Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick ★★★★

When approaching the pop phenomena of the legacy sequel, I don't think I find many more who I'd wish to persist in tackling this tendency than Joseph Kosinski. There is a shared commitment between "Tron: Legacy" and "Top Gun: Maverick" of not only rendering the original a mythic text behind the back of the characters but a force to be reckoned with in the organic ramifications of resuming years long behind the decisive events had occurred. Characters carrying ghosts still to this day as a direct consequence of the left implicit in the ellipsis separating the two stories, like Linklater with the "Before trilogy" or Oliveira with his "Belle De Jour" sequel, but also fears of obsolescence and replacement.

"Legacy" ominously refers to an explicit struggle of our current discourse on technological advancement in the possibility of reanimating or cloning a self digitally. And "Maverick" grants a layer of meta-expression in each military machination to dialogue with how Tom Cruise pertains to a generation of a Hollywood driven by stardom that with each day dissipates increasingly. That no longer are recognizable faces like him who'll lead the box office, making his practices more of a relic the more we move forward. Kosinski not only sustains "Maverick" from the mythification of the original film; Cruise's entire career looms over it.

Despite recreating the sequenced peripeteia of Scott's film and shifting dynamics directing them to its self-reflexive interests, the structural commonalities with the "Mission: Impossible" franchise are unmistakable; no wonder Christopher McQuarrie merits as producer. The insistence on the authenticity of what's on-screen as a prime matter for its spectacle, the altruism driving the protagonist as a quality of individualism, the unrequested love against serving one's duty, the multiple stages climax, etc. It implies decades of delivering the same practices, not moving beyond the role assigned to him (the remarks of Maverick staying captain despite his excellent output), but pushing further with every venturing. An attitude expressed potently from the start: him assigned achieving Mach 10 yet trying a higher velocity for no more than the mere accomplishment, the glory.

This disposition of forcing one's physical limits, impregnating the film's form while evidencing it as an object of study, generates an association with masochistic, suicidal impulses as much as in "Mission: Impossible - Fallout." Challenging mortality as a fulfilling need for Tom Cruise, a man psychotic enough to never comfort with merely accomplishing the task; but to do so impeccably no matter the risk. Though, like in McQuarrie's last film, prevailing in this dedication is not without sacrifice. Cruise seems fascinated now in playing tortured professionals who have had to renounce the familiar. His Maverick constantly reminded of the family he didn't commit to constructing for his job's sake. And like in "Legacy," Kosinski engages in paternal failings to assemble the drama around them, depicting a man who tries to be a father figure to the child left by his bygone best friend. A man who performs paternalism onto someone to fill the void of the son he doesn't have, and another who learns to find solace in this man and see them through that role (while still maintaining the memory of his father).

However, if "Maverick" carries a stronger gut-punch than "Fallout," it is in its juxtaposing of the tortured Cruise's dying drive with death as a haunting omnipresence conditioning the action. Both in its text and extra text (Tony Scott's death). The subject of Goose's passing gets frequently brought and engaged for the drama's course, and when not, it torments Maverick via self-blaming and how he projects his partner into Goose's kid, Rooster. The peril of demise infects every corner, latent in every training and arriving when most unexpected. In one of the film's most demolishing notes, {spoilers} Val Kilmer's Iceman leaves the living with no warning nor farewell. Despite genre expectations, Kosinski commits to representing Iceman's dying on the out-of-field, with no chance of resolution and leaving no more than loose ends. The notification is as unanticipated as it is abrupt, and no time is possible for grief as the world moves forward {end of spoilers}. Yet Maverick persist. If Scott's original merely alluded to Hawks' "Only Angels Have Wings" in its construction of an idyllic cinematic space, Kosinski fully gets that pulsation of death. The pragmatic yet passionate dedication to an occupation that stimulates the self profoundly, and how even if our partners leave us, we must endure for their sake.

If the film stands out, it is in its pursuit of balance and showing adaptation as a necessity. Not just how synergic bonding grows essential for the climactic execution of the mission: both the old guard and the new blood collaborate for their success. Kosinski approaches the sequel under the terms of the legacy of the actors, more so than the characters. Therefore, he incorporates, rather than evades, the present conditions of them as they live. To use the cinema as a vehicle for observing what a body does with its history and its reminiscence. The capital scene centering on Val Kilmer induces his health condition integral to the drama, communicating through text on his computer to discuss with Maverick the current state of his teaching, especially relating to Rooster (Miles Teller). The mise-en-scène turns Kilmer's act of using his vocal cords to try utter words into an advancement in the scene's development. Its representation conveys a sense of proximity between Maverick and Iceman, one more precise for Cruise's relationship with Kilmer in the mutual trust and dignity rather than the loving bantering of Scott's.

Tom Cruise might still put his body to a great challenge and achieve what few others try nowadays, yet he has his limits; aging, accumulating years, showing them in his growing wrinkles, nearing the day he'll no longer be. Finality haunts the surroundings, yet Cruise, like Maverick, chooses to persist with his passion until the last moment. The insistence on keeping photographs and Kosinski's choice of cutting with footage from the original in the scene when Maverick's body aches when reminiscing his best friend through his son when confronted with leisure remitting to his own, neither are coincidental. "Top Gun: Maverick," through its marvelous spectacle and sweeping set pieces, is a film about how we remember those who left us and what we do ourselves for others to remember us for when we are gone, opting for keeping one's dignity and pass our practices for the next generations.

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