It seems Top Gun: Maverick is finally going to be released in theaters after years of delays and critics are unanimous about one thing.
For nearly four decades now, the release of a Tom Cruise movie has been an event. Even as his star power has waxed and waned to certain degrees over the course of his career, usually depending on if couches were involved, a Tom Cruise movie feels like a pretty big deal. His latest film, Top Gun: Maverick, has been no exception. Its release has been delayed again and again due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve gotten Lady Gaga on a piano with a parachute dress, and we have all remembered Anthony Edwards’ Goose with a tear in our eye. Now the critical reviews of Top Gun: Maverick are beginning to roll in and there is an overwhelming critical consensus: this movie is great.
More specifically, Top Gun: Maverick pulled off the rare feat of premiering with a perfect 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Few movies or shows manage to pull that off at all, and it is rare that they manage to keep it for long (as Star Trek: Strange New Worlds could tell you). As of writing, the Tom Cruise Naval Aviator legacy sequel has barely dropped in critical regard; it is currently at 98%, which means that pretty much every critic in the world loves it.
This is particularly noteworthy for Top Gun: Maverick because not even the original film is so beloved. Upon its first release in 1986, the original Top Gun received mixed reviews with critics commending the flight scenes and art direction, but not so much the scenes where human beings spoke and interacted with each other. The Tony Scott (who Top Gun: Maverick is dedicated to) film has been claimed as a cultural artifact on various levels. It has been now been retroactively viewed for its kitsch, latent homoeroticism, and over-the-top jingoism, as well as sincerely reappraised for its game-changing editing. In 2015, it was even selected for preservation by the United States Library of Congress for its National Film Registry, as a motion picture that is “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Nevertheless, the 1986 Top Gun currently ranks at 57% on Rotten Tomatoes. That is far, far below the adulation Top Gun: Maverick is receiving. Perhaps some of this is due to the nostalgia factor of an aging Tom Cruise passing the torch to (check notes) Miles Teller (sigh), and perhaps some of it is due to Cruise displaying some of the actual nuanced acting he is capable of, but rarely displays. Then again, maybe the airborne dogfights are just really, really good.
Top Gun: Maverick is scheduled for wide release in the United States on May 27, and it seems like it actually might happen this time. The film was originally scheduled to premiere in July of 2019, which makes it delayed by a shockingly long time even by the current standards of film production. By all reports, it seems like the movie will actually be worth the weight, especially if we all finally get some closure on the tragic accidental death of LTJG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw. Rest in peace, Goose.