Top Gun: Maverick (2022) - 7/10
What on earth do you say about Top Gun? The original was one of those films that was so bad it’s good. Except as kids we just thought it was good. Tons of action, a bit of danger, generally oblivious to the homoerotic nature and the music was great. Yes I had the soundtrack on CD. Did we need a sequel 30 odd years on? No. Or at least so I thought. It’s time to strap in once again and get on the highway to the danger zone… in my living room. We’re introduced to an ageless Tom Cruise, living out pretty much the same life in the Mojave Desert. Polishing his plane, riding his motorcycle without a helmet. Have we learned nothing Maverick? Again the answer is no. Here he’s a test pilot. Flying experimental aircraft, FAST. A little, too, fast. Cue a dressing down from Ed Harris “You can’t get a promotion, you won’t retire and despite your best efforts you refuse to die”. So Maverick is living in or with his past, which is handy as this film can then lean unashamedly heavy on its predecessor and employ the same amount or perhaps more cheese. They’re not trying to reinvent, simply revisit. If you’re here for thought provoking intellectual cinema, you’ve made a huge error. Maverick is called back to Top Gun to teach the next generation how to go bomb a target in what’s essentially a rip off of attacking the Death Star. Haunted by his past, he’s reluctant to engage, but it’s this or he’s grounded. He’s soon in the swing of things though, doing things that upset the bosses as he gets to grips with the kids who all of course have stupid callsigns. There’s only one that’s got him spooked though. Rooster (Miles Teller) is the son of Goose from back in the day, y’see what they did there. So the backstory is set. It’s pretty standard, but let’s be honest it doesn’t need to be anything more. This is an action movie and it’s dialled all the way up to fuck yeah! I was a little concerned that that’s all this would offer and it’s certainly it’s strongest suit, but there’s a surprising amount of heart here too. Maverick was an arrogant prick in the 80s, but he’s grown up. There’s still plenty of bravado in the character, but he’s found a little humility. Not a lot, but it’s enough to ensure this isn’t just about fast action sequences with planes whizzing about the screen as people drop hammy dialogue. Okay, Cruise is famously doing half this shit himself, so I guess there’s still a big chunk of bravado, but it doesn’t come across on screen and for that he should get the credit. The supporting cast is solid, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Bashir Salahuddin who I’m not familiar with but I suspect is criminally underused here, even Val Kilmer who’s scene is particularly poignant, but of course this is Cruise’s film and of course it’s all about the big show piece finale, the mission they’ve all been training for. No spoilers but it is, thrilling… and oddly amusing. Plus you know what, it’s also got a surprise in its tail. Who’d have thought! I’m not sure a sequel that relies so heavily on the original can be declared better… but I think it is.