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‘Top Gun: Maverick’: Robin’s movie review

A movie poster for “Top Gun: Maverick” shows actor Tom Cruise standing in front of a military fighter jet dressed like a pilot with helmet in hand. The poster reads “Tom Cruise. Top Gun: Maverick.”
Paramount Pictures
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For Movie Minutes, Robin Holabird reviews the long-awaited sequel to Top Gun.

Subtle, complex, original — all words I love using when describing films, and none of them apply to the Top Gun sequel subtitled Maverick. They didn’t fit the first one either, but audiences never minded. Minimal plotting, pulsing music, and hot guys with glimmering bare chests worked just fine and do so again with two key distinctions: the star magnetism of Tom Cruise combined with military cooperation that allows for the phenomenal, sophisticated visuals provided by real aircraft.

Decades down the line since the first Top Gun, Cruise control still means insistence in going the distance for stunts and effects. The star’s young bull brashness has evolved into commanding self-confidence, and Cruise gives the role what it needs — not so much in the way of nuanced acting but as a solid presence. After all, Cruise faces a bunch of scene stealers: those sleek, gorgeous marvels of engineering that rise to heights beyond the reach of normal stars.

Fighter jets proved the tipping point in the first Top Gun. The same happens with the Maverick sequel, using six different kinds of jets, including the glossy Super Hornet. Enthusiastic cooperation from the United States military heightens the effectiveness and authenticity of flight sequences, the elements that made both Top Guns soar beyond the typical flyboy movie. Predictable plot elements fail to ground the project because director Joseph Kosinski stages flight sequences so clearly and effectively.

As any sequel should, Top Gun: Maverick revisits the traits that made it successful in the first place while finding a couple of new directions to explore. Technology upgrades provide freshness without forsaking the first film’s highlights, which range from a catchy Kenny Loggins tune to beefcake images of well-muscled young men shirking their shirts and playing ball on the beach. Complex? Nah. Fun? Sure. As a note for listeners in the Reno-Tahoe region, Top Gun: Maverick shares another link with the first film. It never mentions Nevada, but producers filmed in the state’s Naval Air Station at Fallon.

Back in my days as a state film commissioner working to put Nevada locations in movies, the dream always included a Top Gun sequel. I sought the prestige and economic benefits it offered the state; Naval officials wanted a repeat of the first film’s impact on recruitment, reported on Wikipedia as 500%. Many obstacles occurred, including the death of the film’s original director Tony Scott shortly after one scouting effort. But just like the character Maverick who defies every effort to ground him, Top Gun plays the phoenix game by rising from the ashes in glittery form.

This review aired on KUNR FM on Friday, June 3.

Robin Holabird is KUNR’s entertainment reviewer, author, and former film commissioner for the Nevada Film Office. You can browse a full archive of her reviews here.

Robin Holabird reviews movies for KUNR, and her reviews have aired for more than 30 years. During that time, she has had a high profile in the Nevada film community.
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