“Maverick” Mitchell maintained the modest rank of captain after 36 years of decorated service in the US Navy’s Air Force and was still involved in testing cutting-edge fighter planes. Maverick was suddenly ordered to train a crew of brash young pilots to conduct a perilous mission to bomb a heavily-armed uranium complex behind rugged mountains within the nameless enemy’s territory on the instructions of his former opponent turned ally, now Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky.
Lieutenant Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw is one of Maverick’s pilots. Rooster was Maverick’s best friend and radar-intercept officer Nick “Goose” Bradshaw’s kid, whose death Maverick felt responsible for. Rooster also blamed Maverick for not taking out his application papers sooner, which caused his entry into the Navy to be delayed. Meanwhile, Maverick reconnected with an old flame, Penny Benjamin, a single mother who now managed the neighborhood tavern where military pilots congregated.
The original “Top Gun” picture was the box office champion of 1986, with over $176 million in the United States alone. It established Tom Cruise as a true celebrity and boosted the careers of Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards. Its soundtrack record was also a great smash, going platinum nine times. It included Berlin’s No. 1 hit and Oscar-winning song “Take My Breath Away,” as well as two Kenny Loggins tracks, “Playing with the Boys” and “Danger Zone” (bars of which were heard in the opening scene of this sequel).
Thirty-six years after the events of the first film, Maverick was still a guy who marched to the beat of his own drummer, carrying emotional baggage. The immortal Tom Cruise (now 59) can still carry off both the daring and risky physical aviation feats with Miles Teller and the younger actors, as well as the lovely, beaming boy-next-door love interest opposite Jennifer Connelly, as only he can (whose character Penny was actually mentioned in the first film). The sequence with Val Kilmer, who is crippled, was a dramatic highlight.
Miles Teller as Rooster looked uncannily similar to Anthony Edwards as Goose, so we completely understand Maverick’s unease about being in the same room with him. In the last act, Maverick and Rooster will have extraordinary near-encounters with the enemy, but because this is a Hollywood blockbuster, we suspend disbelief and cheer them on.
Phoenix (Monica Barbaro), the sole female pilot, and Hangman (Glenn Powell), who channeled Iceman’s hubris, stood out among the other pilots.
There were many sentimental allusions in the previous picture, so it’s definitely best to see that first before viewing this sequel, for a greater emotional connection with the entire tale. Don’t worry if you couldn’t, for there were plenty of flashback cues to remind you of what happened, such as Goose’s deadly ejection or singing “Great Ball of Fire” at the piano. The pilots’ playing shirtless touch football on the beach was definitely a re-enactment of the much-hyped shirtless beach volleyball scene from the previous film.
The finest portions of this picture, like the original, are the astonishingly fast and exciting flying moments, which are reported to have been done without the use of computer-generated effects. Maverick is seen piloting an experimental Mach 10 jet, an F-18 Super Hornet, and even an F-14 Tomcat (for a nice throwback to the first film). He’d also have dogfights with hostile planes and evasive midair maneuvers against missiles.
The excellent photography and editing made it appear as though Cruise was actually flying those planes, even if he wasn’t.