As typical for sequels to Hollywood classics, Top Gun: Maverick is a downgrade from the original by doing everything that the first movie did, but worse. Don’t think it means I’m complimenting the 1986 “masterpiece,” because it most certainly isn’t one. In my recent review of it, I gave it a very low C-, and this is much worse. It keeps all the bad parts of the first movie, and no advancement in technology over thirty-six years can make this celebration of hot men and hot planes any better to watch.
It opens exactly the same way as the original, with the text, planes, sunset, and everything else replicated to a tee, then ensures that it plays Danger Zone as soon as it can. In that time, Maverick survives a fatal plane blowout with nary a scratch on him, so that’s enough to give the idea of what kind of movie this is: not about honoring pilots in the Navy, but about dumbing everything down for these very dated concepts of entertainment.
The younger character put in for the younger audiences to connect with is Goose’s son, who goes by the name “Rooster,” played by Miles Teller and his goofy mustache. Maverick and Rooster’s mentee-mentor relationship is meant to be the core of the movie’s heart, yet that attempt at heart is only made up of horrible morals to live by, such as “don’t think, just do.” That sounds even worse when coming from the mouth of the deeply unlikeable Maverick, who goes as far as stealing a plane and getting rewarded for it. Just that whole concept of him coming back to Top Gun to be an instructor is a lazy concept for a sequel, since the personalities of these young pilots under his supervision all just blend together.
It should have done more with Iceman, who’s only in one scene. Yet that scene is actually done pretty well; he now has a horrible cough and can only speak a tiny bit, which gives some strong sentimentality to how much this once heroic figure has aged. He looks familiar, yet is such a shell of his former self, it’s hard not to feel sorry for him despite how little screentime he’s given. If the film focused more on that instead of trying to please the new generation, then this could have been a bit more meaningful of a script.
Yet before that script could become totally acceptable, it first needed to fix the characterizations so that Maverick wouldn’t be as passive in his character development. He’s still made overly perfect to make the glamorous sunlit scenes even more so, even recreating the beach volleyball scene from the first movie. Except this time, it’s dogfight football on the beach, and it lasts longer than that older scene it’s borrowing from. Great Balls of Fire is also performed again on a live piano, but this time is accompanied by a hundred people singing along, which isn’t as cool as it was before. That beautification of a character stuck in the 1980s is made its most apparent in the climax, when not just one but two deus ex machinas fly in to get him out of trouble in the exact same way each time. By this point, the audience will most likely feel sick because of the quick editing that just won’t slow down, and nauseated by all the excessive choreography that goes on in the sky, so any happiness won’t be genuine once it ends on the cheesy finale that came from a thirty-year-old movie.
Though anybody who loves planes could see where some aspects of this hot garbage have been done some proper justice. The first sound of an engine takeoff is as loud as any would expect while seeing this in a big movie theater, and every one of those heart-pounding big scenes up in the air know how to build up stress and pay that off before one can say “kaboom.” There’s more of that decent attention to developing tension on the ground, seeing how much Maverick struggles to teach in this position he’s not used to. His inability to connect with this new generation of pilots creates all sorts of conflict between himself and these younger folk since they often seem to be speaking entirely different languages. The hidden callbacks to the first movie are placed appropriately to enhance that conflict while also pleasing all those Top Gun fans out there. It works as well that Jennifer Connelly, the love interest for Tom Cruise this time around, is drop-dead gorgeous, and definitely does Kelly McGillis justice. So don’t worry, this definitely has the feel of a sequel to the first movie!
Yet the similarities to the first movie could also be nostalgic in all the wrong ways because it reminds those older folk of how overrated their beloved classic really is. This sequel has all that plus more of the problems that plague movies of today: boring exposition that nobody of any age will find interesting, things moving by too fast for older folks to keep up with, a terrible female actress playing a love interest who’s not written to be a character in her own right, really, there was more effort put into planning the dramatic reveal of Maverick’s motorcycle than improving on the classic for the present. The closest it does for that is mentioning how soon planes won’t need pilots, which gives some great context for the setting and what Maverick now has to work with. Now he’s got all this innovative technology and a whole new mindset to work with that wasn’t around in 1986… except nothing in the script takes advantage of the brief couple of lines that bring this up.
Unnecessary sequels like Top Gun: Maverick ought to fully convince the world that Hollywood is not nearly as progressive as some give them credit for- their obsession with cashing on nostalgia is setting everything back to the cultural values seen in 1986. You could easily break that madness if you just got out your slingshot, aimed it up toward the sky, and blew down their image of a perfect man with his head in the clouds.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!