“On March 3, 1969, the United States Navy established an elite school for the top one percent of its pilots” – and in 1986 we got a movie staring Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, and Anthony Edwards, about a cohort of these elite pilots. Now, 35 years on, we revisit Captain Pete Mitchell, aka Maverick, as he’s sent back to Top Gun – as a reluctant instructor.
There’s obviously a ton of nostalgia about this movie (and it seems the 80s in general these days!) which makes a sequel possibly a risky prospect. But I’m pleased to say I think the got the mix spot-on of references to the original (not too many, but enough mini-flashbacks to remind/show you the relevant history) and a new story. Biggest win, though, could perhaps be the way they’ve ‘fixed’ a lot of the criticisms, that the first glorified conflict and was a thinly-veiled recruitment piece.
Here, the realities and dangers of a career as a fighter pilot are a little more forefront, balancing the ‘glamour’ of it all. Right from the get-go, the scenes of the jets landing and taking off from the carrier are a bit grittier, a bit noisier and grimier, not just pretty shots over a banging soundtrack.
The music is such an important part again, though. Like the rest of the movie, the mix of old and new is well handled. The ‘clang’ of that theme tune is used at just the right moments, as is a return to the Danger Zone 🙂
The plot of the movie is fairly straightforward: there’s an unnamed enemy state building a secret uranium refinement plant, and the bombing run is nigh-on impossible. Only Cpt – yes, still only a captain, while Iceman is a full Admiral – Mitchell has the real-world experience of such things. Only, they’re not sending him in: they just want to have him teach the younger generation how to pull it off.
Most of the film is then this training, with plenty of room for all sorts of emotional bits. Maverick’s fears that he’s sending kids to their deaths on this impossible mission is only compounded by the fact that one of them is Goose’s (his former partner) child, who still holds a grudge – or two. Another is a cocky Iceman-replacement, while the rest are a little more diverse these days including a woman, gosh! 😉 It is a little bit of a shame that none really get a memorable role, with only Miles Teller’s Rooster as a slight exception – this is 100% Cruise’s movie, but of course.
But all in all this was just thoroughly entertaining. It’s still a Top Gun movie, you know what you’re heading in for. And on that level it does it pretty perfectly. The romance between Maverick and Penny (Jennifer Connolly) adds a different element, and there’s some obvious emotional string-pulling moments, but they do balance the machoism of the overall piece – including a very ‘but of course!’ homage to that beach volleyball scene. And some truly impressive, non-CGI jet balletics – who knew planes could even do half of that?!
It does perhaps get a little overlong and … blunt? … getting to the punch, I guess, with some fairly cliched paths throughout, but along the way there is just adrenaline- and jet-fuelled joyous escapism.
Released: 27th May 2022
Viewed: 6th July 2022
Running time: 130 minutes
My rating: 8/10