Among the successes that have marked the career of Tom Cruise, no one expected a sequel to Top Gun. And yet, Top Gun: Maverick arrives with the means to ensure a success that we did not expect.
The 80s are a bit like your ex who comes knocking on your door when you have rebuilt your life. It brings back good memories, but we don’t want to have lunch with it every Monday either. Except that Hollywood loves your ex and that the studios have decided – well helped by a public that asks for more – to wring your nostalgia to your thirst. It is therefore with great fatigue that we welcomed the news of a Top Gun 2 while Jurassic World, Star Wars Disney version, Ghostbusters, etc. had already worked well to grind / caress in the direction of the hair (according to taste) our childhood. And that’s where Top Gun: Maverick wakes us up at Mach 1.8 speed. Why ? How ? We want to say that everything is in the title.
An ever insubordinate test pilot, Peter “Maverick” Mitchell is given a mission where it all began: at the Top Gun School where the best pilots in the United States Air Force are trained. On site, he will have to teach the most promising generation how to succeed in a seemingly impossible mission. Among them was Lt. Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, the son of his late teammate Goose. Maverick will have to face his demons if he wants everyone to come back alive.
A basic synopsis to justify to us that 36 years after defying authority, beating up the girl, killing bad guys and showing his comrades who’s boss, Tom Cruise is coming back to defy authority, beating up the girl, killing bad guys and showing to his comrades who is always the boss. On paper, we grant you, the idea seems to have no flavor and yet, this is what makes Top Gun: Maverick a sequel much better than the original.
It’s in the old jars…
At the risk of making a few enemies, we can admit that Top Gun, the first of its name, is not so much worship as the guilty pleasure of seeing the late Tony Scott play, with the pachydermic subtlety that we knew him and that we enjoyed, the map of American patriotism by featuring big airplanes and manly cryptogay friendships. We like Top Gun because it voluntarily allows us to have fun and so Hot Shots! is such an exceptional parody, it is because the source material was an invitation to mockery.
It was therefore feared that Top Gun: Maverick would distort the nanar side of its model by keeping only the name, the star and the love of the American flag. It is nothing. On the contrary, this sequel has decided to change almost nothing and proves it from the introduction on a now well-known soundtrack, followed by a Tom Cruise dusting off the vestiges of an era that we thought was over. Useless romance, male rivalry and bare-chested on the beach, Maverick is a Top Gun through and through. Except that it is much better.
Far from bothering with a fallacious pretext to restart the machine, the feature film has only one ambition and it displays it in these first minutes (just after a false day / night connection): at a time when the pilots are replaced by drones, the latter have not said their last word. Hard to see anything other than a message addressed to Hollywood by one of the ultimate old-fashioned action stars: pack up your green screens and your digital doubles, here we prefer when it really smells of kerosene.
The set of Top Gun: Maverick sweats this desire to resuscitate action films where the effects were not fully worked out in post-production, in particular by placing its cast on board real F-18s (piloted by soldiers) . A taste for the real which is felt immediately on the faces and on the flight sequences where Joseph Kosinski’s camera manages to give us an adrenaline that we hadn’t felt for a long time. If Top Gun could be mocked, the Maverick version puts its poster next to the definition of a big show.
A monument to the glory of Tom Cruise
For those allergic to Tom Cruise, Top Gun: Maverick may be complicated to watch. If the film wants to be the representative of a certain cinema, it is also (especially?) a two-hour advertisement for the one whose legend now replaces reality. From the name of his character in the title to a poster alone on stage, the footage is the symbol of what Tom Cruise represents in the eyes of Tom Cruise.
In 86, the actor rises, but does not yet know the popular glory and he shares the poster with his partner Kelly McGillis. In 2022, the man, who will celebrate his 60th birthday, constantly pushes his physical limits by performing his own stunts and always displays this face of an eternal seducer with a colgate smile (which we can make fun of without being able to resist it).
And if Tom Cruise has always been able to tell his story through his filmography, never has a film brought the exercise of self-contemplation to such a paroxysm. Everything there is at his service with an assumed bliss. Whether the problem is military, personal, sentimental, Maverick is the solution because Tom Cruise can do it all, for everyone. How to imagine it at Marvel when beyond a disgust for the green screen, the star already sees himself as a superhero?
The worst thing is that this glorification is not tiring and contributes to the success of a film since it presents itself as a mirror of this desire to give back its wings to a certain cinema. Where his generation passes the hand, succumbing to age or to new ways of doing things, the actor continues to soar as if he were the last of his kind.