REVIEW | Top Gun: Maverick (2022)


[Secret Transmission from Agent Iya Paterno]

Top Gun: Maverick doesn't simply pay homage as a predecessor to the 1986 film Top Gun. One doesn't have to be familiar with the first one to enjoy the film fully, and it even completes and supersedes what the former was trying to achieve.

The character of Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, still exceptionally played by Tom Cruise, had more depth in this film. This is not to solely critique what has been achieved in the '86 film, as a single full-feature length movie written in the milieu of U.S. naval aviators at that time can only do so much.

In this film, we see that Maverick's character has fully developed from his experiences in Top Gun. Carrying the lessons he learned as a young and brash Naval pilot, we see Maverick as a principled man, now a Navy test pilot in his 50's still in his Kawasaki motorcycle. While still insubordinate as ever, he strongly refuses to leave anyone on his team behind no matter the cost. Despite his growth as a character already apparent in the beginning, he is yet to learn more.

What's most worth noting is how the rest of the cast playing both new and old characters effortlessly kept up with Cruise's performance in the film, coupled with it making the viewers also truly feel the authenticity of the strain of gravitational forces and swift movements when aboard an aircraft, something the film achieved with not only its brilliant sound and visual effects, but with the pure hard work put in its directing and production as well.

Aside from top-tier visuals, sound design, and production, Top Gun: Maverick consistently begs to differ from other action drama films with story writing. The love sequence between Maverick and Penelope "Penny" Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly) was tastefully added to the story, with Penny clearly serving as an active force in the plot, not succumbing to just making Maverick's characterization more full-bodied. Being instrumental in pushing him to make the important decision that contributed to the climax of the film, the romance didn't seem merely supplementary.

The exchanges between these two protagonists were not too forced, yet not too shallow for the romantic sequences of the story to just seem like an "afterthought", simply added just to make an action drama film more "sellable" to a wider scope of audiences. With an integral view of the love aspect shown through clever story-telling, Top Gun: Maverick effectively avoids this seemingly inevitable stereotype we see in most action drama films.

Aside from the impressive craft that went into its making, Top Gun: Maverick is worth watching more than once as little cues are thoughtfully placed through its cinematography and script, especially during the first half. For those already fans of the first film, it's a good recall reminiscent of the events that happened in the former. For first-time audiences, it provides sufficient context clues for one to be able to fully grasp the depth of the sequences in the story.

This is particularly due to the complexities of the conflict between the characters Maverick and Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw (Miles Teller), which was made clear right at the onset of the film. If you're new to the Top Gun franchise, this may lead you to initially think that the only conflict that needs to be solved is simply between two characters. 

As the movie progresses and we see how deep the relationship has become between Maverick and his former nemesis-turned-friend Admiral Tom "Iceman" Kazansky (Val Kilmer), we get a peek into how the sequences in the 1986 film have affected the character of Maverick and how after all, the story is about Maverick being in deep conflict with himself, having difficulties with still being truly at peace with his past and letting it go. This paints the story with even more depth, adequately avoiding the risk of having the movie become underappreciated by first-time viewers of the franchise, through the cleverly placed scenes between relevant characters that shows the complexities of the story relating to the first movie.

His character also avoids the unrealistic "hero" arc that action drama films tend to paint. Throughout the sequences, we get to see that despite Maverick's highly impressive skill in flying and the immense pride that he takes in what he does despite the others' disapproval of some, if not most of his ways, he's still very much a human who goes through the emotions one would feel and have to cope with when making difficult decisions. 

With this, Top Gun: Maverick effectively tugs at its audience's heartstrings while not diminishing, even more so complementing and highlighting the high of the thrill and suspense the action sequences provide. 

More immersive and exciting than in the 1986 film, this was achieved not only through visual effects but also through the hard work put in the training of its actors with their intense flight training before and during shooting, making it possible for the cameras to be placed inside the cockpits. 

This is why Top Gun: Maverick feels incredibly recollective of how films were made before CGIs took a hold of Hollywood. From the amount of time it lead from Paramount Pictures making offers to Top Gun directors Jerry Bruckheimer and Tony Scott in making a sequel in 2010, Cruise revealing the final title in 2017, to the scheduling delays caused by the global pandemic until its official showing, we can now get a full understanding behind the commitment to turn the film into reality.

Through imaginative storytelling of the journey of both younger and older pilots bickering and collaborating in pursuit of a seemingly impossible mission, director Joseph Kosinski and the whole creative force behind the film effectively shows that the new and the old can wonderfully supplement each other to achieve greater heights. Top Gun: Maverick brings us back to how action drama films are supposed to be made and enjoyed- that new advancements in film should not hinder but continue to truly take us to the world of the characters that's packed with enthralling action and remarkably moving emotions.

Rating: 10/10

Top Gun: Maverick is showing on Wednesday in Philippine cinemas.