Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

The Danger Zone – sequels to established classics, many years later. Indy 4 tried it and failed, and no doubt as will Indy 5. The ‘sequel trilogy’ of travesties have devastated the Star Wars franchise. Even the Fantastic Beasts series is struggling to recreate the magic of the original Harry Potters. Its a difficult line to tread.

Of course, you could remake. But thats a whole other minefield, and is only likely to succeed if a) the original wasn’t actually that good (like Oceans Eleven), or b) not well-recieved (like Dune) – but trying to remake classics is simply a no no. Total Recall, Conan the Barbarian, Ben Hur, Robocop…no. Simply, if you don’t mind me saying so, f*ck off.

However. Rise of the Planet of the Apes and its two sequels proved something. You could make follow ups to old classics and have them still be good. And more recently than that, Ghostbusters: Afterlife showed us that it can be done well if you’re clever – enough nods to the past but some of its own energy, and you might be on to something. Jurassic World’s trilogy is currently hovering between awful and great but thats another story.

Its been a hell of time since Tom Cruise first donned the aviators of Pete Maverick Mitchell: 36 years, in fact. Top Gun is a classic movie; love it or not, its a milestone of moviemaking. Fast paced dogfights, classic quotes and unforgettable music, not to mention the birth of Tom Cruise as an outright movie star, the film has a legacy. (its just not as good as Hot Shots).

Can a sequel NOW, so much later, come remotely close to its predecessor? Or more to the point, can it be any good?

The answer is simple. Yes, it f*cking can.

Top Gun: Maverick is a stunning achievement. It recreates all the magic of cinema; a bombastic score that you will literally use to narrate your life for about six hours after the cinema trip, a desire for all men to don aviators and act like American Assholes in uniforms and get away with it. Its a throwback to the 80’s much in the same way as Rambo (2008) – lets not mock the way 80’s movies were dunked in synth and had enough cheese to feed a churchful of mice. Even the ham is fully roasted, and thats an acting joke, not a reference to Jon Hamm. Although he does get roasted by Maverick’s afterburners in the punch the air start to Act III.

However look beyond the initial mumbo-jumbo (jet) and there is something far better at its core. The opening moments show us a wonderful “touching the void” scene where Maverick becomes the fastest man alive. Eye wateringly beautiful cinematography takes the film to a new level. And, excuse my french, fuck me when the Top Gun anthem kicks in. I could’ve cried. I did, in fact.

Then the second kicker – the heart. You think you’re being bowled over with the visuals, and then we have the (admittedly cliche) plot just tug at your heartstrings. Maverick is an asshole, but he’s no bastard. The loss of Goose in the original film has left him a broken man. A man who is happy to play his superstar card but hides his guilt behind Tom Cruise’s boyish veneer. This man is in search for something beyond glory, beyond speed. He needs forgiveness.

Val Kilmer’s cameo is tastefully cautious; showcasing the legend but not shy of portaying the ravages of life as an inescapable enemy. Val – heres to you. The hero i didn’t know i had.

Its a hell of a film. I don’t see it being topped for film of 2022.

I’m going to put on my aviators and dance about my life playing an invisible guitar. This is the film i need in my life right now.

“The end is inevitable, Maverick. Your kind are heading for extinction.”

“Maybe so, sir. But not today.”

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