Best of 2022: ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is a sequel that surpasses the original

By Chloe Largent

Editor’s note: In our “Best of 2022” series, A&E writers revisit their favorite movies and television shows that weren’t reviewed during the year.

What makes a great film? The actors? The cinematography? The script? Well, “Top Gun: Maverick” checked off all the boxes. This “Top Gun” sequel brought together a fantastic group of actors and an enjoyable story all tied up in a nostalgic bundle.

In “Top Gun: Maverick”, we see the return of the beloved Tom Cruise character Maverick. We also see another great return with Val Kilmer in the role of Iceman, Maverick’s Top Gun rival. This sequel introduces new characters who fell right into the story. 

This movie brilliantly incorporates great female roles who were strong but not overly feminist. In many action films, the female characters are oversexualized, which is not the case in this film. Instead, we have Penny Benjamin, played by Jennifer Connelly, a clever reference from the first film, and new jet pilot Phoenix, played by Monica Barbaro, who does not have to prove her skills.

The romance in the film between Penny and Maverick is well-developed and does not feel stale, even though the majority of it is offscreen. The familial bonds between naval aviators beautifully reflect trusted military relationships. The new rivalry between Hangman and Rooster mirrors Maverick and Iceman in the original. This competitiveness is part of the emotion of the film and leads to excellence as the film concludes and Hangman saves Maverick and Rooster. Although it is true that Hangman probably would have saved anyone, he and Rooster get a concluding moment to shake hands that resembles the hug in “Top Gun.”

The new Top Gun team preparing for their mission

Not only is the cast of characters well-written, but the script shows an educated look into very real topics. It draws the viewer into the emotions of the characters. We can feel the pain of Maverick as his entire plan is falling apart and then when he loses another dear friend, Iceman. 

The viewer is also drawn into the distanced but protective nature of Maverick toward Rooster. Rather than giving you all the detail of Maverick pulling Rooster’s papers and why, it slowly conveys Maverick’s anguish as he fears for the life of Goose’s son and still mourns the loss of his friend. It tricks you into asking yourself what is Rooster’s deal? Does he blame Maverick for his father? You wonder why Maverick would do such a thing. And then you are told that it wasn’t Maverick, it was Mrs. Bradshaw, Rooster’s mom, who wished it before her death. This detail of Mrs. Bradshaw’s death also gives you a taste of the carefulness and hesitancy of Rooster’s character. He takes it slow and easy because he is scared. He has lost both his parents and he fears that he will be next. That is why when Maverick’s jet goes down Rooster goes back for him. Maverick is the only parent he has left and he is not willing to lose him. 

Each scene is well organized to make the watcher feel they are there and are part of the action and feelings portrayed on screen. “Top Gun: Maverick” doesn’t feel like a nostalgic money grab. Instead, it presents very real problems and mountains to overcome. 

This film also creates an inward desire to be a part of the Top Gun world. It brings out a desire in me to fly even though I am deathly afraid of heights and don’t love flying. This didn’t stop me from searching how much it would cost on Google. “Top Gun: Maverick” brings out the thrill seeker within you whether it’s soaring to new heights,, or riding a motorcycle at great speed. 

This realness can also be chalked up to the cinematography and use of actual naval jets. Each flight scene was filmed at the heights and speeds that are described. Cinematographer Claudio Miranda, who has worked on other great cinematic films such as “Tron: Legacy” and “Life of Pi,” brought the audience into the cockpit. Each camera was placed in the jets to capture the actors realistically embracing each scene. 

These three factors, as well as many more, are why “Top Gun: Maverick” surpasses its predecessor. With many sequels and remakes being made purely for money, this film captures the essence of the original while making a story that can be enjoyed by itself. 

“Top Gun: Maverick” is now streaming on Paramount Plus

Chloe Largent is a senior Marketing student and a lifelong fan of cinema. She loves coffee and trying new flavors especially if it means more caffeine. If she is not cracking the books you can find her grabbing a meal with friends, assisting in org events or playing board games with her unit.

Images courtesy of Paramount Pictures

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