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‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Soars in a Sequel That Bests the Original

5/5 loving feelings.

Tom Cruise in 'Top Gun: Maverick'.

Is Tom Cruise the last great movie star? At nearly 60, the Mission: Impossible franchise star shows no signs of slowing down, and in many ways has only gotten better at his craft. In a film jampacked with Hollywood’s rising stars, no one can match Cruise for charisma, magnetism, and depth of emotion. Quite simply, they don’t make them like him anymore.

Top Gun: Maverick finds Cruise returning to his iconic role as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell 36 years after the original Top Gun, a quintessential ’80s film that looms large as a beloved American blockbuster. Maverick is still flying for the Navy, but his anti-authority attitude has never seen him promoted above the rank of captain (which is just how he likes it). But Maverick is the last of a dying breed, as the rise of drone warfare is making fighter pilots obsolete.

Maverick is still breaking the rules and pushing the speed limit when he’s remanded back to Top Gun to train the Navy’s best pilots for a highly specialized mission. Among those pilots is Rooster (Miles Teller) the son of Maverick’s wingman Goose (Anthony Edwards) who died in the first film. Rooster carries a grudge against Maverick, who is desperately seeking to make amends with the young pilot.

In his return to Fightertown USA, Cruise reconnects with an old flame Penny (Jennifer Connelly) who now owns and operates pilot bar the Hard Deck. Connelly and Cruise share an easy chemistry together as they rekindle their relationship. But the real romance of the film is, of course, between man and machine. And Maverick doesn’t disappoint, with thrilling flight sequences that outpace and outmatch the original. Director Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion) puts the audience in the pilot seat, delivering clarity of action and riveting special effects. Maybe it’s the superhero film fatigue talking, but it’s a welcome reprieve to see an action-packed finale that’s not entirely dependent on video game-looking heroes shooting colorful lasers out of their hands. If you can, see this film in IMAX. The chest-rattling sound design is more than worth it.

Maverick doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and the film follows all the predictable story beats you would expect. But who cares, when every aspect is done so well and looks so good? The film strikes the perfect balance between fan service to the original and building new characters and storylines. Familiar faces return, and new characters make a big impression. But the focus, as always, remains on Cruise, who imbues the confident Maverick with the rueful nostalgia of a man living in a world that may no longer need him. As his peers have gone on the rise in the ranks and have families of their own, Maverick remains a lone wolf. This adds an emotional depth to the film that makes it not only a great film, but one that surpasses its predecessor in every way.

The film strikes all the right notes, delivering a slick, wildly entertaining, and surprisingly moving entry in the Top Gun franchise. From the iconic opening guitar riff in the film’s score to the beat of “Danger Zone”, Maverick is an irresistible good time at the theaters that will leave even the most jaded audiences cheering. What more could you want from a summer blockbuster?

Top Gun: Maverick hits theaters on May 27, 2022.

(featured image: Scott Garfield. © 2019 Paramount Pictures Corporation)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.