Top Gun: Maverick

The ultimate dad movie gets a sequel that’s more nostalgia than plot 

Tom Cruise plays Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in Top Gun: Maverick from Paramount Pictures, Skydance and Jerry Bruckheimer Films.

By Diana Beechener 

After getting three kills in aerial battle, Maverick (Tom Cruise: Mission: Impossible – Fallout) is told he can write his own ticket in the U.S. Navy. Three decades later, Maverick is still a pilot and still a thorn in the paw of seemingly every other person enlisted in the Navy. Though he’s decorated, he’s also insubordinate—he hasn’t received a promotion in years because he does things like stealing a prototype plane to prove it can achieve Mach 10.  

Maverick is also regarded as a bit of a dinosaur.  

Aerial combat—or dogfighting—is not a skill that the modern Navy values. The focus has become drone warfare. And while Maverick can think of nothing better than shooting through the wild blue yonder, the military sees his long career as antiquated, something to phase out now that technology has improved. 

Luckily for Maverick, and to the surprise of no one who’s ever seen a movie before, there’s one last mission that he must join. He’s brought back to Top Gun to train the newest generation for a nearly impossible strike in enemy territory. Who is the enemy? Certainly not one of the many markets this film is hoping to cash in on. They’re just nefarious pilots in black helmets and we’ll leave it at that.  

Can Maverick connect with these young upstarts? Can he finally put the tragedy of his best friend’s death behind him? And can this movie feature a sex scene that’s somehow funnier than the one in the original movie?   

There’s a certain irony to the fact that Tom Cruise has built his career on being a super-fit action star, because Top Gun: Maverick is a cinematic order of nachos—there’s too much, it’s not good for you, and it’s slathered in cheese.  

And much like those nachos, Top Gun: Maverick is easily consumable if you don’t think too critically about what you’re consuming.  

Thirty-six years after Top Gun stormed the box office Cruise is back to prove that aggressive running and intense facial expressions are just as compelling to watch as they were in the ‘80s. Director Joseph Kosinski (Only the Brave) sets out to remind millennials of all the times they watched the original with their dad by… remaking the original to an amusing degree. 

All the greatest hits are featured—beach sports, cocky pilots, Highway to the Danger Zone, paper-thin female characters, and lots of nifty action—it’s all there and in the same form you remember. Kosinski is so dedicated to getting all the beats of the original film in, he uses the exact same opening text. This version of nostalgia filmmaking relies on the audience feeling a burst of nostalgia with each recognition. It works, there were plenty of cheers and claps in the theater with each new reference.  

Kosinski also rather amusingly captures the homoeroticism of the original ‘80s flick. Think plenty of sweaty men exchanging longing glances, posturing, and jostling with each other shirtless. This is the type of movie where men have to smack each other on the back when they embrace—because it would be weird otherwise.   

But while there’s not a lot new, Kosinski certainly knows how to wring the nostalgia out of every scene. The film features a surprisingly touching tribute to Iceman, the antagonist of the first film. Played by Val Kilmer, who reprises his role, there’s a real tenderness with how he is portrayed, bringing Kilmer’s real medical conditions into the film so that he’s able to perform again. It was touching to see Kilmer back on screen and the care and respect he was given.  

Unlike the original movie, the action is upgraded. If you’re a fan of dogfights and aerial acrobatics, Top Gun: Maverick has plenty to recommend itself. There’s enough flipping around in the sky to make you long for a Dramamine with your popcorn.  

The best part of the film, however, is likely the fact that it’s a tribute to Cruise as a movie star. Top Gun has no doubts about why viewers are buying tickets: it’s to see Cruise’s special brand of charisma. Kosinski spends a good portion of the movie framing Cruise in iconic poses and cutting to characters admiring him. It’s truly a love letter to the actor’s screen presence.  

If you’re a fan of big, dumb action, or if your knees creak when you get up from a chair, Top Gun: Maverick was written with you in mind. It’s the type of mindless summer blockbuster that’s meant to be seen in a crowd of people, all cheering and clapping. It’s a great reminder of why we all go to the movies and the grand spectacle it can be.  

Top Gun: Maverick is exclusively in theaters.

Fair Action * PG-13 * 131 mins.