Simply put, Tom Cruise is Top Gun: Maverick and perhaps the last true Hollywood movie star.
In a pop culture landscape filled with reality television personalities, TikTot challenges and superhero multiverses, the selling-power of a marquee name on a movie poster has dimmed since the emergence of the superhero renaissance and fantasy IP that came with Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001).
In fact, characters and franchises sell more than ever. Outside of the MCU, Robert Downey Jr. doesn’t draw major box-office dollars. Equally, Wonder Women is the marquee – not Gal Gadot. Even Dwayne Johnson’s box office draw outside franchises or existing intellectual properties is limited. His leaning into the DC brand with Super Pets this summer and Black Adam in October speaks to his marquee limitations.
With Hollywood continuously searching for the next big property, the $160 million haul of Top Gun: Maverick over the four day US memorial weekend, is a reminder that Tom Cruise still sells. His hypersonic return as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell not only reaffirmed the actor’s global appeal but audiences’ yearning for cinematic stories other than superhero or fantasy fare. In fact, the film’s opening weekend marked the first time in 22 years that a “real-world” centred action film topped the Memorial Day. weekend box-office charts. The last film – Mission Impossible 2 with Tom Cruise.
A brand build on Hollywood looks, charm and a talent that transcends multiple genres, the success of Top Gun: Maverick reinforces the rich diversity of Tom Cruise’s career. From the original Top Gun (1986) to Rain Man (1988), A Few Good Men (1992), Interview with a Vampire (1994), Mission Impossible (1996), Eyes Wide Shut (1999), Magnolia (1999), Minority Report (2002) and Tropic Thunder (2008), Tom Cruise has succeeded in genre fare like no other actor of his generation. Regardless of his personal life and couch antics (yes the infamous Oprah moment in 2005), Tom Cruise continues to be the world’s biggest movie star. With Tom Cruise, you’re buying a ticket for a Tom Cruise movie. Plan and simple.
As you may imagine, Top Gun: Maverick is the ultimate Tom Cruise movie. Actually, it’s the ultimate action movie and one of the best genre films to hit theatres in recent memory.
A throw back to character drama and action flicks that would have long box-office legs as was the case in the 80s and 90s, Top Gun: Maverick is a master class in technological innovation, storytelling, awe-inducing cinematography and break-neck paced editing.
Trust me, I went to an IMAX screening with my 11 and 9 yr old kiddos who after eating and drinking excessively, never asked to leave for a washroom break. At over two-hours, the film is a brisk watch from start to finish. In fact, in terms of blockbuster films, Top Gun: Maverick ranks with Back to the Future (1985) as a masterclass in writing and editing.
With the difficult task to balance nostalgia with renewed purpose, the Joseph Kosinski (Tron Legacy, Oblivion) directed and Tom Cruise produced picture starts with a tribute to the original. With the classic Top Gun anthem transitioning to Danger Zone driving a classic 80s montage filled with jets and more, the opening minutes set the stage for what promises to be an emotionally charged thrill ride.
Past and present collide as Pete Mitchell is introduced. Working and living in a hangar / shrine to the past 36 years, we see photographs of his best-friend Goose and his now adult son, the classic 1986 bomber jacket and Maverick’s Kawasaki motorcycle. With “Mach 9” noted on a calendar, Maverick is off to do what he does – fulfilling his need for speed. Now a test pilot, we’re reacquainted with Maverick in full spirit, who after breaking orders once again, finds himself returning to Top Gun to prepare today’s “best of the best” for a life-threatening mission all while facing the his mounting trauma.
Whereas Maverick in 1986 was reluctant to share deeply and lean into his vulnerably, the Maverick in his 50s sees the world through a new lens. Although still a rebel in the skies. his sense of purpose has certainly matured. He’s at a cross roads as he must come to terms with the past, present and future. Yearning to be a father to Goose’s fighter-pilot son and find peace with an old love, Top Gun: Maverick has an emotional maturity that the original lacked. With the emotional stakes set high, the action that makes for a shockingly impressive third-act is only made better.
Unlike the original film that came to define Reaganite entertainment and was unapologetically a PSA for the US Navy, Top Gun: Maverick is more sincere in looking at the realities of war. The stakes are real, war has consequences and true leadership is needed. This is all to say that Cruise and company have made the perfect legacy sequel and popcorn summer blockbuster . With intense action, charming romance, quiet humour and tearful moments, Top Gun: Maverick reimagines what movies can and should be.
So, with a full summer ahead, Top Gun: Maverick is not to be missed in theatres. Buy a ticket for the biggest screen possible and buckle up for a return to the Danger Zone.