It’s been a long time in the making, and part of me thinks they should’ve done the noble thing, and left it where it was. Top Gun (1986) is a giant beast of a film, and for all its jingoistic faults, a classic. Now the myth of the original has to face the harshness of a sequel, that was always destined to feel diminutive by comparison.
The eternal rebel Maverick (Tom Cruise) is sent back to Top Gun academy, to whip some “best of the best” Navy pilots into shape, for an impossible “two miracle” mission. The ensuing action sequences are exciting, with stunning fight and flight sequences that push the laws of physics to breaking. In the cockpit, up close and practical, flying at speed, you’re right there in the sky with them, especially when it’s the ubermensch himself Tom Cruise, handling some of the cockpit action.
Back on the ground, the story flits like a bird chasing a taster menu of lost love, paternal responsibility, friendship, and concerns about getting old. But the main conflict isn’t with the nebulous unnamed enemy, trying to build nuclear weapons, but with the many iterations of time. The needed speed of the mission. The youth of the pilots. Maverick’s stubborn refusal to accept his advancing years.
Side note. I really wish the filmmakers had picked an enemy. Their choice not to commit to a foe, to something concrete, yanks you out of the film faster than an ejection seat on one of their fighters.
Top Gun: Maverick (2022) is an exciting ride, even if the attack on the enemy is lifted straight out of the original Star Wars (1977) attack on the Death Star. Back on Earth, in a world that fetishises youth, we have to see age and experience win the day. The alternative is Maverick facing reality, accepting his mortality, and he’s not doing that for anyone.