36 years after its premiere, "Top Gun" has achieved cult status. Now the action film starring Tom Cruise is getting a sequel. But despite a good portion of nostalgia, "Maverick" is not only worth seeing for fans.
Sequel films often have a reputation for not being able to hold a candle to the original - especially when the former is a classic. Because most of the time, the creators use an extremely simple recipe: Take the old script and the soundtrack, add a few dull changes, pick up tried-and-true jokes, mix them with new, cool sayings and hope for a similarly good grossing result as the predecessor. If you look at it very strictly, director Joseph Kosinski didn't do it much differently with "Top Gun: Maverick". But despite a good dose of nostalgia, it exceeds all expectations and makes the film a real action spectacle.
Tom Cruise was 24 years old when he first slipped into the role of Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in 1986 - a high-spirited Navy pilot with cool sunglasses, a Kawasaki motorcycle and "the need for speed". 36 years later, testing new Navy aircraft, he's as impulsive and rebellious as ever. Despite his potential, the captain avoided a promotion because it would mean a desk job. But Maverick still knows exactly how to annoy his superiors, as he proves in a thrilling opening sequence in which he pushes a new plane beyond its limits without permission.
As punishment, he is then ordered to return to the elite Top Gun Pilot Training School for an incredibly dangerous mission - not to carry it out himself, but to train a small, select group of trainees for the task. The order came from Maverick's old nemesis Tom "Iceman" Kazansky (Val Kilmer), with whom he only bonded in the final minutes of the first part and who is now a highly decorated, albeit ailing admiral. His new commanding officer, Beau "Cyclone" Simpson (Jon Hamm), isn't too happy about Maverick's return.
Under Cyclone's stern eye, Maverick must become a team player and train his young crew to get out of the mission alive. Graduates include Lieutenants Natasha "Phoenix" Trace (Monica Barbaro), Robert "Bob" Floyd (Lewis Pullman), Mickey "Fanboy" Garcia (Danny Ramirez), Reuben "Payback" Fitch (Jay Ellis), Javy "Coyote" Machado (Greg Tarzan Davis), Jake "Hangman" Seresin (Glen Powell) - and Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick's late best friend Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards), who died in a training accident life came. Rooster doesn't make Maverick's job easy, as he blames him for his father's death.
Some popular characters had to give way to the story: Meg Ryan, Goose's wife, is only shown in a flashback. Kelly McGillis, who embodied the attractive flight instructor Charlie, is also not part of the party and is not mentioned at all. "I didn't want the story to always look backwards," director Kosinski explained. It was his plan to introduce new characters. McGillis, 64, sees it differently: "I'm old and fat and I look my age and that's not what this whole thing is about," she told Entertainment Today in 2019.
Instead, upon arriving in California, Maverick encounters Penny Benjamin (51-year-old Jennifer Connelly), mentioned only a number of times in "Top Gun" as an admiral's daughter. Apparently, the captain and the owner of the barracks bar have had an on-off relationship for the past few decades. Even now they are getting closer again, but this plot line is completely irrelevant to the story - and ultimately also to the viewers. On the other hand, audience favorite Val Kilmer, who won the fight against throat cancer in 2017, was allowed to return. Although his voice continues to suffer from the effects of a tracheotomy, chemotherapy and radiation, his serious illness was well integrated into the story. The short scene in which he can be seen should make many fan hearts beat faster.
The fact that Phoenix, for the first time, allows a woman to fly with the elite pilots and not be sexualized is not only a step forward for "Top Gun", but for films in general. Overall, however, the young pilots' characters lack depth and are only there to drive the story forward. But that doesn't matter, because "Top Gun" is all about Tom Cruise. He's never been a particularly good actor, but with his energy and charisma he's sure to make Top Gun: Maverick another cult film.
Of course, this sequel also aimed to evoke nostalgic feelings in "Top Gun" fans. The intros are almost identical, Kenny Loggins still gives you goosebumps with "Danger Zone" and of course Cruise drives up to the hangar in the sunset on his motorbike in old gear. And while Rooster sat on the piano as a young boy while his father and Maverick partied to Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire", it is now he who hammers the keys to the delight of his trainee colleagues in the local pub. Apparently he not only inherited his father's taste in mustaches, aviator sunglasses and shirts, but also his musical talent. At this sight, even a Maverick gets very sentimental from time to time.
Like the first "Top Gun" part, "Maverick" - this time enhanced by the music of Hans Zimmer - is full of pathos and a passion for aviation and fatherland that only Hollywood can muster. Or, to paraphrase Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, "It's not what I am. It's who I am!" The action film is a thoroughly successful homage to the original by director Tony Scott, who died in 2012.
Despite the rather superficial story, it has even more to offer and surpasses its predecessor on many levels: the aerial action sequences are much more exciting and compelling than in the first part and cry out to be seen on a big screen. The camera work and the sound are breathtaking, giving you the feeling of really being in the cockpit. This is not only because director Joseph Kosinski did a great job on his fourth feature film, but also because the actors had to go through intensive flight training and flew real airplanes during the shooting. "Top Gun: Maverick" is not only worth seeing for fans of the cult film.
"Top Gun: Maverick" is now in German cinemas.