“Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it.” – Veronica Roth
Thirty-five years passed before the sci-fi classic Blade Runner got its much deserved and equally ground breaking sequel, Blade Runner 2049. Before anyone saw how tremendous 2049 is, there was understandably doubt about its validity as a worthy sequel. Fans of the original expected a hacked up version of the world so brilliantly built by Ridley Scott. It was going to be some mindless laser show with action and spaceships; a hollow shell of its deep-thinking predecessor.
Instead, and much to the delight of anyone anticipating/bracing for its arrival, was met with a thought provoking sequel that not only continued the world and feel of the first but unquestionably stood on its own in every way. Blade Runner is a classic and 2049 was instantly recognized as an equally if not better realization of a fully fleshed out future reality with amazing characters and gorgeous cinematography, among so much more. They accomplished the impossible in grand fashion. It happened just a couple years before 2049 with Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s been done but prior to and in between these masterpieces of world building lies a wasteland of dreck and muck rightfully lost to time. I’m so happy I can say it has happened again.
Top Gun: Maverick improves upon the classic 1986 thriller in just about every conceivable way imaginable. Thirty-six years later. Almost exactly like Blade Runner. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.
I think the first accomplishment that must be acknowledged here is the numerous delays Maverick went through. So often when something like this happens the result is years of anticipation being met with a final product that could never live up to the hype. Top Gun: Maverick was delayed at least four times and now it’s here proving that the delays were influenced by outside forces having zero effect on the final product which is nothing short of phenomenal. Maverick is a textbook example on how to produce an action sequel properly.
First thing is to recognize the balance between referencing the old and exploring the new. When is it appropriate to bring up what happened in the first and when is it time to carve a new path that will ultimately justify the existence of a sequel. 2049 needed to be its own story with elements of the original to tie in the world and some of its core characters. Maverick had the ability to bring back much of the original in order to propel the new material and characters forward. It benefits from a large helping of nostalgia bringing back much of the 80’s silliness while striking its own unique blend of new and old. Too much beaded sweat and cheesy retro music and you have a sequel not meant to be taken seriously whatsoever. With talented writers like Christopher McQuarrie steering the story we’re left with the perfect combination that makes Maverick one of the best action sequels ever made.
Now let’s talk about the ultimate movie star, Tom Cruise. Say what you will about his outside exploits and beliefs, as a movie star he is unlike any other and to amazing effect. He puts asses in seats simply signing on to a project for one simple reason; we know should the movie feature any stunt work it will be Cruise front and center for every glorious moment. And as a producer and stickler for detail, Cruise’s presence promises authenticity and likely unprecedented stunts that will undoubtedly amaze and inspire. Every Mission: Impossible has improved upon the previous and now he’s done it again with Maverick.
Placing himself literally in the cockpit, he commands his co-stars to rise to the occasion and meet him at his level which is likely thousands of feet in the air going faster than any actor in the history of Hollyweird. He trains and trains and becomes the character rather than simply playing them and relying on green screen and facial replacement. He is the American Jackie Chan.
In the case of Top Gun: Maverick, the aerial stunts are absolutely breathtaking and from the moment you experience the first scene you know that what’s to come will be nothing short of spectacular. Every actor from Cruise to Teller to Barbaro steps up to the daunting task of creating awe-inspiring action sequences that will take this sequel from new release to instant classic in just a few short weekends. Much in the same way Dune demanded the largest screen you could find, Maverick is a movie to be not just seen but experienced and done so in the largest format possible. It is the quintessential blockbuster.
To elevate this movie to even greater heights they went ahead and decided to give it a heart to go with all the adrenaline pumping through its veins. (That’s the purpose of a heart, I’m aware. I’m making a point, or trying to.) What I mean is it could have been a perfectly serviceable sequel with intense, death defying sequences but instead they injected a soul.(Did they give it a heart or a soul? Yes.) To the welcome surprise of everyone there is an emotional heft to the story and character of Maverick. It’s clear the tragedy of Goose still haunts not only Maverick but those connected to Maverick and who potentially blame him for Goose’s death. Much of this story is about a man facing the past in many forms to hopefully find a future in the remnants. It just also happens to feature some mind-blowing action scenes in the process.
Top Gun: Maverick is a more than worthy return to the Danger Zone. It acknowledges the original in every way you could hope for while maintaining its own identity. It is raised up by the original rather than acting as a stepping stone for the new people to come in and ruin everything. The original is better because of the sequel and vice versa. Not since Fury Road has an action movie left me so excited about its existence and potential to inspire the future movie makers. It is in so many ways the perfect way to usher in the summer movie season.
Rated PG-13 For: sequences of intense action, and some strong language
Runtime: 131 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Action, Drama
Starring: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm
Directed By: Joseph Kosinski
Out of 10 Nerdskulls
Story: 9/ Acting: 9/ Directing: 10/ Visuals: 10
OVERALL: 9.5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes.
Check out the trailer below:
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