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.