Just as it's strange today to imagine that man has been capable of powered flight for little more than a century, it is also strange to imagine that Top Gun: Maverick is a near-perfect sequel to a movie that's at least three decades old. Therefore, both as a reviewer and an aerospace geek (#avgeek), it is still hard for me to believe how successfully Top Gun: Maverick aces both these disparate aspects – the love of flight and the yearning for nostalgia.
The movie picks up decades after the first one, with Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell, doing what he loves doing, pushing the boundaries of human flight and trashing multi-million-dollar equipment. But while he breaks the barriers of sound in the sky, his life on ground is somewhat at a standstill. He is asked by Admiral Tom 'Iceman' Kazansky (Val Kilmer) to train an elite group of Top Gun Naval Pilots to undertake a high stakes mission in enemy territory. Meanwhile, he also has to reconcile his history with Lt. Bradley 'Rooster' Bradshaw, one of the pilots in the team, and also his former partner Goose's son, and perhaps get another chance at love with Jennifer Connelly's Penny. Those are just the basic stakes. The movie escalates everything from thereon.
I could harp on about the cinematography, the beauty of the film's aerobatics or the fact that the movie manages to deliver human moments in what is essentially a showcase of testosterone and jet fuel. But we already covered those nuances here. What I want to focus on is the fact that whether you see it from the Aviator tinted glasses of an aerospace geek, or as a regular film-going audience, Top Gun: Maverick is a definitive, and enthralling piece of cinema that transcends into an experience.
My day jobs have accorded me the privilege of seeing the F/A-18 Super Hornets that Maverick and his team of Top Gun Naval pilots fly, up close and personal. In fact, I have had the distinct pleasure of working first-hand with those who fly these Super Hornets and build them; and sell them. Of course, that makes remaining neutral in the review sometimes difficult, because when those first engines rev up, or the afterburners come on, or when Maverick and Rooster do the Cobra manoeuvre, or when Tom Cruise takes his fighter down the desert and pulls it straight up to hit more than 5Gs, all you want to do, is scream and whoop.
I can also safely assume that the "blink-and-you-miss" appearance of a fifth-gen F-35 fighter, and then a quick cut to the F/A-18s while 'Danger Zone' starts playing is perhaps one of the cleverest aviation disses I have seen on film.
There are tons of those nods and winks in Top Gun: Maverick, the kinds that will make the #avgeeks laugh and high five. However, the movie also knows that flight enthusiasts are not its only audience. That it manages to walk that fine line of reverence, accuracy and mass appeal with such ease, is to the credit of the team. Top Gun needs to be experienced on the largest scale possible – preferably IMAX.
To sum up, in an age of fighters with AI powered loyal wingmen, and beyond visual range combat – Top Gun: Maverick is an enthralling, faithful ode to the 'dogfight', to the last few generations humans that will fly these enthralling beasts of destruction; and to the spirit of Icarus within all of us.
Additional Fun Fact: There's a video game called Ace Combat Seven: Skies Unknown, in that there's a mission called Cape Rainy Assault. Those who know, you know.