At the beginning of his career, Tom Cruise sought to be connected to the biggest in the market. When he himself became the greatest among the greatest, he gave up (apparently) the art films that could bring him the Oscar as an acrtor, and started to make good adventure and action films. He became even more millionaire and popular.
Still, the star resisted a lot in considering a sequel to his mega-success, Top Gun. Which turned out to be wise as by waiting almost 40 years, it gave time to update the franchise in tune with current times. More than that, Top Gun: Maverick is a movie for die-hard fans, with easter eggs and interesting advances, but keeping the best original elements of the story to attract a new audience.
It turns out to be better than the original, because it delves deeper into the relationships and traumas of Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise), who returns to Top Gun at the request of his former nemesis, now great friend, [Admiral] Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer). Although in the original, Maverick appeared to be getting over the death of Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards), we find that he was unable to rid himself of this ghost, choosing to self-exile.
Attention to SPOILERS.
To effectively enjoy Top Gun: Maverick, you need to be a fan of the 1986 movie and remember it in detail. The opening credits are homage, each Maverick action when appearing is a reference to the original (the bike, the jacket, etc). It doesn’t explain Charlie Blackwood’s (Kelly McGillis) absence at all, but it does let us know that Carole Bradshaw (Meg Ryan), widow of Goose, has passed away. We also learn that Maverick tried to hold on as a teacher in Top Gun (which was the conclusion of the 1986 film) for a few years, but his indiscipline derailed his career. He was isolated as a test pilot.
For fans, we remember that Maverick was tormented by the death of his father in combat, a trauma that made him suicidal and thus the best fighter pilot in history. Goose’s accidental death is now what Maverick used to replace the original pain, in fact, he doesn’t even mention his father anymore, that trauma he overcame. Still, a womanizer, the ex-girlfriend mentioned by Carole to Charlie in a quick scene, Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly) is the love of the pilot’s life and the two still haven’t got it right, but, they are more callous and mature, and the problem of avoiding commitment finally appears to have been resolved for Maverick.
The friendship with Iceman has gotten emotional too, and Maverick is sweeter and more tired in his 60s. Anyone who knows Val Kilmer‘s real health problems can’t help but notice the emotion of the two actors when they meet.
The conflict is with Bradley Bradshaw, or Rooster (Miles Teller) son of Goose, who Maverick has as his own son. Naturally, Rooster acts as Maverick did when dealing with the issues of his own father, rejecting any atempt to reconcile.
What he doesn’t know it’s that it was at Carole’s request that Maverick thwarted his godson’s career in the Navy as best he could, so Rooster may have understood that his father’s death was accidental, but he doesn’t forgive Maverick for interfering in his life. Deep down, the two of them have to overcome their fears and their projections so that together they can move on with their lives. It’s the parent-child-friend relationship that is at the heart of the sequel. It works!
It’s easy the, to understand that, for those who watched the 1986 film, that the conclusion is that Top Gun: Maverick is better than the original, precisely because it focuses more on personal relationships before entering the unbelievable aerial sequences, with the actors participating in the flights and bringing credibility to the current movie. It has more consistency, is visually beautiful, and is respectful of its origin. Hence the praise.
Is it the best movie of the year? Nah. Overkill. However, as it is somehow a –Creed-in-the-air, if you will, and considering that Creed was nominated for an Oscar, who knows? The most interesting thing about Top Gun: Maverick is seeing the trajectory of Tom Cruise in parallel. In 1986, a young man eager, and greedy to fulfill his dreams and be crowned the best. In 2022, secure, mature, and dealing with personal relationships, but still passionate about what he does. And yes, still the best of them all.