Top Gun: Maverick “feels the need for speed” as another American classic

Kathryn Vlaanderen, News Editor

While registering for Fall 2023 classes and completing copious amounts of homework, I decided to watch and review two iconic movies of American cinema: “Top Gun” and its sequel: “Top Gun: Maverick.” Let’s just say, Kenny Loggins’s song, “Danger Zone” hasn’t left my mind since I’ve seen both films this weekend.  

Like the 1986 original, “Top Gun: Maverick” is an unquestionable hit, due to beautiful cinematography, an incredible soundtrack and an exceptional cast of returning and brand-new characters.  

Released in 2022, the audience once again follows the point of view of Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (played by Tom Cruise) who returns to Top Gun as an instructor for the newest generation of Top Gun graduates and assist in the preparation of what seems to be an impossible mission to take down a foreign chemical plant.   

The main conflict of the film is between Maverick and Goose’s son, Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (played by Miles Teller). Thirty years after his father’s death, Rooster is upset to hear that Maverick is going to be his new instructor and to hear that Maverick pulled his admissions papers at the US Naval Academy which set him back four years. The audience sees their rivalry, throughout the film, in flight training as both pilots try to show each other who is the best pilot in Top Gun.  

Throughout the film, there is one character that noticeably shines the most which is Maverick’s rival-turned wingman Tom “Iceman” Kazansky’s return (played Val Kilmer.)  Iceman is now a Naval admiral and suffers from cancer, like the actor who plays him.  Iceman is portrayed as the main individual that is keeping Maverick employed in the Navy as well as chose Maverick to train the new graduates for the mission.  

In 2014, Val Kilmer lost his voice through his numerous fights with throat cancer and could barely speak due to his diagnosis with throat cancer according to an article titled “Val Kilmer On Surviving Throat Cancer: ‘I Want to Share My Story More Than Ever’” that was published on August 25, 2021 in People Magazine. 

Val Kilmer’s portrayal of “Iceman” in the original film was strong to say the least, but it is stronger and more impactful in “Top Gun: Maverick.” Kilmer’s ability to act without a word is a testament to how he can still be powerful and incredible actor despite the setbacks he had to face in recent years, not to mention it makes the film feel realistic and more than just a meaningless sequel that is being filmed to make money.  

“Top Gun: Maverick” advertises itself as a sequel to an American classic; however, it has proven itself multiple times that it can be a stand-alone masterpiece and does not need to repeat the success accomplished in “Top Gun” to be a great film. First off, the sequel builds on the character’s stories and the world of “Top Gun.” 

Even though, “Top Gun: Maverick” is set thirty years into the future and Maverick is now older and wiser; he stays as cocky and rebellious as he does in the original. Second, “Top Gun: Maverick” features a respectable representation of female aviators through the character of Natasha “Phoenix” Trace (played by Monica Barbaro).  

When compared to the original’s female protagonist, Charlie Blackwood; Phoenix is portrayed as confident, capable and flies as good if not better than the male pilots. Phoenix shows how far U.S aviation has progressed in the future of aviation and serves as a powerful representation to future female pilots.  

In my own opinion, I believe that “Top Gun: Maverick” pays homage respectfully to the original “Top Gun” movie and updates a beloved American classic for the new fighter pilots who feel the need for speed. “Top Gun: Maverick” is currently available on Amazon Prime and Paramount Plus.