Not only does Top Gun: Maverick achieve the rare feat of being far better than its beloved predecessor in every way, but it also reminds us why we love going to the movies and provides huge action and thrills without having textbooks worth of lore to precede and eventually follow it. We have Tom Cruise to thank for the dedication to practical flight sequences that keep you on the edge of your seat and out of breath. The loud sound design and stunning look of the flight sequences makes this a must-watch on the biggest theatrical screen you can find. Cruise, whose effortless commitment and swagger are still evident after decades of being a movie star, conveys the spirit of Maverick as a man understanding where he belongs and trying to honor those he loves while doing the thing he loves. It’s hard not to draw parallels between the actor and the character, both taking risks to achieve new feats and pave the way for future trailblazers like him. But that’s not taking away from the great supporting cast, including Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, and Glen Powell — as well as a great brief role from Val Kilmer returning as Iceman. Connelly’s relationship with Cruise in the film is also far more nuanced and lifelike than the one he had with Kelly McGillis in the original, with their dynamic having interesting stakes and the two stars having lovely chemistry. The original Top Gun is an iconic film that has plenty of classic fun moments, but this film trades that film’s 80’s-type campiness for more emotional depth that feels more like the heart of the story rather than filler. But Top Gun: Maverick honors the original movie in more ways than one, without feeling like too much or becoming anything less than its own film. There’s still callbacks and references to the original that will put a smile on your face, but rather than relying too much on nostalgia, it builds on the world that movie created, such as showing how Maverick is impacted by the legacy of his late friend Goose and making him the teacher this time, while showing how much cooler a Top Gun movie can be today with the evolved film and flight technology of today.
Top Gun: Maverick is a perfect blend of the old and the new (for example, you get to hear “Danger Zone” again but also original songs by Lady Gaga and OneRepublic written for the film), appealing to both the generation that grew up adoring Top Gun and a new generation of moviegoers. It gives a rare sense of pure popcorn entertainment that’s both huge and grounded, surpassing the first movie in quality and reminding us why Tom Cruise is a one-of-a-kind movie star who commits himself to the craft and the theatrical experience.
Doctor Strange encounters multiversal threats once again as he goes on a journey across realities with America Chavez, Wong, and Wanda Maximoff.
This sequel certainly lives up to the madness part of its title by providing a journey of visual marvel throughout alternate universes, a concept that’s been set up in other Marvel properties like Loki and Spider-Man: No Way Home but is explored here in full effect. Sam Raimi’s direction provides what feels like a true creative vision, including amazing, adventurous grandeur and use of CGI as well as some horror undertones in certain scenes that is some of the darkest a Marvel Cinematic Universe film has gotten. But to add to that, there’s genuine excitement and thrills to be found in nearly every frame — the pacing is fast and wastes no time doing anything but moving the story forward. Benedict Cumberbatch does a great job as the witty Strange but also some of his more unhinged variants from other universes. Elizabeth Olsen, who was Emmy and Golden Globe nominated for her performance in WandaVision — which I’d call a required watch to understand the events of this film — continues her journey into Wanda’s darker side and wonderfully delivers the pain she experiences and the empathy she conveys with the audience even when her inability to properly grieve from the events of Avengers: Infinity War has gotten people hurt. Together with the preceding show, Olsen creates one of the most tragic and powerful performances in the MCU. Xochitl Gomez is a lovely addition to the franchise as the young America Chavez, who shares a lot of fun scenes with Cumberbatch.
With the vast possibilities of alternate realities comes lots of excitement as to what could happen, as well as genuine thrills and suspense weaved within the many magical rules of the world of the Sorcerer Supreme and the Scarlet Witch. Sam Raimi goes back to his horror roots with some of the dark undertones in certain scenes, that still blend in well with the cheerful and wondrous MCU tone we’re used to. The one thing that gets lost within the gigantic adventure is Strange’s own character arc — Strange’s growth through the film as an actual person has the right setup, but the payoff feels underwhelming and his internal journey needed more of a through line, which was felt more in his first solo movie. Chiwetel Ejiofor is fun to see as Mordo but his inclusion feels haphazard and incomplete. It’s also easy to get lost within all the explanations and world-hopping events that require some attention, with some exposition that ends up being unnecessary. Ultimately though, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is one of the most creatively rewarding MCU films in a while, though not the most emotional, funny or heartfelt, it’s filled with moments of edge-of-your-seat action, epic imagination, breathtaking visuals, campy horror, and insanity that have to be experienced in a theater, creating a sensory overload like no other superhero movie or blockbuster.
Nicolas Cage, down on his luck at a creative, financial and personal crossroads, attends a superfan’s birthday party in Spain for $1 million, but must soon become a real life action hero when he finds himself in real danger and conflict.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is refreshingly meta about the movie industries and its stars — a sort of hybrid between Adaptation and Lethal Weapon. It’s a tribute to the magic of movies and movie stars, and the diversity of Nicolas Cage’s films, including the absurdity of some of his roles and personas, as well as the large fan following he’s retained throughout the years. The movie has some direct references to his various roles, from his Oscar-caliber roles in Leaving Las Vegas and Adaptation to his action blockbuster hits such as Face/Off, The Rock and Con Air, and his more recent indie ventures like Mandy. But they also namedrop Moonstruck, National Treasure, Gone in 60 Seconds, and even The Croods: A New Age, I mean what more could you ask for in a movie about Nic Cage? Within all of this, it’s both a meta commentary to the kinds of scripts and films audiences like — as Cage has been in some of every type — and a laugh-out-loud buddy comedy between Cage and the wonderful Pedro Pascal. Though Cage embraces and pokes fun at himself as, well, himself, Pascal plays Cage’s biggest fan and new best friend who may or may not be a dangerous arms dealer. Pascal’s line delivery, exaggeration and lovability makes him an undeniable delight to watch. So it has something for people looking for an intricate script about scripts, a tribute to an iconic actor, and an action-packed laugh-out-loud comedy. Not to mention there’s some heart involved as the movie tries to parody the idea of a “mature movie about people and relationships” while genuinely getting you interested in the main two friends.
Though it helps to have watched some of Cage’s most iconic movies (on a personal note, my favorites of his are Face/Off, Adaptation and Raising Arizona), it’s also on the stronger end of crowd-pleasing action comedies and has a little something for everyone, definitely living up to the Massive Talent part of its title.