Maverick (Tom Cruise) is back in the movie that should have been called Top Gun: Cruise Control, if Speed 2 hadn’t beaten him to it on an ocean liner.
This supersonic sequel is chock-full of all the montages, plane porn and homoerotic beach sports you would expect from a Top Gun reboot directed by Tron Legacy‘s Joseph Kosinski, a dab hand at not updating films from the ’80s. From the shot-for-shot recreation of the original opening to Maverick’s cheesetastic introduction (“He’s the fastest man alive.”) we’re right back in Top Gun World, a nostalgic theme park where the characters are cartoons, the lines ridiculous (“You’ve got some balls, stick jockey.”) and the rides piloted by sexagenarians.
Maverick is sent to train a new team of jumped-up flyboys and this time A Woman (actually a step backwards from the first film that had a female instructor), who spend their downtime in a Top Gun-themed bar recreating moments from the original. Here we meet Goose’s son Rooster played by Miles Teller (was Ryan Gosling busy?) wearing a moustache just in case you forgot he was Goose’s son, which they tell you in every scene.
Ignoring the fact Rooster (Goose’s son) would be about 40 now, the movie sets up conflict between him and the man he holds responsible for his father’s death that never really takes off. Maverick has similarly little chemistry with his new love interest (Jennifer Connelly), who has no call sign and therefore no way to recognise her personality. In fact the only sexual tension is once again between Maverick and Iceman (Val Kilmer) who keeps texting Mav messages like: “I need to see you.”
As in the original, that general lack of threat keeps Top Gun: Maverick from being involving beyond the most superficial level. The fact they are training for a mission rather than merely for the sake of testosterone-fuelled competition sounds better on paper, but commercial manoeuvring by the film means the enemy is never actually named (Cruise doesn’t want another The Mummy on his hands). All we know is they have uranium, a superior airforce (or is it a navy?) and conveniently blacked-out helmets, and if that’s good enough for the US military it’s good enough for me.
Admittedly theme parks don’t require logic; they need to be safe, well-constructed and capable of serving large quantities of corn. On that front Maverick passes with flying colours, surpassing the original in every respect: the dogfights are stronger, the ’70s music sounds less dated than the ’80s soundtrack, and Maverick has become halfway decent instead of the entitled Reaganite egomaniac of Top Gun. That move from toxic to innocuous is an improvement, and anyone who disagrees can go back to undisclosed uranium-rich military state.