The Nostalgia-Era continues. Nostalgia, as a concept, has always existed but over the past decade, it seems like Hollywood has leaned into it harder than ever. It’s difficult to pinpoint precisely when this new era began. Perhaps it was 2012’s Jurassic World or 2016’s Stranger Things but, whatever the case, it has ballooned into its own genre. There are sequels like 2021’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife and IP spin-offs like 2019s The Mandalorian, each varying in quality. If the popularity of Top Gun: Maverick is anything to go by, then there will be many more projects like this to come.
36 years after Top Gun introduced the world to pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, he’s back to train a whole new generation of aviators for their most challenging mission yet. Among them is Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, son of Mavericks former wingman Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, who still blames Mav for his father’s untimely death. The original Top Gun is, primarily, a romantic movie. Maverick pines for aviation instructor Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood, whilst the rest of the film is filled with homo-erotic tension between the members of Top Gun. Top Gun: Maverick has both these elements but they’re much more subdued. This time around Mav is rekindling an old flame with bar owner Peggy but it’s a much more adult relationship, with fewer sex scenes and more lying in bed talking about their issues. Meanwhile, the homo-eroticism comes across more as camaraderie, which suits the tone a little more considering there is now a girl in the group. Natasha “Phoenix” Trace is a welcome addition and one that the film never draws attention to, which is appreciated. Diversity should be allowed to be present instead of being a focal point for marketing.
The real core of the film is the tense relationship between Mav and Rooster. The former becomes more suited to the role of teacher as the plot progresses with the former being the one challenge he can’t seem to master. It leads to a poignant reunion between Maverick and former rival Tom “Iceman” Kazansky which is one of the film’s most tender moments. Not only does it provide nostalgia by reuniting these characters but it’s also a genuine pleasure to see Val Kilmer on screen again. He may have lost his voice but he’s lost none of his charm.
The action is top-notch. Watching Top Gun: Maverick in a cinema provides a fully immersive experience that is close to unachievable at home. The sound bounces off the walls and shakes the seats as if we too are flying. The displays of aerobatic skill are as impressive as ever and the adrenaline starts pumping whenever the score kicks in. Crafted by original Top Gun composer Harold Falter, with assistance from Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe, it perfectly captures the tone of the film. It gets the heart racing and the heart fluttering, carrying on from where the former score left off. Couple that with a couple of returning songs and a new ballad from Lady Gaga and the result is a stunning score for a brilliant film.
Top Gun: Maverick is a delight for all. Old fans will appreciate the call-backs and the continuing story whilst new fans will appreciate the story itself. Viewing the original Top Gun isn’t necessary for understanding either as enough context clues are provided. It’s no surprise that it’s currently dominating at the Box Office and that it seems set to continue doing so. It likely would have done well regardless, as sequels these days tend to do, but it continues to rake in crowds and cash.
It may be military propaganda but it’s also a damn good film.