Cast your mind back to 11th July 2019. You might have been thinking fondly of getting tickets for the following day’s premiere of the longest awaited sequel. After all, Top Gun came out way back in 1986 so that made a thirty three year gap. It was set to be sandwiched between Spider-Man:Far From Home and the faux live action version of The Lion King. It seems so long since they came out!
However, on 29th August 2018, about a month or so into filming, the release date was pushed back to 26th June 2020, depriving us of one of 2019’s most anticipated films. Then, as I’m sure you know, the pandemic struck and on 2nd April 2020 Paramount announced it would postpone the film by six months to 23rd December 2020.
In September 2020, the film was delayed to 2nd July 2021. On 9th April 2021 Paramount delayed the film once again to 19th November 2021 making this the fourth release date change. The world was also waiting for the release of Mission: Impossible 7 and it seemed that it would be a toss up whether M:I 7 or Top Gun: Maverick would be the first to hit the screens. To be honest, though, nearly everything was being postponed.
The End Is Inevitable, Maverick. Your Kind Is Headed For Extinction
The Delta variant rolled around and 1st September 2021 saw Paramount delaying the film for a fifth time to 27th May 2022. Apparently, again taking the spot of Mission: Impossible 7. So the film is now set to be released nearly three years from its original release date and thirty six years after the release of the original.
Imagine my surprise when my local cinema announced that tickets were available for the 10:50 showing on 25th May 2022! It may only be two days off the three year wait, but I was there bright and early and picking up my free mini poster! The taste of toothpaste was still strong and lunch was nowhere in sight when I rolled into the auditorium.
Given that the only people attending these showings are, usually, the “must see first” uber-fans, the unemployed, or the retired I wasn’t expecting a full house. There were a fair few in attendance though and I imagine the evening showings will be packed out. Can’t see the supply of free mini posters lasting too much longer!
Maybe So, Sir. But Not Today
So…was it worth the wait? In my opinion, yes! Any film in this situation has to answer a couple of questions. Is this going to be the first one but thirty plus years later, are we going to try and fudge things to look like five, ten, fifteen years later, or are we going to just start anew, just hanging on to the US Navy flight school thing. Are people going to come back, get written out but mentioned, or totally retconned out of existence?
The total reboot option is one that has proven popular over the years. Tomb Raider, Star Trek, Ghostbusters, Jumanji, Batman, Planet Of The Apes, The Mummy, Psycho, Mad Max, and Fantastic Four have all been rebooted, Batman three times! We all know that there have been varying levels of success and acceptance but I would wager my mortgage that all of them had an inkling of, at least, one sequel being worked on before the box office figures came in.
So where does Top Gun: Maverick lie? It is with the first option! We are thirty six years on from the events of Top Gun and we find our hero has been deliberately dodging promotion so that he can continue to fly. He is now a military test pilot and he’s due to take out a new aeroplane to test how fast it can go; they’re talking Mach 9 or 10. Obviously Maverick overdoes things and is about to be dishonourably discharged with a bazillion dollar repair bill in his pocket. Then his old friend and erstwhile rival Iceman (Val Kilmer) comes to his rescue.
I Have To Admit I Wasn’t Expecting An Invitation Back
Iceman has not taken the promotion dodging approach to his Navy career and is now the four star Admiral Kazansky, in charge of the whole Pacific Fleet. He pulls Maverick’s tender bits out of the fire and sends him back to being an instructor at TOPGUN. Here he meets his less than enthusiastic commanding officers (Jon Hamm is priceless!) and his cocky and sceptical students. His task here is to prepare them for a mission to take out an enemy uranium enrichment facility before it can start making nukes.
Obviously, it’s not a straightforward mission. The facility is underground in an area surrounded by a ring of mountains and all the approaches are covered by surface to air missiles. Oh, and there’s only a few weeks before the thing becomes operational. Cue all manner of aerial hijinks as they are trained in the requisite skill sets; you’ve seen a tiny bit of it in the trailers.
One other fly in the ointment is that one of the select few is Lt Bradley Bradshaw a.k.a. Rooster, son of Goose. As you doubtless remember, Goose was Maverick’s best friend who met an early and wet demise during Top Gun. It was made obvious in the trailers, Rooster (Miles Teller) does not see eye to eye with Maverick which leads to all manner of shenanigans. The reason for the lack of empathy isn’t the obvious one but, hey, spoilers! To be honest, though, in some ways the story is the least important part of the film. As long as it is enough to hold the whole thing together in a believable manner then it does its job.
They’re Called Orders, Maverick
There then follows a couple of hours of entertainment absolutely riddled with amazing aerial footage. Apparently, one of the conditions for Tom Cruise signing on was that the flight sequences were done for real; no CGI! I guess that’s because Mr Cruise knows how well the first outing went and wants to recreate that style. Also, he is an accomplished pilot; the propeller driven P-51 Mustang which appears on screen and in some of the publicity material is his own aeroplane.
One thing that was nicely done was Val Kilmer’s contribution. It was touch and go whether or not he’d be able to make an on screen appearance due to his health problems; treatment for throat cancer has affected his voice and his ability to eat. I did wonder if he would appear as something more than the photo seen in the trailer and I’m pleased to say he does. He appears just before the third Peetime given in the RunPee app and you won’t want to miss it.
Another thing that was well done was the casting of Rooster. Miles Teller is believable as the grown up son of Goose (Anthony Edwards). Those of you who can’t remember Goose, and haven’t had a Top Gun rewatch opportunity, there are plenty of clips and shots of photos to refresh the old brain cells.
My Dad Believed In You
So Maverick and Iceman are the only returning characters if you count actual filmed footage. Meg Ryan and Anthony Edwards (Carole and Nick “Goose” Bradshaw) appear in flashback but nowhere else. All of the other pilots and teaching staff have, presumably, moved on. There may be photographs in the background featuring them but you’ll have to wait until Top Gun: Maverick is available to own and you can play around with the pause button!
Maverick’s love interest in this film is Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly) and there is a connection between the two films. While Goose and Maverick are being disciplined for one offence or another, mention is made of not having been in so much trouble since dating an admiral’s daughter. It turns out that Penny Benjamin is said admiral’s daughter. Charlie Blackwood (Kelly McGillis) doesn’t get a mention; Ms McGillis ascribes this to being “too fat and old”.
I’m Not Going To Make The Same Mistake
The one who hasn’t been affected by the relentless march of time is Tom Cruise. Honestly, that man must have a portrait in his attic that is in pieces. He looks even better now than he did in 1986 and he didn’t exactly frighten the horses back then. He’s lost all the puppy fat he was carrying then, probably thanks to running in every film he makes!
Talking of losing fat, there is an homage to the beach volleyball scene. This time they are playing some form of American football on the beach. Everyone is stripped down, oiled up, and glistening in the sun. It’s not quite as homoerotic as the original as there are now women pilots and they can hold their own with the men. Apparently, the scene was shot and everyone went off for a few beers and doughnuts. Unfortunately, the first take wasn’t up to scratch. Everyone was called back in to hit the gym and shape back up to reshoot it.
So, no surprises and no real deviation from the original formula. We still and up with a few laughs, a few shocks, and a few tears. I will definitely be seeing this again!
Movie Grade: A+
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Former teacher, lecturer, homelessness administrator, pharmacy dispenser now happily retired, happily married, and a very happy granddad. I live next to the Mersey but on the side Daniel Craig and Taron Egerton come from rather than the side the Beatles came from!