This is how you make a sequel to a movie from the 1980s.
Upon entering Top Gun: Maverick starring Tom Cruise, viewers tremble violently with nervousness that they might be witnessing a nightmarish rerun of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – all their favorite ’80s stars and characters to follow Decades are reunited. wasted, embarrassed and chasing after aliens.
Then the movie begins. All it takes is the opening scene of Cruise as Maverick pushing the limits of a plane to a frightening Mach 10 while “Highway to the Danger Zone” plays to realize this is a worthy, often exemplary, sequel to the classic is from 1986. It’s everything a summer movie should be.
Running time: 131 minutes. Rated PG-13 (Intense action sequences and some strong language). In theaters May 27th.
Director Joseph Kosinski and writers Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie aren’t too smart with Maverick’s story. He’s not now a beat-up insurance salesman who needs a workout montage to get back in shape, and there are no meta inside jokes about the old film.
Maverick, still a Navy captain, is called back to Top Gun – where the nation’s finest pilots train – to prepare a group of Hotshots for a dangerous foreign mission to destroy a uranium facility in a mountain .
We’re never told which country produces nuclear weapons, probably because Paramount doesn’t enjoy having its films banned from foreign markets.
The return to Top Gun is an emotional minefield for Maverick. One of the young aviators is Rooster (Miles Teller), the son of his late sidekick Goose. (Don’t worry, Anthony Edwards isn’t playing a ghost.) Mav struggles with allowing Rooster to even fly, which would put him in jeopardy, his father’s fate.
The other lieutenants all have big “breakfast club” personalities and these goofy call signs: Hangman (Glen Powell), the idiot; Phoenix (Monica Barbaro), the strong woman who has to put up with some nonsense; Coyote (Greg Tarzan Davis); Fan Boy (Danny Ramirez); Payback (Jay Ellis); and Geeky Bob (Lewis Pullman). She and her uninformed compatriots compete for six coveted missionary places.
Adding some villainess is Jon Hamm as Cyclone – a cold, downright vice admiral who is skeptical of Maverick’s unorthodox and life-threatening teaching style. Mav, see, is like Whoopi Goldberg on “Sister Act” when singing a song could tear you to pieces.
Maverick also has a new/old affair with bar owner Penny (Jennifer Connelly), with whom he had an affair sometime after his relationship with Kelly McGillis’ Charlie ended. Mav is approaching 60 and wants his personal life – if not his planes – to slow down.
The most tearful complication is Iceman, still played by Val Kilmer – who in real life has suffered from throat cancer and has trouble speaking. Whatever animosity there was between Mav and Ice has melted, and their camaraderie is deeply moving. You’ll be glad Kilmer agreed to do the film.
And then of course there is Cruise. Despite the man’s consistently odd personal life, no action star working today demands the quality that Cruise demands. He’s on top form in every respect here, and the actors around him rise to his challenge.
There’s a fun scene on the beach where Maverick brings the often-quarrelsome Top Gun fliers together by playing soccer. Music is playing, the sun is shining, water is rippling. Of course, everyone is shirtless, including Cruise. And for a moment, the veteran actor blends perfectly into these ripped, sexy 20somethings.
The man will be 60 years old in July. Really takes your breath away.