruise blockbuster.