Sunday, June 5, 2022

Stubs - Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick (2022) Starring  Tom Cruise; Miles Teller; Jennifer Connelly; Jon Hamm; Glen Powell; Lewis Pullman; Ed Harris; Val Kilmer. Directed by Joseph Kosinski. Screenplay by Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, Christopher McQuarrie. Based on Characters by Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, Tom Cruise, Christopher McQuarrie, David Ellison. USA Color Run time: 131 minutes. Action, Romance, Drama

It is rare that a sequel is better than the original. Spider-Man 2 comes to mind. Add to that shortlist, Top Gun: Maverick released recently. A vast improvement over the original film, Top Gun (1986), this is also one of the longest gaps between the original and its sequel; 36 years. As they say, things can age well with time.
The film, not surprisingly, revolves around Captain Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise), who when we last saw him was starting a new career as a flight instructor at the Navy's Top Gun school near San Diego. Well, apparently that job lasted about two months and when we now meet him again, he is a Navy test pilot and about to lose that job as well. Saved from the street by four-star Admiral Tom "Iceman" Kazansky (Val Kilmer), Maverick is assigned to train former Top Gun pilots on what is viewed as a suicide mission. One of the fighters is his old partner Goose's son, Lt. Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw (Miles Teller).

Val Kilmer makes a brave appearance in Top Gun: Maverick.

In addition to his ties to the past film, Maverick also has a past with Penelope "Penny" Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly), now a single mother and the owner of The Hard Deck bar everyone hangs out in. Apparently, things didn't work out with Charlotte "Charlie" Blackwood (Kelly McGillis) from the first film. Pete and Penny have their own history that we're not privy to, but one that didn't end well the first go around.

Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly) and Maverick (Tom Cruise)
The film, thankfully, doesn't come off as much of a testosterone fest as the original. While most of the Top Guns are men and braggadocious, one of the best is Lt. Natasha "Phoenix" Trace (Monica Barbaro), who does get chosen, and Lt. Callie "Halo" Bassett (Kara Wang) who does not. There is a team-building exercise with a game of dogfight football replacing the homoerotic volleyball game. The women seem to give as much as they get and there seems to be a welcome absence of treating women as sexual objects.

Tom Cruise in an F-18 fighter jet.

There is plenty of action, with several exciting sequences towards the end of the film. The type that has people leaving the theater pumped, which probably bodes well for repeat business. And while the actors are actually flying in the planes, adding to the immersion for the audience, they are not actually flying the planes. This doesn't take away from the film, however, and you do get the feeling you're in the plane with them.

And unlike the original film, Top Gun: Maverick does have emotions that go beyond celebrating a mission completed. There is history with Rooster, again more told than shown, which does have to get overcome for them to be able to work together. I will admit to getting a little teary-eyed towards the end.

While you don't need to have seen the first film, it would help with your enjoyment of the film. The 36-year gap has also led to a lot of nostalgia amongst older audiences who probably only remember the thrill ride from their youth that the original film was for them.

This is the sort of summer action-fueled film that theaters and many movie-goers have been waiting for. This is a film that really needs to be seen on a big screen, the bigger the better. Not sure what else the summer has to offer but it has gotten off to a rousing start with Top Gun: Maverick.

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