I don’t know why, but when I see Tom Cruise’s Maverick and Val Kilmer’s Iceman texting each other in Joseph Kosinski’s Top Gun: Maverick is really funny. Tony Scott’s Top Gun (1986) is so deeply rooted in 80s pop culture and nostalgia that it’s a little mind-boggling to see these characters doing mundane things in the 21st century.
But in Hollywood’s new tradition of rebooting popular movies and shows from decades past for easy money, Independent thinking person fills a sweet spot. After several release date changes dating back to 2019, Kosinski’s sequel to Scott’s cult classic three decades later is worth the wait for longtime fans.
Starting with an almost identical homage to the opening sequence in the original Top Gunit is obvious Independent thinking person gives us the same qualities that initially captured fans. Only Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell this time a lot older — and out of his league — compared to the younger Navy pilots he’s recruited to mentor.
These pilots include Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick’s late best friend. While he struggles to make contact with the aspiring protégé, Maverick also has to deal with his superiors, Adm. Chester Cain (Ed Harris) and Vice Adm. Beau Simpson (Jon Hamm) – both of whom feel he should retire from the sky.
Kilmer returns with a cameo appearance as Iceman, Glen Powell plays the cocky aviation student in the new crew, and Jennifer Connelly, Monica Barbaro and Jean Louisa Kelly are the new ladies for the sequel.
There was some attention to the fact that Kelly McGillis and Meg Ryan weren’t back for Independent thinking person, and some accusations that they were being replaced by “hotter” actresses. Without commenting on the appearance of the women, I can say that Connelly and Kelly’s characters are really just extra eye candy and add nothing to the new plot.
Likewise, I found parts of Kilmer’s real-life ills written into his character a little awkward, and his cameo ended on a disappointing note.
That said, I still found Independent thinking person to be a lot of fun and a typical theater experience this summer season. The action, effects, cinematography, sound design and soundtrack all shimmer on the big screen.
There is obviously fan service, but this is made up for by the exciting flying sequences and charming cast. Cruise shows that he can naturally slip back into his famous characters, and that it’s okay for the world’s greatest action star to be older.
If you can handle the nostalgia of the first act and the general information overload, Top Gun: Maverick offers a great movie night with a solid tribute from Kosinski to Scott’s impact on pop culture and action movies.