Troy notes: Ari watched Top Gun: Maverick this week in the wonderful ScreenX format. So, enjoy this fun review from one of the many West Coast members of the AV Army. Troy’s review will be live later this weekend.
Ari loves Top Gun: Maverick
I was six years old the first time I ever went to the movie theater. I don’t remember the details (was it a surprise, last minute gesture or did I know beforehand?) but in 1986 my dad, along with my neighbor and his son, took me to see Top Gun.
While the film didn’t have me dying to join the Navy or fly F-14s, it did kick start a love of The Righteous Brothers, Kenny Loggins (and film soundtracks in general), volleyball, Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, and, most importantly, movies. I have no clue how many films I’ve seen in theaters since then, but it all started in 1986 with Top Gun.
Now here we are, 36 years later, and Paramount has finally given us a sequel to the greatest homoerotic volleyball scene in film history. And let me just make this clear; Top Gun: Maverick kicks serious ass. If the title didn’t tip you off, this is Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell’s film, and Tom Cruise is proving once again why he’s one of the last, true, movie stars on the planet.
Catching up with Maverick nearly four decades since he put on the iconic bomber jacket, we find he really hasn’t changed all that much. He still has an insatiable need for speed, and the military still has a negative opinion of him. But a serious mission arises, and a new group of hot-shot pilots are needed, along with Maverick to train them. There are just a few catches; Maverick isn’t a trainer (he tried after the events of the original movie but only lasted a few months) and Goose’s son is one of the pilots Maverick must train.
The death of Goose still weighs on Maverick, and coming face-to-face with his son, Lieutenant Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, brings all the emotion of that failed eject attempt back to him. And Rooster isn’t exactly thrilled to see Maverick either; turns out Mavs pulled his Navy papers costing him an extra four years before he could join. But there’s more to the story than Maverick just wanting to keep the kid safe, and it shows just how much he has sacrificed for those few people he truly loves.
Speaking of love, Jennifer Connelly shows up as Maverick’s tension-filled love interest. I believe she’s playing the daughter of an admiral Maverick had a fling with that’s briefly mentioned in the original film. Connelly is great, and her chemistry with Cruise works quite well, but there’s absolutely no mention of Kelly McGillis’ Charlie at all.
Not once. Hell, Meg Ryan gets more screen time in a few flashbacks than Kelly does. If I have one issue with the film, it’s this. Was a simple line or two mentioning how their relationship fizzled out too much to ask? I don’t think it’s a surprise that they didn’t end up together, but ignoring it completely irks me, and doesn’t seem fair to McGillis either.
The majority of Top Gun: Maverick is all about Maverick having to train a bunch of young pilots on a mission to take out a nuclear plant that will be operational in just weeks. It’s literally the Death Star trench run; the planes must navigate through mountainous terrain, staying low enough to avoid the turrets, and precision drop a bomb on a target that’s probably right around two meters long, all while avoiding enemy fighters and making sure to pull out before their planes become a mountain pancake.
Now trust me when I say that ripping off Star Wars is the absolute best move this movie could have made, cause that last act is the most thrilling third act of a film I’ve seen in ages.
This is also where the ScreenX gimmick shines the brightest. So ScreenX is where the movie theater has two additional film projectors that occasionally expand the main screen to the walls on the left and right. This gives the main image an impressive wrap-around effect that fully engulfs you in the film. And in a movie with some of the most amazing flight scenes ever filmed, it’s an incredibly immersive experience that really helps to intensify the action.
While the entire movie isn’t shown this way (and it doesn’t need to be), every time we jump into a jet the image expands. And we jump into jets quite a lot. ScreenX is an incredibly fun gimmick that is tailor made for a film like Top Gun: Maverick (although 4DX is still the theater gimmick champ in my book), but Maverick’s third act is so satisfying and thrilling I don’t think seeing the film in a regular theater will hurt your enjoyment one bit.
Top Gun: Maverick is an absolute blast. I didn’t think a sequel to a film that was very much of it’s time was needed, but boy was I wrong. Impressive flying, topless beach fun, an entire bar singing Great Balls of Fire-it’s all there (along with a very welcome and emotional cameo).
Much like Cobra Kai, if you’ve come for the nostalgia you won’t be disappointed, but there’s plenty of new elements that make this more then just a full-on retread of the 1986 classic. If you have a need for speed, then Top Gun: Maverick is for you.