Top Gun: Maverick - 'Tom Cruise sequel dumb but fist-pumpingly good fun'

Tom Cruise plays Capt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in Top Gun: Maverick from Paramount Pictures, Skydan

Tom Cruise plays Capt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in Top Gun: Maverick from Paramount Pictures, Skydance and Jerry Bruckheimer Films. - Credit: Paramount Pictures

Top Gun Maverick (12A)

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Starring: Tom Cruise, Jennifer Connelly, Miles Teller, Jon Hamm, Ed Harris and Val Kilmer

Running time: 131 mins

****

Top Gun 2 opens like it can’t bear to leave the 80s. As in the original, the credits proclaim it as a Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer production, even though Simpson died in 1996. The exact same written scroll in the same font explains what the Top Gun academy is.

Over shots of an aircraft carrier, Harold Faltermeyer’s original opening theme gives way to Kenny Loggins's "Danger Zone". Sat in the auditorium, I felt something very strange – affectionate nostalgia for a film I hate.

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The original was the archetypal evil '80s film: a celebration of strident militarism and the ugly America First of Reaganomics delivered with director Tony Scott’s reductive visual style and cattle prod storytelling technique. Fronting it all was Little Tom with his smug grin, a mascot for US imperialism. Eighties Hollywood wasn’t all Spielberg and Back to the Future. Most of it was wretched, formulaic and soulless.

Tom Cruise plays Capt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in Top Gun: Maverick from Paramount Pictures, Skydan

Tom Cruise plays Capt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in Top Gun: Maverick - Credit: Paramount Pictures

This sequel is exactly the same film, but entirely different. This time Cruise's Maverick is called back to the Top Gun academy to train the best of the best to perform a mission to take out an illegal uranium enrichment plant in a geo-politically vague location.

Outside of that, he has to seduce Jennifer Connelly and deal with Rooster (Teller), the son of Goose, the man he got killed in the first film. Predictable doesn't come into it. So how can it be that Top Gun in the 21st century is such wonderful entertainment, almost a breath of fresh air?

Firstly, the aerial scenes look magnificent, especially on an Imax screen. It claims no CGI was used and seeing a film full of actual things that are actually there doing actual things is a thrill. So it looks real, but it also feels human. These characters are two dimensional at best and the storytelling is perfunctory, but you connect with them.

JENNIFER CONNELLY PLAYS PENNY BENJAMIN AND TOM CRUISE PLAYS CAPT. PETE "MAVERICK" MITCHELL IN TOP GU

Jennifer Connelly as Penny Benjamin and Tom Cruise as Capt Pete Maverick Mitchell in Top Gun Maverick - Credit: Paramount Pictures

Cruise is still unbearably pleased with himself, but now he has three and half decades of hard graft behind him to justify his self enchantment. Disturbingly, I think Top Gun 2 works because Hollywood has perfected the formulaic approach it first embraced back in the eighties. They no longer make “good” films (evidence; the last decade or so of Oscar winners) but they can make dumb films really, really well.

Tom Cruise plays Capt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in Top Gun: Maverick from Paramount Pictures, Skydan

Tom Cruise plays Capt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in Top Gun: Maverick - Credit: Scott Garfield

Go to www.halfmanhalfcritic.com for a review of Arrow Video blu-ray releases of Gasper Noe’s Enter The Void and Lux Aeterna.