With a movie titled “Top Gun: Maverick,” it’s reasonable to expect an original and exciting cinematic experience. But instead of delivering a film that keeps the audience at the edge of their seats, the sequel to the acclaimed “Top Gun” makes the more critical viewers wish they had an eject button to propel their seats out of the theater. Rather than flying off course to take its own route, the film follows almost the exact same path as the first movie — only this time, it loses its vision. It’s like they deliberately wrote the film in stark contrast to the essence of Maverick’s character. The teacher feuds with the underdog student, the hotshot becomes humbled, and *spoiler* they all come together as a team in the end. Seriously, had this movie been any more formulaic it would make Marvel movies look like they were written by the Daniels.
But if the yearly revenue report for superhero movies is any indication, then a formulaic plotline probably isn’t enough to deter you from seeing “Top Gun: Maverick.” If that’s the case, don’t worry. There are plenty of other reasons to avoid seeing this movie. The first missile that will destroy your interest is the acting. While Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer did a decent job reprising their roles as Maverick and Iceman, respectively, the new team of fighter pilots seemed like they enlisted with acting training only the Disney Channel would approve of.
Every scene featuring one of the young pilots felt like the g-force from the fighter jets was pushing my head away from the screen. The delivery of lines was far from on target, the on-screen chemistry was atrocious, and worst of all, the characters felt so robotic and lifeless that they might as well have used artificial intelligence to fly the jets. The only exception to the young pilots’ poor performances was Miles Teller’s portrayal of Rooster, the son of Maverick’s former co-pilot and best friend, Goose. Teller’s performance was at least bearable when compared to his peers and Rooster actually felt like a real person. The emotional underpinnings of his character were, however, so generic that even Nicolas Cage could’ve given a convincing performance.
Considering it’s a sequel to such a highly praised film, the poor acting in “Top Gun: Maverick” is as shocking as it is disappointing. That is until you hear they paid the United States Navy $11,374 an hour just to film the flight scenes. With so much money going to these sequences, it’s no wonder they didn’t have the budget to afford decent supporting actors. Despite the poor budgeting, it’s difficult to say the results weren’t worth it. The scenes featuring military-grade fighter jets were nothing short of exhilarating, making it perhaps the only redeeming quality of the movie. But rather than increasing the overall quality of the film, the juxtaposition of thrilling fight scenes and the boring moments in-between almost makes the movie more frustrating. It’s like building the excitement for Christmas only to get coal — it’d almost be better to not have Christmas at all.
In addition, the pacing and story development of “Top Gun: Maverick” leaves viewers strapped in for a very turbulent ride. Just a few minutes into the film, Maverick is tasked with heroically flying past Mach 10 in order to save his program. While this scene does offer a strong reintroduction to his iconic character — he uses a stolen plane contrary to the advice of his team — it has almost no emotional payoff whatsoever. Had his program been developed more, then his “heroic” joyride might have carried some emotional weight. Instead, the film started with a completely hollow takeoff.
Unfortunately, the ride doesn’t get any smoother as the film goes on. Throughout the movie, Rooster and his hotshot classmate, Hangman (Glen Powell), butt heads as competing pilots. Essentially, this is just a copy and paste of the power struggle in the first movie between Maverick and Iceman, and in both movies, they ultimately become friends in the end. The only difference is that in the original “Top Gun,” Maverick and Iceman’s friendship develops gradually throughout the movie so by the end it feels earned. Conversely, in “Top Gun: Maverick,” Rooster and Hangman’s friendship develops out of thin air. In one scene, they’re fighting, and in the next, they’re shaking hands as if nothing happened. By cutting out screen time for this friendship to develop, the film misses the mark on what needed to be a critical moment.
If by some miracle the movie’s reputation is still flying as high as its box office numbers, even after getting hit with terrible acting and inconsistent pacing, then surely it won’t survive this last blow. The most disappointing aspect of “Top Gun: Maverick” is what should be the easiest thing to write in a military movie: the dialogue. For one, every scene involving technical military terminology comes across as pretentious and cheesy. Even when the conversations aren’t stuffed with unnecessarily formal language, the demeanor of the officers still remains cliched and unbearable.
In scenes that deserve well-developed emotional exposition, the dialogue yields almost nothing for the viewer to latch onto. Even the banter, a trade that all on-screen military service members are notoriously well-versed in, is no wittier than the jokes your dad tells at the dinner table. There were only a few times during the entire movie when the dialogue wasn’t underwhelming, and they were all said by Maverick himself. If it weren’t for the lasting impression his character made in the first film, the sequel wouldn’t have had a single good line of dialogue.
Other than the nostalgia factor and the flight sequences, there’s pretty much nothing good to say about “Top Gun: Maverick.” The only way this film could have been prevented from crashing and dying brutally like Goose is if they hired the sound mixing team from “Tenet” to drown out the dialogue with soaring jet noises. But considering its complete lack of originality, it will probably follow in the footsteps of many other terrible movies and make another unwanted sequel. At least there’s hope for the next one.