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Maverick strikes back!

Maverick strikes back!

            Top Gun: Maverick premiered on Friday worldwide, with few exclusive premieres days before that. Many people waited over 30 years for this movie, and I wasn’t one of them. You know how I feel about Tom Cruise, that’s no secret. But… As the quote by Håkan Nesser goes: It’s only cows who never change their opinion

You should be at least a two-star Admiral by now, yet here you are. Captain. Why is that?

            Funny thing is, I wasn’t really all that skeptical about Maverick. I am more and more scared about another “most anticipated” movie – Avatar: The Way of Water, because that will be so damn hard to beat… With Top Gun, let’s be real – it wasn’t a masterpiece. Sure, it was somewhat accurate and wow, the planes and jets and F-14s. 

My biggest reservation was obviously, Tom Cruise. Obviously, I don’t know him personally so that part is out of question and not subject of my criticism (though, come on. It’s like he is doing this on purpose). I don’t really enjoy his performance and in my opinion, he is not the greatest actor.

But I did enjoy him as Ethan Hunt in M:I movies (born to play that kind of character, with all of the dangerous and reckless stunts) and it’s safe to say – I loved him (ouch, that hurts…) in The Last Samurai. Irony is, he acted in a hell of a lot of movies I enjoy. So, as the D-Day approached, I felt more and more… Tired? I just wanted to get it over with. I promised to go see Top Gun: Maverick with my ladies because they loved the first part, and I am a woman of my word. Who would have thought it would be a 180 degrees twist for me? 

The end is inevitable, Maverick. Your kind is headed for extinction. 

            Tom Cruise is not the best actor out there, but he is one hell of a performer. That I admitted a long time ago, when I was catching up with Mission: Impossible movies for a podcast at work (the things I do for my Movie Club…). When I was doing the research and found out that he performs practically all of his stunts? Wow. Takes some real guts. 

And maybe he is the most charming man on Earth, I don’t know. But why are almost all of his characters so damn annoying? That he has mastered perfectly. Not all of his characters should give that vibe and that’s what bothers me the most. That was one of the reasons I never liked Top Gun from 1986. Sure – 1986 Maverick WAS supposed to be like that, but still. A bit over-acted for my taste. 

Photo by Paramount Pictures/Paramount Pictures – © 2019 Paramount Pictures Corporation. All rights reserved. Via: IMDb

            But Tom Cruise has been on the screen for a long time and it would be very unprofessional to say that he has never done a good movie. And you know that I am a lot of things, but I won’t lie just for show. Just because I have my issues with his performances, doesn’t mean I cannot give him credit. Or say that I loved his acting. And with Top Gun: Maverick there’s nothing else I could say… I LOVED IT.

Good morning, aviators! This is your captain speaking. Today’s exercise is dogfighting.

            I feel like I should start with this: I liked Maverick SO MUCH MORE than the first part. And since we are on a good course here, I will not be talking much about the first one. Just when I need to, so here it goes: you really should (though I am the last person to force you) watch the 1986 film.

Maverick is a wonderful and touching tribute to the source material; a perfectly balanced ocean of nostalgia, surviving storms of thrill and getting through close calls caused by tsunami of action. And to fully appreciate that ride, you will need some of the Top Gun basic equipment.

Photo by Paramount Pictures/Paramount Pictures – © 2019 Paramount Pictures Corporation. All rights reserved. Via: IMDb

For instance, the importance of family-like friendships that go beyond Mach 10. By the way, do you know how fast Mach 10 is? 3430 meters per second. That is hypersonic. Which sounds absolutely surreal to me. But one thing I did know with Tom Cruise: he will do anything to make it as real as possible. As close to science, military and… well, believe; as humanly possible.

I am where I belong, sir.

            Not to be completely negative about the first installment, I liked Goose so much. It truly broke my heart all these years ago, when I watched it for the first time. So having that family blood running in Maverick, was the first time it hit me in the feelings. Miles Teller was perfect for that role and damn, when he put those glasses on and sang Great Balls Of Fire… DAMN. New generation, coming in hot!

The general problem with sequels is that they try to best the first part OR that they try to copy and paste. Tom Cruise and the crew faced quite the challenge. Top Gun from 1986 has a sea of devoted fans and followers. How can you best a movie that is already perfect in their eyes? The answer is, you don’t even try. Don’t think, just do… 

Photo by Paramount Pictures/Paramount Pictures – © 2019 Paramount Pictures Corporation. All rights reserved. Via: IMDb

Having these subtle links – playing football on the beach (like they used to play volleyball) – of course wearing jeans or whatever; the rivalry between Rooster and Hangman (much like between Maverick and Iceman); the romance between Mav and Penny (with so much more maturity and taste!)… But there was one particular moment that broke me down.

You are still dangerous. But you can be my wingman any time.

            Bringing back Iceman was the one thing that actually sold me. Sure, in the first part he had a role to play – too self-assured, narcissistic asshole. But this is the kind of a-hole you actually like, because they always turn around at the end. 

This scene when Maverick and Ice meet again… It was as powerful as any flight/combat scene in the film. Hell, it broke me down to tears. Especially considering the circumstances behind that emotional reunion. Val Kilmer, one of my favorite actors, starring in movies like Willow, Heat or Batman Forever… 

Photo by Paramount Pictures/Paramount Pictures – © 2019 Paramount Pictures Corporation. All rights reserved. Via: IMDb

He made an impression – fans loved him, the industry… Not so much. In 2017, in one of the interviews he admitted to going through a 2-year battle with throat cancer. As of now, he is cancer free, but… He can no longer eat (he has a feeding tube) or speak (though!!!!! And that is the most wonderful news – through some complicated work, his voice was “restored” by AI technology, using archival audio of his voice). 

            Seeing him back on the screen and in Top Gun: Maverick? Wow. You know, if you ever go to the movies with me and I lean forward in my chair, it can mean two things only: either there is some intense (probably emotionally) moment happening OR I am about to cry. 

I need to see you. I’m not asking.

            My prediction was right as to how Ice will be “back” – I said that when Maverick will be in doubt… And so it was – this meeting became such a cathartic moment for Mav. He needed to “hear” what Ice had to say. And from that moment onward, it was an endless rollercoaster of emotions. 

Photo by Paramount Pictures/Paramount Pictures – © 2019 Paramount Pictures Corporation. All rights reserved. Via: IMDb

I said it once and I am not afraid to say it again: Top Gun: Maverick is one of the best movies I’ve seen in years. Probably the best one I’ve seen in IMAX – with all my love for Tenet and Star Wars (LINK), there is this advertisement of IMAX technology before every movie claiming that you will hear a dropping needle and the roar of a jet. And you know what? We heard it alright. 

In terms of technicalities – absolutely spectacular. Even the beginning! Gosh, that made me smile so damn much. They started exactly the same, as the first part. For that – kudos. I can only imagine the initial reaction in Cannes – applause and “wows, yeahs” all over. How do I know that? Because we did the same thing. 

            The cinematography was spot on. Claudio Miranda, the director of photography did an amazing job showcasing the beauty of a plane. Any plane, to be honest. Even those “parked” on the strip. My second favorite component is the soundtrack. And with Hans Zimmer on board… How on Earth could it go bad? 

My dad believed in you. I’m not going to make the same mistake.

            It’s one of the rarest things in cinema, for a sequel to surpass the “original” or part one – but that is the case with Top Gun. Sure, there are still people out there that will forever enjoy the first part, but I’d like to think that the 1986+ generation grew up and received a wonderful continuation to the story. 

The choices and decisions Maverick took in the first movie had a blowback or consequences in part two. Cause and effect – which is a really cool theme to follow. And you know, it made so much sense. The plot wasn’t stretched and, in some moments, literally kept me on the edge of my seat.

Photo by Paramount Pictures/Paramount Pictures – © 2019 Paramount Pictures Corporation. All rights reserved. Via: IMDb

            Having the young generation clash with the old, lone wolf… Rooster blaming Maverick for the death of his father and delaying his career… Ice becoming the mentor for Mav. Rocky road to build a team out of a bunch of perfect individuals – all moving parts of the plot worked together perfectly. 

Your instructor is one of the finest pilots this program has ever produced. His exploits are legendary. What he has to teach you could mean the very difference between life and death.

            But none of that would work if it wasn’t for the insane amount of work and effort put by the crew and cast behind the scenes. We all know that Tom Cruise is a big fan of doing his own stunts, but also not using CGI too much (except maybe smoothing his face, hehe) – meaning there are minimal green screen aerial shots in Maverick. Even the close up cockpit shots are taken during real in-flight sequences. 

This meant that much of the cast had to undergo extensive G-force training sessions, to withstand the physical demands of the G-force pressures during flights. And you know what, I took a rollercoaster ride (Mayan I think?) that had a G-force moment similar to flying F-16. And let me tell you – it wasn’t all that pleasant. For a split second, it felt like my head weighs a ton and my lungs will explode. 

Photo by Paramount Pictures/Paramount Pictures – © 2019 Paramount Pictures Corporation. All rights reserved. Via: IMDb

Speaking of F-16, I witnessed two of them taking off and touching down, while I was completing a winter term abroad. And it was an absolutely insane experience… It was so majestic. 

            But back to the hard work – The actors in cockpits not only had to film themselves (turning and shutting down the cameras); they also had to touch up and fix their own makeup, adjust lighting and handle their own sound. The director had to wait on the ground for hours sometimes for the actors to come back with the footage. Any fixes would be made after viewing whatever the actors “shoot” and if need be, the cast would have to go back up for another take.

Talk to me, Goose

            In one of the interviews, Miles Teller said that collectively as a crew, on Top Gun: Maverick, they shot more footage (in hours, I guess?) than in The Lord of the Rings movies. All three of them. Now, would I want to see “director’s cut” of Maverick

Not really, because this movie was complete, in my opinion. Not too long, not too short; the story didn’t finish unexpectedly… No loose ends. Pains me to say, it all made perfect sense. Kept us engaged and gasping for air in its prime moments. 

And there is so much more to talk about the insane work done behind the camera, but since this post is long enough already and I would bore you with my “lack of skill technical writing”, I will post some links with videos as an additional lecture.

            I want to wrap it up with a thought: I stand corrected and I am more than happy to admit it. Walking into the theater, I had zero expectations. Nothing. I was there because I promised but I walked out blown away and impressed. I can wholeheartedly recommend watching Top Gun: Maverick with one condition: BIG SCREEN ONLY! And I promise you that regardless of your feelings towards Tom Cruise – you will NOT be disappointed. 

2 thoughts on “Maverick strikes back!

  1. I couldn’t have asked for more from this movie❤️ It had it all: action, nostalgia, humour, scene on the beach (wink wink) and much more. In the words of Michael Fassbender – Perfection.

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