TOP GUN: MAVERICK motion picture review

What a picture! Cinema at its finest! Top Gun: Maverick is the high energy, funny, exhilarating motion picture cinemas and audiences need–and–it’s full throttle heart! Furthermore, the absolutely brilliant combination of screenwriting, directing, and all the technical elements combine to acknowledge and build upon the nostalgia without resting its laurels on it or hiding behind the cultural and cinematic touchstone that was the original Top Gun. I didn’t know a long-awaited sequel more than 30-years from the original could be THIS good–in fact–it’s better than the original. We are talking Wrath of Kahn compared to Star Trek the Motion Picture here. Maverick represents that some stories, characters, and themes are truly timeless. Even the most casual fans of the original will be touched by everything this film has to offer. I cried several times, and I am not alone. Multiple fellow critics have remarked this film moved them to tears as well. Familiar, yet fresh doesn’t begin to capture the magnitude of diegetic and cinematic success of delivering the surprisingly perfect experience of this film that could very well be on its way to Best Picture of the Year nominations. Maverick is the film that we need as a country, as a world right now! Its plot is equal parts character and action-driven, and no scene or character is wasted or simply inserted to satisfy some nostalgia checkbox. Not only a love letter to the cinematic phenomenon that was Top Gun, it’s ostensibly a love letter to the cinematic experience in terms of scale and scope of the adrenaline-pumping high-flying adventure! We need this film at such a time as this. It’s an uplifting, positive, constructive motion picture for all! Fly, don’t walk to your nearest cinema that offers premium formats like IMAX or Dolby to experience this epic story on the BIG SCREEN.

After more than 30 years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him. Training a detachment of graduates for a special assignment, Maverick must confront the ghosts of his past and his deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who choose to fly it.

What is Top Gun: Maverick‘s secret ingredient, wherein lies the magic that made this motion picture work on every single level? The answer: there is no single element. Maverick an incredibly rare lightning in a bottle sequel! Moreover, it’s a lightning in a bottle film period. But if I was to hone in on what I feel is the reason why this film is as impactful, humorous, and exciting as it is, then I’d place a little more credit on the power of Peter Craig and Justin Marks’ screenplay! Yes, Joseph Kosinski’s direction and Tom Cruise’s creative producer guidance play a major roles in the visual storytelling, this action movie owes the depth of its storytelling to the screenplay. While we could boil down the screenplay to a combination redemption-hero story, there is so much more to Maverick than that.

Since this is at the beginning, it’s not a spoiler. The film opens in a nearly carbon-copy to the original, down to the text on screen, Top Gun theme, Danger Zone, and sequence of shots. The mention of the opening is incredibly important for you to know. There is no doubt that Kosinski and Cruise intentionally crafted the throwback opening to channel the nostalgia factor at the very beginning. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come from the story Craig and Marks wrote for you. From the very beginning, audiences are invested in this story because their nostalgia adrenal glands have been stimulated. And as far as direct throwbacks, that is pretty much were it stops. Is that to say there aren’t a few strategically placed (and very brief) flashbacks sprinkled throughout the film? No, there are perfectly setup and executed flashbacks and visually and dialogue-driven references (and Easter eggs) used in the film, but they are supportive, yet pay off dramatically. No moment or reference from the original is simply used to remind you that this is a Top Gun film.

Simple plot, complex characters. It’s a lot easier said than done. When teaching screen writing for film or situation comedies, I drive this point home nearly as often as dramatize don’t tell. The plot of this film is very simple: thwart the enemy from illegally enriching uranium. The depth of the film comes from the well-written and developed characters. And our characters in this larger than life film are few in number. And because it’s not overstuffed with lead and supporting characters, the characters are each given agency (granted, some characters are given a higher degree of agency than others, but my point is that they have purpose, needs, wants, and flaws). Because I am avoiding spoilers, I am not going to go into any details because you need to experience these characters for yourself.

There are many rich themes in this film. From a commentary on advancement in technology versus the human spirit to a commentary on not being so quick to discount the wisdom of those who have come before, to an exploration of redemption, ego, and sacrifice, there is something for everyone! The screenwriters chose to focus on telling a good story and not any of these things. Yes, these elements add immense richness to this motion picture, but at the end of the day, it’s simply a great story with excellent plotting.

Undoubtedly, something you’re looking forward to is all the aerial cinematography! It helped make the original the visual spectacular that it was! And that same quality is true in Maverick, but with an exception. It’s an extension of the storytelling NOT the focus of the film. The film isn’t saying “here, check out my stunning, high octane cinematography and effects (which are used to cover up a mediocre story);” it’s saying to audiences, “hey, check out my stunning, high octane cinematography and effects that pair excellently with my powerful, compelling story!” The attraction isn’t the cinematography or editing (tho, both are exceptional), the attraction is/are the story, plot, and characters! You will be moved by this film, and driven to laughter, tears, and excitement!

Again, don’t miss seeing. Top Gun: Maverick on–not only on the big–the BIGGEST SCREEN in your area! If you sleep on this film, and wait for it to hit Paramount+, then you will deprive yourself of what is the greatest cinematic experience since, since, since I don’t know when.

Ryan teaches Film Studies and Screenwriting at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter or email him at RLTerry1@gmail.com! If you’re ever in Tampa or Orlando, feel free to catch a movie with him.

Follow him on Twitter: RLTerry1

Mario Puzo’s The Godfather Coda: the Death of Michael Corleone

A testament to the timeless, evolving art of theatrical motion pictures! Cinematic genius Francis Ford Coppola reedits and retitles the past in the exclusively theatrical release of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather Coda: the Death of Michael Corleone. Whoa, that was a mouthful. I can see why it didn’t exactly work for most marquees back in 1990. I appreciate Paramount gifting us with a limited theatrical run, which is positively the best way to experience and return to the complex world of the Corleone family. For those that are uncomfortable attending the cinema, The Godfather Coda will be available to own on physical media in the coming weeks. Other than the title, the most significant changes from Godfather: Part III are to the beginning and ending. But throughout the film, Coppola reedited and rearranged scenes so that this “director’s cut” is leaner than the original version. The Godfather series is no stranger to re-releases and supercuts for premium television. It’s as if this masterpiece is a work of art that Coppola is never truly satisfied or finished with, allowing him to tinker with it through the decades. One can liken his reedit of this film with his remix of Apocalypse Now. Since the very end is different from the original, I will not address the changes other than to state that it feels much more complete, and satisfying both narratively and emotionally.

In terms of the main action plot, this reedit is still about an aging Michael Corleone whom strives to abandon his old ways and become a legitimate businessman and philanthropist by developing a foundation and bailing out the Catholic Church’s crippling bank. Unfortunately, his personal journey of morality and redemption does not bode well for ancillary organized crime arms of the greater mafia. And thus, he becomes a target within the world he godfathered. Although concentrated in this installment, the global story in The Godfather saga is one of morality and redemption. As I regularly point out to my students, you may not agree with the business practices and skewed worldview of the Corleone family, but you have to admire the respect for tradition, family, and order. And in their own way, they adhere to strong moral and ethical values; and it’s that devotion to moral and ethical principles that we can admire. The collective history of The Godfather saga is as storied and illustrious as the history of the Corleone family itself. When discussions about the very nature of cinema are in discourse, The Godfather saga is one that is often cited as an example of a film that is the very definition of cinematic.

Harkening back to key moments from Godfather I/II, the reedits allow the film to better and more effectively mirror iconic and character-defining moments from the–let’s face it–stronger first two films. From opening the film on a party to intercutting violence against a high-profile public event towards the end, The Godfather Coda is a thoughtful exploration of dramatic irony and foreboding omen. By engaging in the art of montage (French for assembly), Coppola demonstrates how assembly can greatly impact the experience of the motion picture. Same story, but assembled differently in order to create a leaner, more coherant narrative. Upon watching The Godfather Coda, fans of Part III will appreciate how the plot is less (not far less, but less) convoluted than the original. Although there are still screenwriting and directing missteps, that are ostensibly ghosts from the past that will always be present, the changes greatly improve the story.

The coda to the Corleone family saga is a deeply moving cinematic motion picture that reminds us of the power of cinema. While even recut, it doesn’t match the level of critical and cultural success of the first two films, it is still full of excellence in visual storytelling for the silver screen.

Ryan teaches screenwriting and film studies at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter or email him at RLTerry1@gmail.com! If you’re ever in Tampa or Orlando, feel free to catch a movie with or meet him in the theme parks!

Follow him on Twitter: RLTerry1