Last weekend was the Oscars and a lot of people have a lot of thoughts about it. Mostly about how much film and cast of Everything Everywhere All At Once deserved/didn’t deserve their various awards. It’s not something I really want to get into right now because it is inevitably linked to the Asian American experience and things will get heavy quickly. What I will say is that I don’t understand anyone who says it’s a Best Picture winner that nobody will still be watching in 5 years. I couldn’t disagree more. Considering the Best Picture winners of the past decade, EEAAO surely has one of the highest potentials for rewatching. I mean fucking Green Book? Who the hell is watching that in 5 years time? The Daniels managed do something very few films have ever done and that is be massively entertaining and Oscar worthy. Something that the latest Top Gun movie also did. Tom Cruise might not have bothered to attend the awards show but I felt it only fair to finally watch the sequel to one of the greatest films of the 80s. And y greatest, I mean silliest and most homoerotic. Hopefully, we’d get more of the same in the sequel.
To be fair, it does start off in exactly the same way. There’s clips of planes taking off, egineers preparing planes that are about to take off and Kenny Loggins. Classic Top Gun. Then everything becomes very contemporary and it becomes clear that this isn’t classic Top Gun. The panes are faster, the tech is better and the stakes are higher. Thankfully, Maverick is still as much of a, well, maverick these days. He’s only been kept in work thanks to the helping hands of Admiral Iceman. After another incident of insubordination, Mav is sent back to Top Gun under Ice’s instructions. Apparently, he’s the only one who can teach a group of graduates the necessary skills to make a seemingly impossible run. I won’t bored with the gory details but there’s a bunker, uranium and surface-to-air missiles. Maveric reckons it would take 2 teams of fighters and that one of them wouldn’t be coming back. Can he use all of his flight experience to get everyone home safely?
Amongst the returning flyers is Lieutenant Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw who is the son of Maverick’s old RIO, Goose. There’s plenty of tension between the pair thanks to an incident years earlier. After an deathbed promise to Bradley’s mother, Maverick tried to stop his friend’s son from becoming a pilot. Of course, Rooster doesn’t know this and instead thinks Maverick is just a dick. Meaning the mentoring doesn’t go too well at first. It does, however, mean that there are plenty of opportunities for Mav to teach the youngsters that they don’t know as much as they think they do. Something that also means we get plenty of odd close-up shots of Tom Cruise’s head in flight helmet. And shots of Jon Hamm looking angry in military uniform. I applaud whoever made the decision to cast him in this film because not only is he a great actor but he looks really good. But I digress.
As this is a film all about the planes, I have to say that the flying sequences are really something. This film is an absolute joy when it’s up in the air and director Joseph Kosinski is in his element. An early sequence where Maverick tries to break Mach 10 sets us up nicely for what’s to come. It also tells us that new Top Gun is gonna blow old Top Gun out of the water. The flying sequences are slick and well edited despite the breaknck speed and countless camera angles. It shouldn’t work this well but Top Gun: Maverick is as good as everyone tells you it is. No matter how weird Tom Cruise looks like when he’s supposed to be flying a plane.
I can’t say that the film strives for the same greatness in terms of its narrative. That is just a prety bland and obvious story that anyone can see coming from the start. The romance plot feels like an unecessaary distraction but it”s always good to see Jennifer Connelly being lovely. It’s all quite reminiscent of the first film but with newer jargon. We experience he same beats all over again but it doesn’t really matter that much. Yes, we see a topless Mav playing a beach game with other scantily clad men. Yes, Maverick butts heads with his superiors. Yes, two rival pilots start off competing before finding a certain amount of respect for each other. It doesn’t matter when it’s this much fun.
Not just fun, of course. What does work is the unexpectedly emotional aspect. The last thing I though that Top Gun: Maverick would make me do was make me cry but here we are. It’s no secret that Val Kilmer makes a cameo as Iceman and the scenes between the pair are really strong. Unlike the parade of unecessary Hollywood sequels, this is a film that actually makes itself seem worthwhile. Tom Cruise and Maverick have both matured and you get that sense throughout the film. Maverick is aware that he is quickly becoming a relic and is feeling lost. He might have the same bravado as before but he’s learnt some things. I wasn’t expecting to feel this way but I’m genuinely glad this film was released.
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