One of my favorite movies from the 1980s is the movie “Top Gun”, starring Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer and Kelly McGillis in the lead roles. From the first viewing a few years ago on television, it had all the good aspects of an action movie – the incredible fighter jet scenes, the drama and the tension between the pilots. It was great to watch whenever I had the chance. So when I learned a few years ago that a sequel was in the works, I was both excited and skeptical. I was interested in seeing a new story in the Top Gun universe, but after more than 30 years, how would a sequel even work? After watching this sequel, “Top Gun Maverick”, a few weeks ago, it more than exceeded my expectations, and I definitely recommend it.
The first “Top Gun” was a classic military movie. There is a group of young military men training and competing with each other to be the best and complete a mission. There’s also the bond of friendship as main character Maverick (Tom Cruise) loses his best friend and wingman Goose in an accident and struggles to figure out how to move on. “Top Gun Maverick” retains this formula, though now Maverick must form a new group of young pilots just like he was formed in the first film. Tensions erupt and rivalries emerge, especially as Goose’s son, call sign Rooster (played by Miles Teller) is part of the group and resents Maverick. Maverick must prepare young pilots for the mission both skill-wise and teach them how to work as a team.
Without spoiling the movie, what I can say is that “Top Gun Maverick” portrays this dynamic well. Maverick struggles with his new role as an instructor and has to be in charge when he’s usually the rebel pilot. Mission training is also extremely difficult, and he and the young pilots must learn how to make sure they can complete the mission while balancing their personal relationships. When the mission happens, the pilots all have to make tough decisions and sacrifices for each other, and the resulting formation and bonding affects the outcome in interesting ways.
The aerial action is also amazing. As a huge airshow fan, I liked how this movie really takes you into that environment, and all of the plane sequences were extremely well done. It’s a movie that doesn’t rely on excessive green screen or CGI to make you feel like something big is going on. You see the tension and action on a much more personal level, flying through airplane cockpits and watching fighter jets perform impressive maneuvers up close. This closer view of the action is much more intense and thrilling than many films I’ve seen recently.
Overall, rather than being a sequel that simply mimics what made the first movie good, “Top Gun Maverick” takes the familiar notes, improves on them, and even adds new elements to really come into its own. “Top Gun” was a great movie, but in my opinion “Top Gun Maverick” is even better. Indeed, “Top Gun Maverick” is not only a great military movie, but it demonstrates important lessons about teamwork, family, forgiveness, and the future. It’s a movie that lets us believe that when we have problems, whether they’re professional (like the mission) or personal (Maverick and Rooster’s relationship), hard work and genuine effort can overcome them and lead to good results. In a world where so much seems to be wrong and out of our control, this film gives hope that things can get better, and we need that message right now.