I went to see Top Gun: Maverick this Memorial Day weekend and left the theater feeling blown away by the stunts and underwhelmed by the story. If you’re wondering whether you need to see the original Top Gun to follow along with Maverick and the crew, you don’t. In fact, I recommend you skip the original altogether.
The bigger question is, should you see Top Gun: Maverick in the theater? Read along to find out.
Warning: This blog post will contain some spoilers for the movie. However, it is my opinion that plot spoilers in this film would not ruin your enjoyment. Continue below.
What is Top Gun?
Top Gun is a movie based on a real naval flight school where they train enlisted officers into becoming professional fighter pilots. In the first movie, you follow Pete “Maverick” Mitchell as he tries to become the best pilot in the Top Gun program.
In Top Gun: Maverick, an older, wiser, Maverick must train graduates from the Top Gun program for a suicide mission to destroy a uranium enrichment program. The enemy is unknown and unnamed. However, since they are flying a Su-57 Felon aircraft, it is safe to assume they are Russian. The identity of the enemy is irrelevant. The movie just needed someone to shoot at.
Why should I watch Top Gun in the theaters?
Top Gun: Maverick starts with an intro video by Tom Cruise informing you that the stunts performed in the aircraft are real. The actors are sitting in actual F-18 cockpits and are not in front of a green screen. When you see the skin droop away from their eyes it is because they are experiencing real life G-force.
You are in the cockpit with the actors as they roll through the skies and navigate through narrow canyons and valleys. All of this is real and performed by actual Navy pilots. If you ever wanted a taste of what it’s like to fly a jet at top speed through a canyon run, Top Gun: Maverick delivers.
For more behind the scenes info, click here: https://nypost.com/2022/05/27/top-gun-maverick-stunt-guy-shares-behind-the-scene-secrets/
It cost the production company $11,000 an hour to fly the jets and capture footage. Combined with the excellent audio design and the spectacle of aerial maneuvering, Top Gun: Maverick is a must watch in the theater. But there is a catch.
The non-flight scenes in Top Gun: Maverick are cliché and boring.
The story of Top Gun: Maverick is painfully formulaic and utterly predictable. Just like the original Top Gun, what happens on the ground doesn’t really matter. Top Gun: Maverick’s biggest flaw is its story and its dependence on a cut and paste formula.
Maverick has to train his deceased best friend’s son. (Of course, he does.)
He has to fall in love with a female character.
His superiors hate him.
And it’s up to Maverick to save the day.
The story really drags this movie down to boredom levels, yes it’s THAT bad. If you want to know from a writer’s perspective why the story is so lame. Read the spoiler section below.
The conflict of Top Gun: Maverick, implies we will see a passing of the torch. I mean, why else did the movie introduce us to a brand-new cast of young, hot shot pilots? To top it off, the movie asks Maverick to train these pilots for the mission. Sure sounds like a changing of the guard doesn’t it? But it’s not. It’s not that at all.
The new pilots are just background characters to show us how awesome Maverick is.
Rather than be predictable and let Rooster (Goose’s son) lead the team. Instead, Top Gun: Maverick was predictable in a different way . . . Maverick leads the team.
If the movie wanted to be different, modern, unexpected, they could have assigned the female pilot Phoenix as team lead. Or they could have had the antagonist pilot Hangman lead the team. Anything but Maverick or Rooster would have provided more opportunity for these new characters to have the spotlight.
As a result, Top Gun: Maverick feels more like an ego stroke for Tom Cruise than a film about teaching the next generation of fighter pilots.
There was even an opportunity to have Maverick go out in a heroic blaze of glory, but no . . . Tom Cruise rarely dies in his movies. The script was honestly, a little cowardly.
The love interest played by Jennifer Connelly is gorgeous and completely pointless. She doesn’t help Maverick grow into a better person and has little to no impact on the plot. If you removed all of her scenes from Top Gun: Maverick, the movie would have been just fine.
She could have just as easily been a long-time friend and the movie would have worked. But because we had to go with the contrived plot of Maverick falling in love with her, we waste precious minutes with boring dialogue and zero-character development.
Top Gun: Maverick should have focused on Mav’s relationship with Rooster, his deceased best friend’s son. It should have followed the story of rooster and his fellow aviators as they try to prove themselves capable of doing the mission on their own. In fact, I would argue the movie would have been better if Hangman and Maverick had swapped roles for the end of the movie. Let Maverick sit on the sidelines while his students try to survive the mission.
There are too many missed opportunities to show true character development and to tell a story with real stakes. Top Gun: Maverick plays it safe, and the movie suffers as a result.
Do I need to watch Top Gun before Top Gun: Maverick?
Top Gun: Maverick does make many callbacks to the original movie but the original is not essential to enjoy Top Gun: Maverick. The movie is a self-contained story with little dependence on the original film. In fact, I recommend most people skip the original Top Gun because the film has not aged well and comes across as campy, sexist, and amateur.
Top Gun is a classic movie, but it’s still an 80’s movie. Nothing in the original movie will enhance your enjoyment of the sequel.
Final rating of Top Gun: Maverick
Confession: I do play Digital Combat Simulators, specifically the F-18 Hornet the movie is based on. I love military aviation, and everything involved with flying. Despite my bias, I can still view Top Gun: Maverick with a critical eye. When it comes to the plot and character development, Top Gun: Maverick is easily a 2 out of 5 stars.
If we go from the perspective of a naval aviation fanatic and action scenes. Top Gun: Maverick hits a five out of five stars.
With this in mind, I feel comfortable stating that Top Gun: Maverick is a 3 out of 5 stars. The characters are likeable enough to carry you through the movie but not strong enough to make you care. Let’s be honest, you’re seeing this movie for the visual spectacle, not the plot.
Therefore, even though the story is absolute trash. I can safely and wholeheartedly recommend you see Top Gun: Maverick on the big screen for the full, truly cinematic experience.