In April of 1986 I was in the movie theatre business. I had begged the home office – and convinced them – to give me “Top Gun” as one of my summer pictures. I displayed the posters and ran the trailers, listening to the audience’s excitement when the preview ended. I was set. Then, during the first week of May, our company Vice President visited me in my office. To get the full picture in your head, I’ll preface his comments by letting you know that he sounded an awful bit like Fozzie Bear. “Michael,” he said, “I’ve just come from seeing what will be the biggest film of the summer.” “Top Gun,” I asked. “No, “Cobra.” You’ll play it for months!” “So I’m playing “Cobra” AND “Top Gun?” – my theatre was a twin – “Top Gun”?? That won’t play through June. Believe me, my friend, you want “Cobra.”” So I played “Cobra,” which fizzled out after 2 weeks. The other theatre in the area got “Top Gun.” It played through August!
As his jet rockets through the sky, Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) begins a difficult maneuver and, as he often does in these situations, quietly whispers “talk to me Goose.” It’s something he’s done for the past three-plus decades and it’s always seemed to work. Will it work this time?
Packed with wall -to-wall action, “Top Gun: Maverick” finds, well, Maverick, back as an instructor at the Fighter Pilot Training School, where he is asked to get 16 of the best pilots ready for a mission. He balks at first at the assignment, stating his preference to be a part of the mission itself, but is told in no uncertain terms by his commander (Jon Hamm) that he’s just there to train and evaluate. However, things get a little more difficult when he learns that one of the students, call sign Rooster (Miles Teller), is the son of Maverick’s late friend Goose, a young man who blames Maverick for many things, including, of course, the death of his father. Can you say tension?
It has been 36-years since “Top Gun” hit theatres, and I’ll have to admit that I was a little wary when I heard they were making a sequel. Anticipation grew as COVID delayed the film’s release – originally scheduled for May 2019 – for almost two years. Let me just say, it was well worth the wait. Combining several familiar themes from the first film, with an amazing amount of aerial action, “Top Gun: Maverick” delivers the goods. Cruise is his usual cocky self, and that self-assurance is multiplied several times by the assortment of hot shot pilots he is given to mentor. Teller, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the young Goose, plays a young man who should be confident of his skills but isn’t, causing him to hesitate at times he shouldn’t. Jennifer Connelly is Maverick’s love interest this time around, playing – if my memory serves me – the daughter of a former Admiral – a daughter that Maverick may or may not have taken advantage of. Jon Hamm and Ed Harris are well cast as the authority figures that just don’t seem to understand Maverick’s ways and it’s a genuine treat to see Val Kilmer back on the big screen. Director Joseph Kosinski keeps the film moving at a rapid pace, while the aerial action is downright dizzying.
The film is lovingly dedicated to the late Tony Scott, who directed “Top Gun.” I’d like to think that he would give a thumbs up and a salute to “Top Gun: Maverick.”