Top Gun: Maverick — A Soon to Be Soaring Success?

It’s been over three years since “Top Gun: Maverick” was announced to be released in the summer of 2020. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier that year, the release of the film was put on hold and announced to be released in May of 2022.

 “Top Gun: Maverick” takes place 30 years after the events of the film “Top Gun” (1986). The film stars Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer reprising their roles as Naval fighter pilots “Maverick” and “Iceman,” two hot-headed trainees. 

In the film, Maverick has had 30 years of experience as a naval aviator, flying fighter planes off of aircraft carriers, and now we see him coming back to his old flight school to begin teaching the next generation of pilots.

“Top Gun: Maverick” was originally announced to be released in July of 2019, but suffered years of postponements and delays, which arguably demoralized many potential viewers, and some forgot the movie was even set to release.

 With about a month left until its new scheduled release date, the hype around the film remains less focused on the plot of the film and more so on the time and effort spent filming the flight scenes. Several publications including People, Huffington Post, Variety, and even Men’s Health all published similar articles exclusively covering the film’s flight scenes and the difficulties of getting actors prepared to film in such a difficult environment. 

That environment was a forty-seven thousand pound aircraft moving at approximately the speed of sound. Granted, this is a really interesting topic to write about (and it also happens to get lots of clicks), but a large reason for the popularity of “Top Gun” (1986), was the love story, and more importantly the interactions between the characters. The classy quotes and quippy jabs characters made at each other were things the fans really bonded with.

 Memorabilia saying iconic lines from the film are very common to see out on the street, with lines like “I was inverted,” and “I feel the need… the need for speed!” as some of the most commonly quoted lines for the film. Alongside these characters’ connections, there needs to be a plot with a source of tension for our main characters’ story arcs to be flushed out. 

Tension was provided (in the original film) by a true life or death situation at the beginning and the end of the film which gave a reason for our main characters to be training in the flight school, and interestingly for “Top Gun: Maverick,” it still is unclear if the film will even have primary antagonists. The first film had Russian Mig-28s (a made-up plane) that were the main. It ends with a 20-minute encounter between Russian Mig-28s and American F-14s dogfighting over the Indian ocean.

 So far, all that we can see is that “Top Gun: Maverick” may not have a primary antagonist. There is speculation based on a two-second shot of an F-14 fighter jet at the beginning of a trailer from Paramount pictures. The theory comes from companies like “Screen Rant” that believe this aircraft is potentially an Iranian version of the American plane. The plane was sold to many countries in the ‘80s and ’90s which could prove the Iranian navy to be the antagonist in this film, but it seems more likely to serve as a clip from a possible flash-back for Maverick back to his F-14 flying days. 

The real “Top Gun” training program ran in San Diego from 1968 until 1996, when the school was merged with a similar naval flight school in Nevada. In the film’s depiction of the flight school, the best naval pilots all competed in a rigorous 8-week training that made them some of the world’s sharpest fighter pilots. The US Naval Institute reported in the second stages of the air war in Vietnam the kill ratio rose from 2.5:1 to 14:1, after the Top Gun training became a significant part of naval aviators training.

“Top Gun” (1986) had a great balance of time spent covering the pilots’ training experiences, taking up approximately three quarters of the film, which leads up to a climactic dogfight where pilots who were once competing in the Top Gun program as opposing hot-headed pilots put down their egos and save their carrier group, despite the hardships of Maverick’s loss of his copilot, and the difficulty of his recovery after losing such a close friend.

  Fans of the original film, like commentators from “Screen Rant” – who are huge nerds themselves – are not sure if this film will have a villain that brings a sense of tension to the end of the film’s story. It’s possible the movie might be like a sports-competition film where the pilots from America’s military compete in some sort of worldwide war game for training purposes.

 One of the reasons the writers might structure the plot in such a way, without another country as an adversary for the pilots to be tested against, is that the writers may be worried about inflaming real-life conflicts. An example of this is from 2014 when Netflix released the film “The Interview” where Seth Rogan and James Franco portray journalists who are hired by the US government to kill Kim Jong-un, which infuriated the North Korean government.

 Cinema companies refused to play the film in their theater in response to the anger from the North Korean government, and to avoid problems related to hackers who were angry about the premise of the film.

Companies like Columbia Pictures would be worried about losing the audience of a certain country whose military might be made the villains of this film; however, for the sake of crafting a well-rounded story, some kind of adversarial force needs to pose a major threat to the main characters, in order to have any source of tension.

“Top Gun: Maverick” releases May 27, 2022, and hopefully the expensive shots of real planes and real pilots in the air are matched with an explosive action set piece and endearing character development.

By: Wesley Aring