‘Top Gun: Maverick’ everything you’d expect, and worse

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The best thing I can say about “Top Gun: Maverick,” the long-awaited sequel to the 1986 Cold War blockbuster, is that it eventually ends.

Tom Cruise reprises his role as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, the pompous fighter pilot who has remarkably exhibited zero-character growth or accumulated any life wisdom while whizzing into middle age and remaining “the fastest man alive.”


In fact, despite an overdose of Just for Men hair-coloring, Maverick is exactly the same character, every bit as contemptible as he was 35 years ago when he and Iceman (Val Kilmer), who makes a brief appearance, saved us from the Commies.

Actually, other than swapping the Soviets for the Iranians, his love interest Charlie Blackwood (Kelly McGillis) for Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly), and Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards) for his son Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw[1] (Miles Teller)—whose resemblance to his father in the first film is uncanny—plot-wise, “Top Gun: Maverick” is essentially the same damn movie as its predecessor.

Only tenfold more insufferable.

So to rehash the plot here is the definition of redundant if you’ve seen the original. In fact, it seems the screenwriters have piggy-backed on another unsettling trend in Hollywood lately: Instead of creating new content, they recycle the old stuff.

Yes, they throw a small curveball where Maverick is called back to “Top Gun” to teach and train the new generation of cocksure fighter pilots for a death-defying mission[2], but don’t believe for a second that you can contain “the fastest man alive” in a classroom.

Hell no. Maverick “has the need for speed,” and no rules can keep him from his drug of choice[3].

And “Top Gun: Maverick” also makes it a point to recycle the same motifs from the first movie while simultaneously assuring that each new character is entirely two-dimensional and trite to the point where anytime they appear on screen, you’ve already forgotten their names. If not for their call signs written on their fighter helmets, they’d all remain faceless.

However, if you didn’t get enough of any of the following motifs in “Top Gun” then “Maverick” will certainly sate the craving:

  • Tracking shots of Maverick racing his motorcycle down air strips (both with and without his love interest strapped to the back of the bike) while loud adrenalin-pumping music overlays the sound of engines revving in the background.
  • Montages of shirtless pilots (and one female in a sports bra) playing ball on the beach, only they swap out volleyball for touch football.
  • A Bradshaw man playing “Great Balls of Fire” in a bar as the other patrons sing along. If you don’t remember it from the first film, no worries. They’re not afraid of the flashback.
  • Intense “dog fights” in the sky and explosions that feel more like playing a video game than watching a film.
  • A love scene with low-key lighting, insert shots of body parts and soft music to set the ambiance. I would include the close-up of a lusty look, but Cruise has had so much Botox that it’s impossible to tell whether he’s feeling amorous or just surprised.

There’s also the fact that in 1986 the idea of American exceptionalism—the premise on which both films are hinged—played a lot better than it does today for myriad reasons too vast and complicated to explore in a short review of this snore of a film.

My wife and I went to see “Top Gun: Maverick” at Chunky’s Cinema Pub in Manchester on Memorial Day with our friends Chris and Kim. We’re all roughly the same age, products of the ’80s and ’90s, and while Chris was lukewarm and my opinions of the film are not exactly ambiguous, the girls loved it for the nostalgia alone[4], which I suppose I’d have to concede.

But if you’re looking for a movie that will do more than make you pine for leg-warmers and Kenny Loggins’ Greatest Hits, I’d suggest taking Pete “Maverick” Mitchell’s advice and ejecting.


[1] Isn’t it neat how the father and son’s call signs are both birds?

[2] They attempt to explore the theme of aging in the typical “no country for old men” trope, but if you’re interested in the topic, I’d suggest reading WB Yeats’ poem “Sailing to Byzantium” instead.

[3] Here, of course, I’m referring to traveling at high velocity not methamphetamines.

[4] Apparently, there were many, seeing the movie broke box office records over the weekend.


About this Author

Nathan Graziano

Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester with his wife and kids. He's the author of nine collections of fiction and poetry. His most recent book, Born on Good Friday was published by Roadside Press in 2023. He's a high school teacher and freelance writer, and in his free time, he writes bios about himself in the third person. For more information, visit his website: http://www.nathangraziano.com