TOP GUN: MAVERICK
Many movies these days target childhood memories and nostalgic feelings in order to coax us into coming to the big screen again and again. Top Gun: Maverick is no exception, but as someone who has no nostalgia for the original film nor knows anything about it, this is merely a standalone movie for me. As I sat amongst one of the most packed theater screenings I've been to since the pandemic, I had a suspicion I was about to watch something special.
Top Gun: Maverick picks up the story from the original in modern times. The characters have aged, and many of them have gone their separate ways. Now, Maverick finds himself in an awkward position in his life: a teacher to new recruits of Top Gun. As someone who was new to this character, I was able to pick up pretty fast that this guy was not made to do things by the book. He loves independence and resists authority, and now, he has to control, discipline, and order others around, others that embody his once youthful and more carefree look on life. It's a great personal challenge to him, and we get to see his struggles, as well as the struggles of the students, take on different scenarios and push them to their limits. I was quite surprised how emotionally driven it was. I had this expectation that it would be an explosive and corny action flick with an 80s vibe to it, and though there are elements of all of this, there's a good narrative at the heart of this movie. The story hooked me near at the start, and it did not let me go until the credits rolled. And even then, I'm still thinking about how awesome this movie was, and I want to see the original just to understand the characters and their story better.
With so many blockbusters relying on fantastical animations to wow and amaze us, the computer imagery starts to blend together and become less impressive the more we see it. In this movie, CGI is used very wisely alongside practical effects. In fact, Tom Cruise, being a daredevil once again, learned how to fly fighter jets for this movie. With that in mind, I was trying to catch any green screen effects behind him, but it all looked so convincing, which made the flying seem so real. Maybe CGI was used more than I think, but the use of it is genius. When you can't seem to tell what's real and what's not in a movie, the visual effects artists have done an amazing job. This movie definitely demands that you see it on the big screen. From its crazy aerial views to the delightfully deafening sounds, this was made for theaters and their unique technology. The editing team and artists behind-the-scenes blended their talents together to create a cacophony of sights and sounds that amaze the senses that transport you into the world onscreen. Who needs 3D glasses to be immersed in a movie when the fantastic talents of the cast and crew are this good?
Of course, all of this would be for naught if we didn’t care about the characters. Thankfully, the actors do a stellar job of making the new and old pilots so lovable, even with quirks and faults. But ultimately, that’s a big theme in the movie: helping people overcome their personal hurdles in order to accomplish incredible things. Speaking of incredible things, Tom Cruise once again daredevils his way through the movie by actually doing some of the dangerous stunts, but he also does an exceptional job at portraying a man with decades of pain, accomplishments, losses, and experience. He knows exactly how much cockiness, frustration, determination, and sadness to convey in every scene. If I were to guess, this was an emotional role for Cruise to return to, because that’s what I sensed watching him act. His co-stars, mostly cast members, do a great job too, most notably Miles Teller, who plays the son of “Goose” from the original film. His chemistry with Cruise was quite good, and they made these characters feel real with some of their emotional back-and-forths. Their quarrels made me question who to cheer on more, but neither actor outshone the other. They had their moments to be in the spotlight, and that’s something that worked well in the movie’s favor. The characters were the primary focus of the story, allowing each actor moments to connect with the audience, and this allowed the action scenes to be really exciting. The actors made us care about the outcome of the overall conflict, making us want to see the characters complete their mission instead of just expecting the heroes to win as we’re so accustomed to seeing these days. The emotions were high amongst the audience I was with, resulting in howling applause. I say, the actors accomplished their mission in making this an incredible movie.
There are only a few times when you go to the theater and receive a truly memorable experience, when you and a whole room of people are moved emotionally, smile uncontrollably, and leave afterward uplifted. Even though I have no emotional connection to the original movie, I couldn't help but join in on the applause and cheers of the crowd. Top Gun: Maverick is a triumph.
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