The original Top Gun from 1986 is one of those films that can represent multiple forms of nostalgia.
For years, it was a Christmas tradition for my cousins and I when we reunited every Christmas Eve. On another occasion, it was the film of choice at a YMCA camp I attended as a teenager, while and my fellow campers spent a good amount of time yelling “PDA!” (Public Display of Affection) during “Take my Breath Away”. I venture to guess there are more than enough scenarios for others out there (first dates, special birthday parties, etc) with their connection to the original (I read that the actual Top Gun school fines its students for quoting the film). In short, a sequel has indeed been anticipated by many more than one might think.
Well, after two years of waiting (due to COVID) and over three and a half decades since the original, the need for speed is finally being quenched.
Being well over three decades since the events of the original, it is clear that Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) still has issues of being, well, grounded. As a test pilot, he is still pushing the boundaries, and is (as was stated in the first film) flying “by the seat of his pants.” He is about to be officially let go of by his superior (Ed Harris), but is called upon on the last minute by his former rival turned friend Tom Kazansky (Val Kilmer), better known as “Iceman.” Now an Admiral and in charge of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Ice needs Mav to return to Top Gun to train some new bloods. They must fly a near impossible mission (I just got the joke as I was typing that) to destroy a facility of uranium (one of the classic maguffins). Mav is under the careful watch of the Vice Admiral Beau Simpson (Jon Hamm), call sign “Cyclone”.
Of the new recruits, the main one Mav has anxiety over is that of “Rooster” (Miles Teller), the son of Mav’s late best friend “Goose” (it took me a while to put together father and son would have call signs after birds). With his mustache, Teller is about as close to resembling Goose’s son as anyone could be. Other recruits include a hot shot with call sign “Hangman” (Glen Powell), Monica Barbaro as “Phoenix”, and Lewis Pullman as a pilot who has the simplest of callsigns: “Bob”.
As the film progressed, I admit to being a little warry that the film would try to go to some minor subplots about the recruits love lives. Thankfully, that did not occur. The only real romance in the film is that of Mav and the single mom who runs the local bar, Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly). The chemistry between the two is indeed far more potent than that of the romance in the first film.
I was unable to revisit the original film before seeing the sequel, but the references were clear as day (some of them a little too on the nose). The opening credits were indeed refreshing for the most part (a nod to Don Simpson softened my heart a bit). The most touching of scenes is one I won’t spoil, only to say that the actor in it (opposite Cruise) still has it.
Parents, if you just look at the ratings of this (PG-13) and the original (PG), you are missing a lot of context. The content of this film (a fair amount of swearing, including one F bomb, and kissing on a bed) is nothing more extreme than that of the original (which had the aforementioned “Take my Breath Away” scene.) If your kids have seen the original, they are fine here.
I have not even gotten around to mentioning the technical aspects of the film. Honestly, the best word is awesome (even though I do admit to not preparing myself for how loud this film is). I can’t say for certain if this is indeed better than the original, but it very well may be. There are moments at the end where I thought certain situations did, at one point, seem a bit far fetched. Nevertheless, this movie is in a league with the likes of Blade Runner 2049 in setting standards for long awaited sequels that are worth the wait.
Until the next one comes, the pattern is full.