Combustible Celluloid Review - Top Gun: Maverick (2022), Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, Christopher McQuarrie, based on a story by Peter Craig, Justin Marks, and on characters created by Jim Cash, Jack Epps Jr., Joseph Kosinski, Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Bashir Salahuddin, Jon Hamm, Charles Parnell, Monica Barbaro, Lewis Pullman, Jay Ellis, Danny Ramirez, Glen Powell, Jack Schumacher, Manny Jacinto, Kara Wang, Greg Tarzan Davis, Jake Picking, Raymond Lee, Jean Louisa Kelly, Lyliana Wray
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With: Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Bashir Salahuddin, Jon Hamm, Charles Parnell, Monica Barbaro, Lewis Pullman, Jay Ellis, Danny Ramirez, Glen Powell, Jack Schumacher, Manny Jacinto, Kara Wang, Greg Tarzan Davis, Jake Picking, Raymond Lee, Jean Louisa Kelly, Lyliana Wray
Written by: Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, Christopher McQuarrie, based on a story by Peter Craig, Justin Marks, and on characters created by Jim Cash, Jack Epps Jr.
Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense action, and some strong language
Running Time: 131
Date: 05/27/2022
IMDB

Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Hot Air

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I decided to skip the press screening for this sequel, which comes 36 years after its predecessor, for two reasons. One is that I found director Joseph Kosinski's last film with Tom Cruise, Oblivion, to be dull and forgettable. And the second is that I loathe the original Top Gun (1986). Imagine my surprise when the reviews began pouring in, not only positive, but positively rapturous, calling it one of the best films of the year, one of the greatest summer blockbusters of all time, and, in at least one case, one of the greatest films of all time.

So I went to see it. And, of course, it isn't really all that good, but I was happily surprised that I enjoyed it. It's a breezy, effortless entertainment, and I would recommend it to just about anyone who felt like going back to the movie theater. It's all very simple. Maverick (Cruise) is still a captain after 30-odd years, not advancing through the ranks because he likes where he is in life. He's still a rebel, but now he's an "old-timer," at odds with the youngsters, and also with his grumpy superiors, who want to replace human pilots with robots. Maverick believes, of course, that experience and skill is no match for technology.

Kelly McGillis's "Charlie" is nowhere to be seen, and not even mentioned. But I found out that, as of today, she is 64 to Cruise's 59, and — unlike Cruise — she no longer looks like a movie star. For a movie as shallow as this one, better to go with beautiful Jennifer Connelly, 51, as "Penny," the new love interest. She runs a bar on the base, is a single mom, and she has a spotty history with Maverick that makes her reluctant to jump back into it with him. For a while, at least. Miles Teller plays "Rooster," son of Maverick's late wingman Goose. Maverick and Rooster also have a spotty history because, on the deathbed request of Rooster's mother, Maverick tried to keep Rooster from becoming a pilot.

Other than that, the plot revolves around a top secret and nearly-impossible mission to bomb an underground storage facility, filled with uranium, in some unnamed country, before it can be turned into weapons. The mission requires flying below radar, through canyons, doing a steep climb, avoiding missiles, dropping bombs on an impossibly small target, and dodging enemy aircraft. It's basically the same thing as the Death Star raid in the original Star Wars, but it works. Up until the mission, Maverick must train a batch of up-and-coming hotshots, all the "best of the best," and thankfully more diverse than the cast of the whitebread original. The suspense comes from wondering who will go on the final mission, and whether Maverick be going with them.

The aerial footage is indeed the best you have ever seen up to this point. Even on a standard 2D screen, it feels like you're up there, hanging on for dear life. It may be the closest movies have ever got to capturing a roller coaster ride. But even that comes in second to the scene in which Maverick meets his old enemy-turned-close-friend Iceman (Val Kilmer). Iceman is the only one protecting the rebellious Maverick from his severe superiors, and he's dying. Kilmer's real-life throat cancer comes into play, but visual effects and audio technology allow him to briefly "talk," which is something he cannot any longer do in real life. It's a powerful and touching moment.

Many other moments, on the other hand, are eye-rollingly dumb, especially bits of dialogue that try to hark back to the glory days of the original film. The story sometimes struggles — especially when grounded — to keep up its momentum, and, an obligatory shirtless football game on the beach doesn't help much (although the scene is at least explained as a team-building exercise, and not just a gratuitous flesh-fest). Another quibble is that it's difficult not to occasionally be pushed out of the film by Cruise himself, impossibly fit, handsome, and godlike for a person his age, but also still with his powerhouse movie star charm and charisma.

The movie's real secret weapon is its score, put together by Lorne Balfe (Black Widow) and featuring music and songs by Harold Faltermeyer, Lady Gaga, and Hans Zimmer. Much to my annoyance, I felt a little tingle and hairs standing on end when Faltermeyer's original 1986 theme came up on the theater's big speakers, a "gong" sound accompanied by the "tappa-tappa-tappa" of an electronic hi-hat and followed by the low rumble of a cheesy electric guitar. That's the kind of thing that makes you feel glad to be alive, and have the ability to take joy in simple pleasures.

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