6. Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
The COVID pandemic put the world on pause. Everything shut down, including movie theaters. This existential threat to exhibition, coupled with the growing threat of streaming services, has left people wondering if movie theaters can survive the coming decade.
The release of Top Gun: Maverick, a sequel to the 1986 film Top Gun, was delayed a total of five times due in large part to the ongoing global pandemic, with Tom Cruise himself refusing to let the film get anything less than a traditional theatrical release. When it finally premiered in May of 2022, Top Gun: Maverick exploded in ticket sales, crossing the $1billion mark almost exactly 1 month later in June of 2022. The film remained in the public consciousness for months after its initial release and remained in the top 5 of the box office for 10 straight weeks. The film was praised for its technical achievements as well as its storytelling and performances. It was then nominated for 6 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
35 years after the events of Top Gun, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is as stubborn and unwavering as ever. After being given his last chance, Maverick is tasked with training a set of new pilots, but complications arise when one of those pilots happens to be his dead best friend’s son: Bradly “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller).
Top Gun: Maverick is a breeze – a high-flying, adrenaline-pounding good time. It’s an old-fashioned blockbuster, the kind of movie that rarely gets made anymore. The kind of movie that justifies going to the theater in the first place. Top Gun: Maverick is simply made for the big screen. In an age where movie stars barely exist, Tom Cruise oozes charm and charisma, reminding each of us what a true screen presence looks like.
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5. Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)
Over a decade after Avatar was released, the long-awaited sequel Avatar: The Way of Water finally premiered in December of 2022. It quickly became the highest-grossing film of 2022 and is currently the third highest-grossing film of all time, not adjusted for inflation. Following in the footsteps of its predecessor, The Way of Water garnered critical acclaim for its technical achievements and was consequently nominated for 4 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
The Way of Water takes place 16 years after the events of Avatar. Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) are now parents, and Jake is the leader of their clan. But when the sky people return to once again colonize Pandora, and an old enemy puts his family’s lives at risk, Jake chooses to stop fighting and lead his family into a self-imposed exile, a decision that alters the course of their lives.
The Way of Water is a stunning achievement that is well worth the wait. The world of Pandora is more expansive and the story greatly benefits from the addition of several new characters, especially Baily Bass’s Reya. But the film suffers from the same issues that plagued Avatar. While the overall experience is nothing short of thrilling, the story itself feels like a complete retread of the original, with nothing new to say.
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