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Review: Tom Cruise’s ‘Top Gun’ sequel soars to new heights

The much-delayed theatrical release of “Top Gun: Maverick” is finally upon us for the summer. Tom Cruise returns to Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” as a fighter pilot in the sequel to the 1986 blockbuster that made a pop-culture catchphrase out of “I feel the need, the need for speed.”

"Top Gun: Maverick" stand-up movie display
"Top Gun: Maverick" is playing at the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter and the Sunset Cinema in Jenkins. The release of the major motion picture was delayed several times due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the new sequel was released in time for the Memorial Day weekend.
Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch
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BAXTER — Tom Cruise finally returns to the cockpit in “Top Gun: Maverick,” the much-delayed sequel to his 1986 high-flying hit about an elite group of Navy pilots.

Judging by sold-out showings at the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter of the new release for Memorial Day weekend, audiences can’t seem to get enough of his character Pete “Maverick” Mitchell.

Cruise's pandemic-delayed sequel earned not only the best reviews of any wide release so far in 2022, but set a Memorial Day weekend record with a $156 million debut, according to Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television.

"Top Gun: Maverick" movie poster
"Top Gun: Maverick" movie poster
Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch

Cruise has hardly aged a bit in the sequel — still sporting a devil-may-care, toothy grin and still exuding the same boyish charm in his 50s as he did when he originated the role of Mitchell, a fighter pilot that lives up to his call sign “Maverick.”

In the sequel, Mitchell is older but not necessarily wiser and still pushing the limits and defying orders that border on insubordinate behavior, crossing that border on occasion — both figuratively and literally — where he finds himself in the proverbial “Danger Zone.”

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Yes, that indelible Kenny Loggins song ingrained in the machismo DNA of the original feature film kicks off the sequel with a rousing start accompanied by several images of fighter planes taking off from a naval carrier.

Mitchell has remained a captain in the sequel even though his decorated actions and decades of military service should have seen him promoted long ago just like his rival-turned-friend Adm. Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, so memorably played by Val Kilmer.

Kilmer’s performance in the role he originally played decades ago was so much of a part of the testosterone-filled, one-upmanship contest that Kilmer had to be brought back for the sequel, despite a real-life battle with throat cancer that leaves Kilmer mostly mute this time around.

For a big spectacle, special effects-laden summer tentpole film that even includes a personalized silver screen message from the superstar Cruise, himself, thanking audiences for returning to the theaters, “Top Gun: Maverick” has some surprisingly intimate moments.

Haunted by the death of one of his fellow pilots, Mitchell is now tasked in the follow-up with the near-impossible task of quickly training inexperienced “Top Gun” pilots like himself for an almost assuredly suicidal mission of bombing an enemy weapons facility.

Frank Lee
Frank Lee

To make matters worse, among the potential recruits for the clandestine attack is the son of the late pilot Mitchell flew with in the original film, and so he struggles with whether or not to allow the young man played by Miles Teller to go on the mission and, if so, what if Teller dies?

“Top Gun: Maverick” currently holds a 96% approval rating among critics and a 99% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes.

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The consensus from the critics at RottenTomatoes.com: “‘Top Gun: Maverick’ pulls off a feat even trickier than a 4G inverted dive, delivering a long-belated sequel that surpasses its predecessor in wildly entertaining style.”

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The two-hour-plus film is rated PG-13 and also includes among the cast Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm and Ed Harris. “Top Gun: Maverick” was directed by Joseph Kosinski, who also helmed another long-awaited sequel, "Tron: Legacy."

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bdfilmforum .

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I cover arts and entertainment, and write feature stories, for the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper. As a professional journalist with years of experience, I have won awards for my fact-based reporting. And my articles have also appeared in other publications, including USA Today. 📰
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