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After a staggering 36 years, Maverick is back on the silver screen, this time in charge of teaching and preparing a group of young pilots for a seemingly impossible mission. I can't say that I am a huge fan of the original "Top Gun," but it is certainly a fun and cheesy 80's action movie with a classic Tom Cruise performance. However, the trailers for "Top Gun: Maverick" looked to have a more serious tone with some heavy drama. And when the film takes that tone, it does it exceptionally well. Even the nostalgia from the first film doesn't hamper it nearly as bad as I thought going into it.

That isn't to say the nostalgia and callbacks are done perfectly, though. At times, the repeated songs and similar scenes from the original movie were a bit jarring. It would have been nice to see the film showcase the pilots differently this time rather than more bar scenes with the same song and another beach scene. Yet somehow, the film pulls it off very well. Making a sequel after this long causes a movie to walk a tight line of paying homage to the original while also progressing the characters into a brand new story. It often seems to be a lose-lose scenario, but "Top Gun: Maverick" handles it well.

The runtime and predictability are the main issues I have with the film. At about 130 minutes, the film feels way too long. Many scenes could have been cut entirely or at the very least trimmed down. There was even a whole storyline that added almost nothing to the film, in my opinion. It should have been just two hours max, especially since many parts of the first and second act dragged. The film is also fairly predictable. That's not to say there are no surprises, but I wished the film took some more chances instead of playing the safe route.

Going into the film, I was intrigued to see what kind of Cruise we got. At this point in his career, Cruise has seemed to meld himself and his characters into one. Ethan Hunt, Jack Reacher and all of his other action characters can be hard to differentiate. I figured it would be the same with Maverick, but I was pleasantly surprised that the character is pretty consistent with the 1986 version. Especially in the opening scenes, Cruise disappeared into Maverick, which helps buy into the story, even when he begins to just be himself as the film progresses.

One of the young pilots that Maverick is training includes his former wingman's son, Rooster. This adds a strong dramatic element that I initially didn't buy, but as the film went on and emotions continued to rise, all of the emotional scenes surprisingly hit towards the end. While none of the other pilots got much character development, Maverick and Rooster carried the emotional weight.

Not only is the emotion there, but the aerial combat scenes were absolutely incredible to watch. They are fast-paced and so well done that they are easy to follow. There aren't many quick cuts that make it impossible to know what's happening as many action films do nowadays. I can't even fathom how difficult they were to film as all cast members were actually flying the fighter jets. Being inside the cockpit as they are barrel rolling, flying inverted and much more is worth the price of admission alone.

"Top Gun: Maverick" could have fallen into the trap that lots of sequels do, but it manages to create a familiarity with the original as well as tell a compelling original story at the same time. Even with a long runtime and not taking too many chances, it is great to see Cruise back in this role with exciting and fantastic aerial scenes.

Rating: 7.5/10