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Reviews Top Gun (1986) and Top Gun: Maverick (2022): Superior to the original in every way!

genre: action, drama

Top Gun (1986)

For a long time, I regarded Top Gun as a classic. And in many ways it is. Iconic quotes, catchy songs, top-notch cinematography, Tom Cruise at hist cruisiest, incredible aerial combat and the infamous volleyball scene. According to many experts, Top Gun is filled with homo eroticism and even is about Maverick' struggle being gay. The way Quentin Tarantino explains it, you could interpret it like that. The scenes do support this notion. However, like with many action flicks made in the 80's this was unintentional.

It's not something I paid much attention to. Says more about people like Quentin Tarantino than the average viewer. I mean, a lot of men tuned in for Kelly McGillis and I have to admit it's the one thing I didn't quite understand. I still don't believe she is that hot. Perhaps because I am more mature now, I can see some of her charm and attraction, but even then she still was nowhere near the hotness that makes people bump into walls while driving, for example. Yes, I am very aware this is immensely subjective. I am just trying to make the point that while she and her relationship with Maverick has been made into an important part of the story, I find it to be the weakest part of the film. There is nothing there. 

Actually, if you think about it, Top Gun is for the most part devoid of real conflict. Maverick has some issues, but they way he gets over it has very little to do with the people at Top Gun. Had someone actually been in his way to get on top, then that would have been more interesting. No, he himself is his biggest enemy. Hot Shots (the Top Gun) very rightfully so makes fun of this. The true heart of the film is the action. Even today, it's one that gets your heart pumping. Sure, at times it looks a little dated but for the most part looks amazing, especially if you watch the 4k Blu-ray version. Almost as if the film was made today. I said almost.

Top Gun certainly is a film you need to have watched to appreciate the sequel. Without it, you will miss out on important dynamics and story elements. However, the biggest reason to watch is to witness how much a concept of an original film can be improved upon. Top Gun still can be seen as a classic but it's by no means perfect.

Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

Once it was announced that a sequel was coming to Top Gun, I was a little surprised. There was nothing to the story that warranted a sequel. Then the trailer arrived, and I was blown away by what was presented to us. Not only did it seem like that it was going to have a better story, it also was going to improve on the action.

I also have to say that this was the first film I had seen in the cinema since COVID had hit the world. And I was glad to have chosen this over Doctor Strange 2, which I initially wanted to watch first. But luck would have it that this was available on Disney+ and I wasn't entirely impressed with it. More on that in the review that is coming. Top Gun: Maverick, however, genuinely provided a cinema experience I hadn't experienced in a long time. From start to finish, I was thoroughly entertained. Even with its duration, I never felt like a second was wasted. Almost every element of the original is improved upon. 

The story builds on what is established in the original and puts Maverick in different shoes. He still is very much a hot shot who still is no fan of obeying the rules. Despite this, he has grown up a little. Enter Rooster, son of the late Goose, Maverick's best friend. Rooster apparently holds Maverick responsible for his father's death. If that isn't bad enough, there is another reason that gets revealed. The animosity between them is exactly what the original needed, since it adds conflict that you can relate to. But also provides some character development, since you know they will make it up to each other somehow. Essentially, you should view this as a buddy film. Old buddies, new buddies. I do have to mention an incredible, powerful scene regarding Maverick and Iceman. It transcended the film and felt like it was a tribute to Val Kilmer. Was it necessary for the film? One could argue about that. But it's one of those moments that gets to you since it confronts you with certain truths about, life, old age and sickness. It had a significant impact on me and will be one of the moments I will cherish forever. Next to that, it's also about an impossible mission that has to be made possible with the help of Maverick. While one could argue that these stories don't always mesh together that well. It does offer a sense of urgency and gravity to events. Especially in the final part of the film, you will be on the edge of your seat. I was completely invested.

Like in the original, the action is what matters the most. You have never seen aerial combat like this before. It very much looks like the actors have flown the fighter jets themselves. No, they didn't pilot the jets for real. However, they were in the jets in front of the real pilots who were doing all those crazy stunts. So kudos for the cast going so far to make you believe. It truly helps with the immersion and how everything looks. It's definitely spectacular. At times, it felt I was with them. Imagine what it would feel like had they made this is 3D.

Top Gun: Maverick does build on the original story and nostalgia wise. Still, it's able to give you a fresh and fun viewing experience because of it. This is how sequels should be. It is nice to look back and revel in what was. But you should also do something with the aftermath. And Top Gun: Maverick does a good job of that. Besides, it's one hell of an action film. What more do you want?

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