Thirty-six years and some things pretty much remain the same. That can also be said of Tom Cruise, a.k.a Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. Cruise, who turns 60 in July, still has that youthful look and is still up to his same tricks as the courageous and cocky test pilot persona reclaiming the top role in the much-anticipated movie Top Gun: Maverick, the sequel to the 1986 Top Gun.
It’s evident from the opening scene that we’re in for a treat as bad boy Maverick dons his aviator ray bans and races his motorcycle sans helmet to the airstrip. And despite being told that the hypersonic “Darkstar” project was being axed in favour of redirecting those mega dollars into UAV drone programs, Maverick, being Maverick, has the need for speed, so he disobeyed orders and piloted into the air highway beyond Mach 10 and the danger zone.
After surviving his little stunt, he is summoned to the none-too-happy Admiral’s office, played by Ed Harris.
“The end is inevitable, Maverick,” says the Admiral, “Your kind is headed for extinction.”
“Maybe so, Sir. But not today,” replies Maverick with a grin.
Not only good at what he does but also with friends in high places, Maverick is assigned back to where it all started – the Top Gun Academy. He’s assigned to train an elite group of Top Gun graduate aviators for a mission involving uranium that will likely lead to the ultimate sacrifice.
The sequel pays homage to the original and gives context and perspective to those who may not have seen or remember the 1986 Top Gun.
We see the recreation of famous scenes in the new setting – the singing of Great Balls of Fire at the bar, the unauthorized fly-bys over the control tower, while the famous spray-tanned beach volleyball scene has morphed into a different sport.
Maverick has always been a carefree (some call him careless) risk-taker. But despite his 30 years of service, Maverick has only attained the rank of US Navy Captain, and the sequel makes clear that some of the events from the past still haunt him.
While the original had Kelly McGillis (Charlie) as his love interest, the sequel introduces Penny Benjamin, who owns the bar where the top gunners hang out, played by Jennifer Connelly. According to the Top Gun Fandom, Penny was not actually seen in the original movie, only mentioned by name in a whisper (which I missed) – and of course, she is an Admiral’s daughter.
There’s a brief appearance by Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, again played Val Kilmer from the original movie and who has since risen to the rank of Admiral. Miles Teller plays Lieutenant Bradley Bradshaw (Rooster), the son of Maverick’s best friend, Nick Bradshaw (Goose), portrayed by Anthony Edwards, who died in the first movie.
In this movie, the Iceman is in ill health, mirroring Kilmer’s own life: he has been suffering from throat cancer and can’t really speak. In fact, according to Insider, Kilmer’s dialogue was created using AI technology by using old recordings of his voice.
The storyline is simple; many antics from the original are back, of course, but it’s a given that the sequel would involve a wicked dogfight. Of course, our hero Maverick is right in the middle of it.
While technology has certainly come a long way since 1986 (most of the scenes in the original were performed by real pilots), the advances since then add to the experience.
While not giving too much away, Top Gun: Maverick does not disappoint. In fact, when the planes were in the air, I could feel the rush of adrenalin flowing throughout.
It’s interesting that we never actually find out who the villains Maverick is fighting really are. Perhaps the creators didn’t want to single out any particular potential nuclear powerhouse (and being banned). Or it could be foreshadowing Top Gun 3 – although Cruise may have a hard time still being the youthful one.
Greg Gazin, also known as the Gadget Guy and Gadget Greg, is a syndicated veteran tech columnist, communication, leadership and technology speaker, facilitator, blogger, podcaster and author. Reach him @gadgetgreg or at GadgetGuy.ca. For interview requests, click here.
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