Someone once posited that the way to gauge the quality of a sequel is to plot the delta—better or worse—from the movie that spawned it. Employing that metric, Top Gun: Maverick might be the best damned sequel that I’ve ever seen.
My immediate dislike of the original Top Gun isolated me from many a gung-ho fan in 1986, put off as I was by the obnoxious, smirky smugness of it all. Jump ahead thirty-six years and now-legendary jet fighter pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is staring down the twilight of an illustrious, notorious career, and with it the pathos born of the choices he’s made along the way. He’s still haunted by the death of his best bud Goose, and now Goose’s son Rooster (Miles Teller) is among his recruits for a high-stakes mission with a low probability of success… or even survival. Today’s Maverick is a different man, with responsibility hanging heavy on him, his journey yields hard-hitting drama with a few clear Star Wars influences thrown in for good measure.
Like its predecessor, Maverick is destined to be shortlisted as a go-to demo disc. The movie was captured at 6K, requiring custom-built cameras for the flying sequences, and the 4K master utilized for the Ultra HD Blu-ray is flawless, with crisp details in actor close-ups and sprawling vistas and everything in between. The aspect ratio shifts between a letterboxed 2.39:1 and more screen-filling 1.9:1 for the IMAX scenes. Blazing sunshine washes over the practice missions, with a you-are-there realism worthy of the pains taken by all the filmmakers to put us inside the cockpit with these pilots. And director Joseph Kosinski is a true visual stylist who apparently shares the late Tony Scott’s fondness for sunsets.
The zoom, boom and roar of the jets is likely the big sonic draw for most, and somehow this masterful track manages to make it sound easy—and thrilling—despite all the rapid cutting and insane directionality layered with ample chatter, a mix that deftly exploits the overhead speakers, of course. But practically every scene shines in some way, in the power of helicopter rotors or the deliberate rechanneling of a pop song, all part of a lush and wonderful all-enveloping soundstage. If you’re still on the fence about Atmos, let this be your last nudge.
There’s no HD Blu-ray here but a single-vendor digital copy code is supplied. The topic-specific behind-the-scenes featurettes are wholly adequate, but this movie is an instant classic and demands more.
Ultra HD Blu-ray
Studio: Paramount, 2022
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1/1.90:1
HDR Formats: Dolby Vision, HDR10
Audio Formats: Dolby Atmos with TrueHD 7.1 core
Length: 127 mins
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Starring: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Charles Parnell, Ed Harris