As sequels 30+ years in the making go… TOP GUN: MAVERICK delivers at mach speed. The high-adrenaline action drama is like a remake, homage and sequel all rolled into one. If you’re like me and can recite most every line of the 1986 classic, then you’ll feel very much at home with the pacing, characters, and latest shenanigans of fearless Naval aviator Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise).

“Son, your ego’s writing checks your body can’t cash.” “I feel the need; the need for speed.” “Negative, Ghost Rider, the pattern is full.” “You can be my wingman anytime.” I could go on… but I digress! The dialogue in TG: MAVERICK may not be quite as quotable as those particular gems, but it’s close enough to elicit a chuckle, lump in the throat, or a flash of memory–seemingly right on cue. “Talk to me Goose.”

As the film opens (to the same heart-pounding music as the first), Mav is doing what Mav does best– flying, defying the odds, and challenging authority. He’s a test pilot with little interest in ever advancing in rank. He’d rather ‘do’ than ‘teach.’ But when he’s ordered back to Top Gun to train a detachment of recent graduates for a dangerous, hyper-specialized mission, he has no choice but to comply–and kick butt! His team is comprised of an assortment of personalities that largely reflect those we met in the original. There’s “Hangman” (Glen Powell); “Phoenix” (Monica Barbaro); “Bob” (Lewis son of Bill! Pullman); “Payback” (Jay Ellis); “Fanboy” (Danny Ramirez); “Coyote” (Greg Tarzan Davis), and — most importantly– “Rooster” (Miles Teller, Whiplash), son of Maverick’s late pal Goose. Rooster and Maverick have some unresolved issues that threaten to impact the mission at hand. I’ll just leave it at that.

Jon Hamm and Ed Harris (briefly) pop up as authority figures with major disdain for Maverick’s methods. Jennifer Connelly tends bar as Maverick’s old and new love interest Penny Benjamin. There is a ‘blink and you may miss it’ reference to the role Meg Ryan played in TG, but no such courtesy for Kelly McGillis’s character “Charlie” which I found rather odd – especially considering some parallel imagery in the romance department. On the flip side, TOP GUN: MAVERICK does an extremely profound job with the return of Mav’s nemesis-turned-trusted-wingman Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, played by throat cancer survivor Val Kilmer.

When I told co-workers I’d seen–and thoroughly enjoyed–the ‘new Top Gun’, most were excited. But one revealed she did not like the first one and asked if she should see Maverick anyway. The answer was a resounding “No, of course not!”. This is not a film for Top Gun dismissers or Tom Cruise haters. It’s a film for folks like me who saw the original with a gaggle of friends, quoted all the lines, bought the soundtrack, and belted out “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” at every dorm party. And for those who may have caught up with the original in later years on VHS, streaming or when the film was re-released for a special 35th anniversary viewing. Or those just finally getting around to seeing the first one, in advance of the second. And liked it.

Is TOP GUN: MAVERICK better than the first TOP GUN? I wouldn’t go that far. But it’s cool to see that the Maverick swagger has withstood the test of time; the dogfights in the sky are still a wonder to watch; and despite some crazy odds, the good guys do prevail.

Watch the trailer. Does it leave you buzzing (the tower) with excitement? Then jump on the highway to the danger zone and enjoy the ride. Preferably in IMAX.

TOP GUN: MAVERICK opens in theaters May 27. 

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