8.5/10 What a breath of fresh air this film turned out to be in a current Hollywood landscape where pushing woke political messaging often supersedes the necessity of telling a great story with well developed characters. Despite this website being named after the original “Top Gun”, I would be lying if I said that the original 1986 movie was great. Sure, it has some iconic lines, is super 1980s and has some terrific performances from Val Kilmer along with Tom Cruise and his crooked teeth/unibrow combination. However, the original was and is super cheesy, extremely light on its plot, has its male and female leads fall in love in about two days (always a pet peeve of mine in films) and uses the same three songs over and over in the most repetitive manner possible. Most people who love the original most likely do so for nostalgic reasons, as nostalgia does tend to cloud one’s judgment with its emotional appeal. While sequels that come out decades after the previous film have a horrendous track record of being any good (“Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace”, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”, “Dumb and Dumber To”, etc.), “Top Gun: Maverick” not only exceeds all expectations but is easily a better, more rounded film than the original. While the original was more focused on character interactions ranging from the egos/competition of the Top Gun recruits to the romantic subplot, this film is more focused on balancing a great story (fighter pilots coming closer to becoming irrelevant in an age of drones as well as the mission that the entire plot hinges on) with some terrific character arcs that bring events from the first movie into this new film. A lot of legacy sequels (sequels that take place long after the original and bring in the old cast in combination with a new one…think “Jurassic World: Dominion” or “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens”) have the problem of forcing too much fan service into their newer movies to play off of that nostalgia to the point where it becomes pandering. “Top Gun: Maverick” is wise to pay tribute to the original and tie into it properly and effectively without forcing fan service down our throats. Despite Val Kilmer having throat cancer in real life and having to essentially retire from acting to focus on his health, his presence here feels respectful and tasteful as I was glad they figured out an appropriate and emotional way to bring him back. Cruise gives his best performance in years and new additions to the cast like Miles Teller are perfectly cast. Another complaint I had with the original was the cinematography made it difficult to see each jet in correlation to one another and the jumbled editing (which director Tony Scott would make much worse in future films) didn’t help matters at all. I can forgive that problem due to the physical constraints that film makers had back in the 80s that they don’t have today due to improved technology and cameras. The cinematography on display here not only lets the audience see what is going on but as opposed to Marvel movies where every actor is in front of a green screen in a sound stage while filming, these actors are actually in these jets flying around. No matter how great CGI is and will become, no CGI is a proper substitute for practical effects and to see these actors actually flying around in these jets is truly a sight to behold and I applaud the realism. The direction from director Joseph Kosinski impressed me as this is his best film and the score (co-scored by Hanz Zimmer) paid tribute to the theme of the original film while also providing some epic, new material for this film. The biggest strength the film has is not pushing some woke, politically correct messaging and instead focusing on making a film that appeals to as wide of an audience as possible without alienating anyone. The previous biggest grossing film in Hollywood to this was “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and now we have this. Both kept far left Hollywood messaging out of their respective films and will each make over a billion dollars at the box office (despite not showing in countries like China). If Hollywood is smart (they really aren’t) they will learn the lesson that focusing on writing a great script without a forced agenda will not only make films better for the audience but make the studios more money. It is a win-win for everyone that I hope Hollywood takes note of. My only mild complaints were a couple of unrealistic moments and the romantic subplot with Cruise and the great Jennifer Connelly felt more like it was checking a romantic subplot box as opposed to a necessary plot point. Lady Gaga’s end credits song also didn’t do much for me but those are all pretty mild flaws that didn’t bring down the film’s quality too much.  If the same creative team is involved, I’d be down to wait another 35 years to see a 94-year-old Cruise come back in “Top Gun: Relic”.

#FeaturingAirplanesByBOB / #TomCruiseingAtHighAltitudes / #MilesHighClub / #GreatBallsOfIre / #AdmTomNicemanKazansky / #TellerHowYouFeel

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