Movie Review: ‘Top Gun: Maverick’

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Cast: Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris

Plot: Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell has been spinning his wheels at the rank of Captain for the 30 years following his graduation from Top Gun. His newest assignment puts him in the teacher’s chair, preparing the newest elite pilots for a near-impossible mission.

Review: Obviously I’m getting around to this one a bit late, but there’s a reason for that. The idea of a Top Gun sequel rolling around some 30 years after the original simply didn’t interest us. But then it came out to commercial and critical acclaim, being taken off the annual top spot by Avatar: The Way of Water. Everyone was raving about it. Then it gets nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. So, reluctantly, we lined it up.

It’s fine.

Here’s where the sticking point is for us. We’re not invested in the Tom Cruise Show. There’s the skeleton of a good story in here, one about a new generation of pilots in a different political climate, earning each other’s respect whilst under the shadow of a living legend. Then that story was tweaked to put Tom Cruise front and centre, then it was tweaked a bit more to ensure that we knew he was the best pilot, then it was tweaked further to make Tom Cruise the hero of the story, all the while there being a bunch of new characters not getting enough screen time to be fleshed out.

There’s something ultimately a bit odd about the new cast of characters. They lean heavily into the idea that they’re all analogs to characters from the first film but it’s handled with the subtlety of an F-14 Tomcat being flown up your nose. Rooster (Teller) is the son of Goose, and represents a significant emotional lynchpin for Maverick. We know he’s Goose’s son, and that he reminds Maverick of Goose, because he has Goose’s moustache. And his shirt. And he plays the same song on the piano. Then there’s the cocky and talented Hangman (Powell), who chews toothpicks. You may remember this as being a trait of Iceman (Kilmer) 30 years previously. It feels like some weird farce where they’re trying to trick Tom Cruise into thinking that the time hasn’t passed since the 1980s.

With a well cast and potentially interesting ensemble of characters reduced to props in the Tom Cruise show, you’re left questioning what purpose they serve. Penny (Connelly) is rolled in as a younger love interest with no personality or character development. Glen Powell adds some extra depth to Hangman through his performance, but he’s not developed on a script level beyond being a cocky bully. Not even Rooster gets much to do beyond stand in for Cruise’s emotional conflict.

It’s a great showcase for the visuals that can be captured with the improved technology of the modern era, and the use of real planes for the flight scenes. They are thrilling to watch, and there are some absolutely nail-biting moments. Hanging all this impressive technology and techniques on such a lacklustre story and under-utilised performers feels like a bit of a waste. At least, it would have if the movie didn’t pull in about a billion and a half dollars.

From that point of view, everyone involved should be proper chuffed.

Rating: FIVE out of TEN