On the Flight Deck
Given a grand-sized easel to produce an iconic American military propaganda film, Top Gun: Maverick sits among the elite, in an effort not seen since WWII prompted studios to help in the war effort. It’s not worth ignoring that truth – Top Gun: Maverick does more to make military service look, appear, and be cool to a new generation than any film directed toward 20-somethings since the ‘80s made Rambo an icon.
Yet with that painter’s brush and cooperation with the US Navy, the script teeters between honoring its financial obligations, dressing the project in nostalgia, and continuing a dramatic saga. In this, Maverick succeeds, splendidly. Joining the world alongside Creed, Fury Road, and others, this legacy sequel deftly blends this modern genre’s needs without betraying the source material.
Beyond the military criticisms, Maverick even contends with Star Wars and early ‘00s dud Stealth for its obvious story beats. This too, it overcomes. A matter of sheer quality, Maverick’s ability to lock in a viewer through authentic (and often real world) dog fighting while the characters bicker and doubt makes for a true showcase movie that coming out of a pandemic (or trying to anyway) makes theaters matter again.
It’s imperfect, yes. Avoiding political squabbles, Maverick never names its enemy nation; neither did 1986’s Top Gun, treating the foe as faceless and evil, and nothing more than a target to shoot at. Maverick doesn’t stand for anything other than American military superiority and the familial bonds that form in such circumstances. What matters is Tom Cruise dancing a jet through the sky, the same as John Wayne stormed the beaches of Normandy.
Top Gun: Maverick is a feeling film though, enough so to jettison those gripes and cheer as Cruise makes amends for a decades-long pain involving former co-pilot Iceman. Cruise makes that real, and the predictable character arc ends with a satisfying, full-throated cheer. That’s the type of thing we watch movies for – so is nearly all of Maverick. It looks impossible, truly captivating in delivering a grounded fantasy in tandem with a rich legacy. Add in the unforgettable guitar riffs where appropriate and Maverick turns into that ever rarer “better than the original” follow-up.
Top Gun: Maverick is everything modern blockbuster cinema should and can be when at its best. Blistering true 4K imagery fills the screen with ludicrous sharpness defining every single line, facial pore, metal surface on jets, and the dazzling wide shots. The slightest film grain layers the frame, unobtrusive and resolved. Texture refuses to recede no matter the circumstance.
Color grading favors a digital slant, but it’s not without moments of intense, high-end saturation. Density doesn’t change, just the palette, so color is always and continuously bold. Great flesh tones deliver on warmth, and the vivid greenery around the locations absolutely pops.
Generous in Dolby Vision potential too, the brilliant contrast uses the glistening sun to its fullest potential, ricocheting from visors, windows, and sleek jet metals. California sun lives up to its potential courtesy of this disc. Flawless.
Joining Godzilla: King of Monsters, Pacific Rim, and Mad Max: Fury Road at the format’s top audio discs. Atmos erupts potent bass that isn’t only room shaking, but house shaking. Jet engines spare nothing in their power, the Hz so ludicrously low, walls will beg for a reprieve. Explosions generate thrust equal to or even better than the afterburners.
Likewise, motion accurately bounces between speakers, and height channels take on more notable work here by default than any other reference disc. Every opportunity is taken to showcase home theater’s ability to mimic the best full theaters out there. It’s masterful, and so well balanced, the brilliant score isn’t lost in the mayhem.
The lengthiest bit is a post-screening Q&A with Tom Cruise. The rest is made up of generic making-of featurettes, albeit glossy ones.
Top Gun: Maverick
Top Gun: Maverick goes all-in to deliver an action genre masterpiece.
User Review( votes)
The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 60 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: