Compared to the original, this sequel is 70% less sweaty, 85% less sexy, and 90% more tween appropriate. Top Gun: Maverick is a tale of redemption both for Maverick and for the original film. Top Gun is a piece of classic cinema, one of the most significant films of the 1980s. But it projected hyper masculinity as aspirational, arrogance as cool, and the idea that rules are for losers. The fact that Maverick's recklessness cost his best friend his life was lost in the excitement of the Danger Zone and the camaraderie of volleyball on the beach and serenading bar beauties.
Top Gun: Maverick remedies this -- so much so that it's actually a really great idea to watch them as a double feature with teens and tweens. In the sequel, the perspective is flipped, with the class of swaggering fighter pilots shown from the instructor's point of view. They're not ready, they're overly confident, and it's clear that they need structure and guidance. Still shattered from Goose's death all these years later and afraid that Goose's son, Bradley (Teller), could lose his life the same way, Maverick has to teach the young guns how to take risks in the most risk-averse way. The movie's romance no longer has an uneven power dynamic (ahem, dating the teacher), either: Maverick's love interest, Penny (Jennifer Connelly), is the same age and has her own, separate career -- and things between them get about as sexy as a starched collar. Where viewers are likely to feel the intensity is in the aerial combat, which is notably more breathtaking and includes stunning action sequences. Cruise is known for insisting on authenticity by performing stunts himself, and he and the other actors really fly these planes. That helps make the film more immersive. Many former '80s teens have fond memories of watching Top Gun with their parents. Top Gun: Maverick is made for that experience to continue.