I don’t know why, but seeing Tom Cruise’s Maverick and Val Kilmer’s Iceman text each other in Joseph Kosinski’s Top Gun: Maverick is truly amusing. Tony Scott’s Top Gun (1986) is so engrained in 1980s pop culture and nostalgia that seeing these characters do everyday things in the 21st century is a little bewildering.
But in the new tradition of Hollywood rebooting hit movies and shows from past decades for easy money, Maverick does fill a sweet spot. After various release date changes going back to 2019, Kosinski’s three-decade-later follow-up to Scott’s cult classic is worth the wait for longtime fans.
Beginning with a nearly identical homage to the opening sequence in the original Top Gun, it’s clear Maverick is giving us the same qualities that captured fans initially. Only this time, Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is quite a bit older — and out of his league — compared to the younger Navy pilots he’s recruited to mentor.
These pilots include Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick’s deceased best friend. While struggling to connect with the aspiring protégé, Maverick also has to deal with his superiors, Adm. Chester Cain (Ed Harris) and Vice Adm. Beau Simpson (Jon Hamm) — both of whom think he should retire from the sky.
Kilmer returns with a cameo appearance as Iceman, Glen Powell plays the cocky aviation student in the new crew, and Jennifer Connelly, Monica Barbaro and Jean Louisa Kelly are the new ladies for the sequel.
There was some minor attention over the fact that Kelly McGillis and Meg Ryan weren’t back for Maverick, and some accusations they were replaced with “hotter” actresses. Without commenting on the women’s looks, I can say Connelly and Kelly’s characters are pretty much just extra eye candy and don’t add anything to the new plot.
Similarly, I thought parts of Kilmer’s real-life ailments written into his character a little awkward, and his cameo ended on an underwhelming note.
That said, I still found Maverick to be a lot of fun and a quintessential theater experience this summer season. The action, effects, cinematography, sound design and soundtrack all shimmer on the big screen.
There’s obvious fan service, but it’s offset by the exhilarating flying sequences and charming cast. Cruise shows he can slip right back into his famous characters naturally, and that yes, it’s okay for the greatest action star in the world to be older.
If you can handle the nostalgia of the first act and general information overload, Top Gun: Maverick offers a great movie night with a solid tribute by Kosinski to Scott’s impact on pop culture and action movies.