Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
Top Gun: Maverick is a rip-roaring sequel.
Surprisingly, the original Top Gun (1986) opened to lukewarm reviews. But three and 1/2 decades later, it has reached the stature of a classic.
The expectations for the sequel have been percolating for two years. It was supposed to be released in 2020, but COVID prevented that.
The original had only one Black pilot. Top Gun: Maverick has more minority actors, and one of its major pilots is a female, "Phoenix," played by Monica Bavaro. Bavaro reportedly is the only one of the major actors along with Cruise who didn't throw up during the intense training for the flights.
But don't worry. Despite the changes, Top Gun: Maverick still has a 20th century attitude toward testosterone.
It also has authentic sequences that use actual jets, and the experience of actually being in jets. Top Gun: Maverick tries to avoid green screen and CGI, despite its director Joseph Kosinski's background.
Basically Top Gun: Maverick is a Tom Cruise project. He made the film when he was 57. He just turned sixty on July 3rd.
Cruise still is an underrated actor. He only has three Oscar nominations and has never won an Oscar. Perhaps his best chance was with his eighth film, Born of the Fourth of July (1990), but he was against the unbeatable Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot. He also was nominated for Jerry Maguire (1996) and was a nominee for Best Supporting Actor for Magnolia (2000).
Ironically, Cruise helped others whom he played opposite win an Oscar. Paul Newman won his one and only Oscar opposite Cruise in The Color of Money (1986). Dustin Hoffman won the Best Actor Oscar, opposite Cruise, for Rain Man (1988), and Cuba Gooding, Jr. won the Supporting Actor Oscar opposite Cruise for Jerry Maguire.
One thing that has helped Cruise gain gravitas and viable experience is that he made sure he kept being directed by A-list creative directors. Cruise worked with Stanley Kubrick, Marty Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Michael Mann, Barry Levinson, Oliver Stone, Sydney Pollack, et al. Along the way, he learned a thing or two.
In Top Gun: Maverick,Cruise has his patented charm, energy, and credibility. One wonders how long he can play football on the beach shirtless as a man approaching and passing sixty. How long can he continue to do his own stunts? Is he about to enter the Danger Zone?
Cruise, as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, is fortunate to have Miles Teller as "Rooster" Bradshaw - the son of the late "Goose" Bradshaw - as the pilot he is training. Teller helped J.K Simmons win an Oscar in Whiplash (2014).
Teller uses some of his musical skills in an early scene in a bar with fellow pilots leading them in a raucous version of "Great Balls of Fire." "Rooster" boasts a mustache as his father did.
Returning from the original is Val Kilmer as "Iceman."
Jennifer Connelly makes a satisfactory love interest.
Like Elvis, Top Gun: Maverick effectively blends music from the past with music from the present.
Cruise fired songwriters, when he was frustrated with their efforts. Then along came Lady Gaga with her song "Hold My Hand." It was what Cruise was looking for. "The heartbeat of the film," Cruise has said.
The one Oscar the original Top Gun won was for Best Original Song - "Take My Breath Away."
"Hold My Hand" just may win another Oscar for Best Original Song.
Top Gun: Maverick and Elvis, two movies released in June, have brought a long-gone audience back to the Big Screen theaters.
Hold My Hand filled with popcorn.