Why another Maverick review? I mean, not only am I like two weeks late to the party, but also there’s been a million of these from far more reputable and interesting sources than me, right? Why does it matter?
Because I’m a skeptic.
My first reaction to hearing about a top gun sequel was “no one is asking for this.“ I’m a real hater when it comes to sequels coming 30 years too late. I mean it. I’m a hater and I’m a skeptic and I think if you don’t get that sequel out in about 3 to 4 years, then you might as well not do it at all. Top Gun as well, smacks of being one of those recognizable IP sequels that don’t do anything for anyone. I didn’t want this.
But the funny thing happened on the way to the forum. It started getting good reviews. I mean really good reviews, and from places that I respect… Then, it started getting good reviews from my friends. People I know. Actual faces that I look at and listen to. So I decided to give it a chance. When I was taking Maddie to go see Doctor Strange 2, I noticed that the cheap theater in my neighborhood was gonna be running Top Gun the next week and figured I could gamble five dollars. Of course that next week we had conventions and comic book sales and too much going on, and because it’s a single screen theater, the likelihood of them holding it over for two weeks isn’t great… But it decided if it was still there the next weekend, I’d go check it out. It was still there the next weekend. So, I grabbed my wife and declared it date night.
Here’s the thing, it actually lives up to the hype. It’s a good movie. Not only is it a good movie, it’s a great date movie. It’s got just enough romance for my wife, but it’s tense and adventurous, and it got her engaged. She was invested enough to have her hands over her mouth during the scary parts, jumping where she needed to, and grabbing onto my hand when things got serious. This is everything that a date movie should be. It’s a kind of film that makes a girl draw close to you and then jump onto you when she needs support. There’s a certain brilliance in that.
It’s refreshing though, the movie began with a thank you from Tom Cruise for returning to the theaters and coming to see this. It’s full of masculine energy, but more importantly there’s American flags everywhere and they’re unapologetic about it. It doesn’t care about your politics, it really seems to only be concerned with being a good adventure that can appeal to the broadest audience ever… something that Hollywood seems to have forgotten a bit ever since the election of the so called president orange man bad.
I’m not gonna bore you with recounts are a blow by blow that’s been done better by somebody else… But what I will say are a few takeaways;
This movie has a strong soundtrack. That’s no mean trick, because it’s gotta compete with some seriously iconic music already… It knows where to use the iconic music and callbacks, but it never relies on it. Instead it’s got its own identity.
It never forgets that it is in fact, a sequel. Maverick is front and center, and while the new cast certainly doesn’t get any sort of short shrift… they’re in it plenty, the movie remember is that we are here to watch Tom Cruises character above all else. This is one of those places where I felt the Star Wars sequels really failed. I didn’t have any real animosity towards the characters there, Ray was boring but Finn was interesting… Although in part two it seemed like he got downgraded to just being a damsel in distress for Rose Tico to rescue… still overall, I was content to watch the stories… But I was really there to watch the classic cast.
Unfortunately, they were kind of just a glorified long cameos. Maverick doesn’t fall into that trap. All the new characters we have more than enough screen time and development, the film always knows that it’s really Tom cruises movie and that he is the one we’re here to see. There is a refreshing wisdom to that.
This film also really understands what it is. Sometimes, a movie can get lost deciding what it wants to be… Is it a sequel? Is it in homage? Is it a reboot or a remake? Many times, Instead of just picking one of these, I feel more try and be all of them. When that happens, you get Superman returns. You get the force awakens. You get a movie that doesn’t manage to do any of those things right because it’s trying to do too many of them at once. Maverick understands that it’s a sequel. They tell enough of the story from the original that you get all of the important information, but this thing is absolutely its own film. That’s a really impressive thing. They’re not relying on homage or nostalgia, it is crafting its own narrative and story. Sure, we get A lot of the obligatory stuff that we want, shirtless sports on the beach, high-speed air fights, a little bit of father drama, a little bit of romance, and a little bit of buzzing the tower. All of this is just fine, we get the touches we need, but it doesn’t revel in it. Instead it has its own story to tell and tells it. If you change the names here… made it instead of “Pete Mitchell, code name Maverick” you made it “Rick Michelle code name Petemoss”… Still getting over the loss of his old partner “Mongoose”… And then just never mentioned the name Top Gun, but refer to it as “Navy flight school”… you do that with that same script, the story wouldn’t change at all. It stays as powerful and as distinct as it already is.
Another curiosity that really impressed me was love interest. Kelly MCGillis was not asked back for this film… She has revealed that she wasn’t even contacted about it. Her explanation is because she looks her age and got old and fat.
I’ve seen photos of her recently, she’s not fat, but she does look her age. She’s a handsome woman and reminds me a great deal of Judi Dench when she first appeared in the bond films in goldeneye. But she looks like she’s pushing 60. Tom Cruise on the other hand, does not look like he’s pushing 60. He looks like he’s just entering his 50s and Jennifer Connelly looks 40. And quite frankly it sounds a lot like sour grapes I’m a give us his part. She knew what Hollywood was when she got into it, and quite frankly part of this visual medium is that we like to watch beautiful people doing exciting things you can argue the value and ethics of it, but that’s the truth of it.
But what’s really interesting is who Jennifer Connelly plays. It’s something I didn’t catch until about 16 hours later when the wife and I were watching the original top gone the next morning. Towards the beginning, Maverick and goose are in James Tolkens office getting dressed down for a recent flyby of the tower, and he mentions that Maverick’s been busted repeatedly for a series of high-speed fly-bys over five towers and one admiral’s daughter. Goose leans over and asks “Penny Benjamin?”. I sat up up on the couch. I grabbed the remote and rewound for a moment. It was then that it clicked. Throughout the movie, Maverick had been referring to Jennifer Connelly as “ Penny”. A quick check on IMDb revealed that yes she was indeed playing Penny Benjamin. A character that was name dropped in the first movie but never actually seen. They could have plugged in any random character someone knew anyone to be Cruise’s love interest in this movie. The fact that they picked up on that name and ran with a continuity way beyond anything in this film requires is just marvelous. I love it.
So, again the question, why another review from me? Because I’m a skeptic. Because the only reason I want to see this was because of the overwhelming and constant positive recommendations from not only the media but my friends and the real people that I know. End it was every bit as good as they said it was. Hollywood take note; when you give the audience what it wants, instead of trying to tell it what it wants and then calling it a bunch of misogynists or racists or just stupid because they didn’t want what you give them… no. giving the audience what they want can make so much more money. Even if you have to hold your nose and put a bunch of American flags all through the film like Top Gun has. Even if you have to shake your head and make a straight white male the heroic lead.
We hit this late into the second week, and when we got to the movie theater, the parking lot was full. My wife didn’t believe it. She was certain everybody was just using their parking lot to go shopping downtown. No, the theater was full and two weeks later, Maverick is still breaking box offices public speaking with her wallet, and I hope Hollywood lessons, because I want more films like this not more top gun, I do think that’s done, just more films like this. More fun. More broad appeal. Give the audience what they want and be grateful that they’re showing up. That’s exactly what Top Gun Maverick did, and it’s paid off in ways Hollywood can barely imagine. Good film, and I think when it comes out, we’ll be buying a copy. Hopefully a two pack with this and the original together.
I hit up Amherst Cinema to catch my buddy Tom’s new MI film.
I’m not really a big MI fan from way back like some folks, but I find the series to be fun and this is a solid entry in the franchise. JJ Abrahams has it firing on all cylinders with a great ensemble of fun recurring characters, each with a role to fill.
Really, that was the big problem with the first two instalments. One is a fine DePalma film and two is a great Woo film. Neither are great MI movies, nor are they ensemble pieces. They are very definitely the Tom Cruise show- his attempt to do his version of James Bond, but also showcase a different auteur director each time.
It’s an interesting idea, but it never really connected with audiences and might be a reason the numbers dropped. Even with 3 swinging back towards a more traditional MI with a greater emphasis on ensemble the series was beginning to show signs of sequel fatigue. This is a shame because 3 is really the place where the series begins In earnest and rogue nation is a great part of that series that starts with 3. But we’re in the 5th movie now, and Cruise isn’t getting any younger.
Some of those lines on his face are starting to show. And it’s getting harder to get Ving Raimes in there with Simon Pegg filling such a similar function (though they did it brilliantly in rogue nation, and it was so great to see Ving back in such a big role after only having a cameo in ghost protocol). I notice a lack of iconic set pieces that we got in the first two though, and It also doesn’t help that we keep repeating themes- were getting disavowed now in almost every film. We need something new…but how many more films does this series still have in it?