When the first trailer for Top Gun: Maverick appeared and those opening, iconic notes of “Top Gun Anthem” resonated through the speakers, well, something happened to me. It felt like being transported back in time.
The original Top Gun hit screens back in 1986, 34 years ago if you don’t have a calculator. Honestly considering the nature of the film, and really kind of how silly the whole thing is, it actually holds up. Maverick, Goose, Iceman and the rest of the crew introduced us to call signs, aircraft carriers, MIGs, F-14A Tomcats, tailspins, jet wash, hard decks and buzzing the tower. For a highly fictionalized movie, we still left it at least feeling we’d been introduced to a whole new world.
Now, more than three decades later, Tom Cruise is back in the flight seat with a (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, in which he still very much seems to have the need for speed. Would test pilots still be rocking and rolling when they are pushing into their 60’s? Um, no but also pilots don’t get inverted when engaging enemy aircraft either so suspend our disbelief we will.
So in 2020, it’s time for Top Gun: Maverick, the next chapter in this fighter pilot’s saga and with it coming out this summer (Coronavirus willing), we know quite a bit already about the film.
Top Gun: Maverick Promotion
Top Gun: Maverick has a trailer and it’s epic. Watch it before we dive into what’s being planned for the film…
Timeline and Plot
Just like in real life, Top Gun: Maverick picks up 30 years after the original. It appears Pete Mitchell (call sign: Maverick) is still behind the stick of fighter jets and still getting dressed down by his superiors. He’s still a captain, defying even the most steady logic in basic Naval advancement, and is now an experimental test pilot. It appears he’s single, with his original love interest Charlie Blackwood (Kelly McGillis) out of the picture.
The rub appears to be that because of the protracted timeline of both movies, it’s given us enough years for Goose’s son to join the Navy, get great at flying and become a fighter pilot in his own right. I suspect there weren’t too many other ways for this story to go and considering the original was much about Maverick exorcising his demons (both from the past and the present) reincorporating his best friend’s family in the mix makes a lot of sense.
Now Maverick is an instructor at Top Gun, employed to teach a new class the ways of dogfighting and other aerial maneuverings all while, presumably, keeping himself “grounded” at the same time.
Referencing The Original Top Gun
Even from the trailer, we can see that this latest movie calls back a number of things from the original. The planes they are often flying in the movie look remarkably similar (and might just be the F-14 Tomcat. We also get a number of different shots of Maverick riding his motorcycle a la his run down the runway alongside the plane in the original.
But there are other little moments as well. The beach volleyball scene looks like its replaced with a game of sweaty, oiled-up, pecs and abs a flashin’ football and there even looks to a be a callback to the famous “Great Balls of Fire” bar sing along this time with Goose’s son at the lead.
Top Gun Maverick’s Cast
Tom Cruise, is obviously reprising his role and it’s somewhat startling how he doesn’t really look all that different than from in the original. The rest of the cast is a rather star-studded affair though with even some folks making cameos (or larger) in their original roles.
Miles Teller will play Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, Goose’s son even donning the wispy mustache his dad sported in Top Gun. From the trailer, with the aviator glasses on, there’s a startling resemblance to a guy he isn’t related to in real life.
Ed Harris and Jon Hamm are on board as other enlisted men, both above Maverick on the Naval chain. They appear to take over the Tom Skerritt and James Tolka roles from Top Gun as equal parts hard charging and maybe even fatherly (for Harris at least).
And finally, what would Maverick be without a love interest? In this one, it’s Jennifer Connelly who plays Penny Benjamin, a single mother. Unlike Kelly McGillis’s role in which she was directed connected to the military, Connelly’s character runs a local bar.
And of course, we do get a couple of folks reprising their roles from Top Gun. What would the place look like without Tom “Iceman” Kazansky? Val Kilmer is back in this role though unclear how big a part he has in the movie. He doesn’t appear in the trailer. Additionally, Charles Parnell is back as “Sundown”, the radar intercept officer Maverick flew with at the end of Top Gun in the final fight scene.
The People Making Top Gun 2
The original Top Gun was directed by the late Tony Scott. It was his second film and the one that really put him on the map. He passed almost eight years after committing suicide.
In this latest, Joseph Kosinski takes over directing duties after working with Cruise on Oblivion, a middling-reviewed movie sitting at 53% on the Tomatometer.
He also worked with Miles Teller on Only the Brave (87%) about a group of firefighters fighting a deadly blaze. And his first major motion picture was Tron Legacy (51%) back in 2010.
Considering the original Top Gun fell at 54% on the Tomatometer and this is the range Kosinski kind of lives, one might assume this latest to be just another middle of the road movie on his hands where critics are concerned. But I do think there’s plenty of reason for optimism.
Handling the script was a team of writers including Ehren Kruger (Ghost in the Shell, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), Eric Warren Singer (Only the Brave – with Kosinski) and Christopher McQuarrie who’s worked with Cruise already on Mission: Impossible Fallout and Rogue Nation as well as Edge of Oblivion.
So, yes while not every movie on this team’s resume is a hit, there’s plenty of optimism around how good this latest Top Gun can perform with critics.
Will Top Gun: Maverick Be Realistic?
The original Top Gun took plenty of liberties when it came to both geopolitical non-wartime maneuvering as well as just general aviation principles. But this latest does appear to have been at least “approved” by the US Navy in terms of the general ideas it espouses. According to Stripes, “The Navy did review the script so that A, it was accurate and B, was consistent with the ideals of the Navy….”
However it has also made some changes in order to please China, including removing a Taiwanese symbol which the Chinese might find offensive.
It’s worth noting that Top Gun: Maverick was supposed to release last year in the summer of 2019 but was pushed back because some of the more complicated aerial flight scenes weren’t completely mastered. Now it has been pushed back again due to movie theater closures caused by the Coronavirus. It was originally set to release on July 24, 2020. Now it’s releasing on July 2, 2021.
Sometimes movies sitting on the runway (get it?) too long can spell disaster for the film. But in this case, it seems they were just trying to get things perfect.
All in all, if you were a fan of the original it’s tough to not get overly excited for this long-awaited sequel. I know I haven’t lost that lovin feeling for the movie.