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What Every Film Maker Should Learn from Top Gun Maverick

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

Top Gun: Maverick did not disappoint viewers worldwide and has taken everyone into hypersonic speed. It put us all on the edge of our seats at every turn, leaving viewers gasping for air from that Mach 10 speed. It is also a trip to memory lane as Top Gun fans felt as if they just continued where they left off with Lieutenant Pete Mitchell's (Tom Cruise) need for speed. Top Gun is an 80s blockbuster cult classic. It has already gained praise back then as one of the best aviator movies ever. Its sequel supersedes by being better, bigger, and faster.

With Top Gun: Maverick, reviews from viewers and critics show that this movie has made everyone feel what it's like to be a Top Gun pilot. Yes, they took us there, made us feel the heat of Mojave, California, and made us wear those aviator glasses. The movie is so good that multiple generations have embraced it. As for the hype, it surpassed and exceeded viewers' expectations. This kind of movie is hard to replicate. It might have given filmmaking a new standard in taking viewers into the front seat of action and adventure movies.

Tom Cruise POV flying an F18 fighter jet

It is tough to wrap our heads around how those flying sequences took place and how much of it was special effects. To bring audiences from different generations to love this movie, the creators were clear about how they envisioned it together. That is why other filmmakers can learn a thing or two from Top Gun: Maverick.

Nothing is impossible

With dedication and passion for filmmaking, nothing is impossible when it comes to producing praise-worthy films like Top Gun: Maverick. Most sequels don't do well, especially when it has been given a sequel after three decades. Many have tried and seemingly got just a so-so review from the viewers, which seems impossible until it is done. Top Gun: Maverick showed us that it is highly possible to produce a film that won't rely on so much VFX and will make the new breed of audience drop their jaw.

Top Gun: Maverick proved that indeed nothing is impossible, that actors can be inside a fighter jet and not rely on greenscreen and simulations. To achieve that, the actors went through rigorous training. According to actor Jon Hamm "Adm. Beau' Cyclone' Simpson" in an interview with Supercar Blondie, the movement was 4 to 5 months.

Get accustomed to the 6 to 9 G-forces that would last more than 2 minutes. They have undergone intense G-force training to prepare their bodies to handle the effects such as G-locks when pilots pass out due to extreme G-force. They were also trained for worse-case scenarios such as escaping during a water crash landing and ejecting from the fighter jets. Actor Miles Teller explains in the interview that they must pass the Naval Aviator Over Water Survival Training Course.

A movie like this is hard to make. Especially if you want the new wave of audience to be gripping tightly from their seats, let alone making the first movie even more famous. It's a movie that comes once in a lifetime. Realistic aviator movies are hard to produce, but the movie's creators have surpassed our expectations and the challenges that entail making this movie.

A sequel can be better than the original.

Tom Cruise is the kind of actor who likes to sit on the top of Burj Khalifa on a good day. Imagine what he can do while making an action movie. The movie's creators have worked with the best pilots in the navy and coordinated with them to train all actors to handle G-forces when flying in a fighter jet, which made it better than the original.

This movie focused on delivering a realistic feel for it to be better and aside from that, according to Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer have the star power, but they brought Miles Teller, Jon Hamm, Jennifer Connelly, and Ed Harris along with them. This movie has representations from various generations: an old-timer and the new generation.

We also feel the nostalgia from the original movie as the sequel pays homage to the iconic scenes that make this movie even more emotionally driven. And it's not just the scenes that are nostalgic; Maverick himself experiences it in the movie as well as he reminisces his past and sees lot of similarities from Goose as his son Rooster unplugs the duke box and play's "Great Balls of Fire" now isn't that nostalgic and heart wrenching at the same time?

And again the superb action is the result of the extensive training that tested their limits to make this film as realistic as possible. What we see in the movie as they pass out due to G-clock and hear intense labored breathing is a dedication to their craft, and we can't even count it as acting, as, in fact, it was real!

Patience - has beaten all odds to release it after 2 yrs.

The first Top Gun movie was released in 1986, directed by Tony Scott, a time when macho movies were the trend. Around 2010, he talked of a sequel already in the works. Scott had been approached to direct Top Gun: Maverick before his death, and the actors Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer were ecstatic to be filming the sequel.

They started filming in 2018, and the movie sequel's release date was July 2019. But as we all know, COVID-19 took over and has put everything on hold as the world took several lockdowns and quarantine to fight the further spread of the virus. Due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, Top Gun: Maverick release date was set to be in June 2020, then pushed back to December 2020, and then July 2021. Viewers are getting anxious to see the film, yet pushing back its release date seems to be an excellent strategy to find a great slot for the movie.

Paramount decided on another release date, November 19, 2021, but the timing is still not right. For the fifth time, Top Gun: Maverick has hammered its release date to May 27, 2022. Paramount was hesitant to place the sequel on dates wherein it can be overshadowed by big-budgeted and highly anticipated movies like Ghostbusters: After Life, Dune, No Time to Die, House of Gucci, Spiderman: No Way Home, and Eternals. These movies would evidently split the viewers making the competition very tight, plus box office numbers have not recovered yet from the pandemic.

Waiting for the right time to splash the movie is a good strategy, beating all the odds and making it the star. A film like Top Gun: Maverick warrants a sea of audience. What better time to open the theaters when the world is already back on its feet, adapting to the new normal.

Celebrity power is not always the key- Cruise made new celebrities

The cast of Top Gun: Maverick is not all-star, and it does not need bid deal actors to make a good movie. Although we can count supporting actors like Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly as all-stars. The rest of the supporting cast is still very young in their career in the industry yet has shown commitment and talent to showcase the very core of the movie. Celebrity power is one aspect of why movies become big hits, but that is not always the case. Top Gun: Maverick is unlike any legacy movie. They stuck with the story and continued Captain Pete "Maverick" Mitchell's story. Although big celebrities deliver top-quality acting, the cast of Top Gun: Maverick has shown a great deal of commitment as they have mentioned; the training they have been through is no joke.

Many viewers expected this movie to be some sort of a spin-off or a remake, but no, it is a direct sequel wherein Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer return as Maverick and Iceman. The new breeds Maverick needed to train are much like babies in Hollywood starting their career. But his co-stars delivered their roles well.

This shows that a mainstream film can succeed even if it's not an all-star cast; the value of production beats the celebrity power.

Simple framing

Most action movies have many framing styles or quite complex ones to make storytelling on film much more enjoyable. With Top Gun: Maverick, simple framing is the key. They wanted to show us what it's like to be up close and personal with those fighter jets; they wanted us to feel more.

Credits: Flickering Myth

Simple single shots, 2 shots, close-up shots, aerial shots and wide shots cover everything you need to see. It reminds us also how simple the original movie was; looking back, there was no other complex framing. Framing is essential in filmmaking as it is the placement and position of the subjects in your shot. The physical relationship they created will convey to the audience by painting an image you want them to see.

Their simple framing made it possible for the audience to be in the actors' shoes, on the runway, and inside the cockpit. The filmmakers developed an aerial cinematography to bring the films visual language. “developing the world’s most impactful aerial cinematography to date.” (Joseph Kosinski, Director)

The stunning footage is achieved through the collaboration of DP Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi, Oblivion, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Spiderhead) aerial coordinator and jetcam pilot Kevin LaRosa Jr. worked together to harness the latest in digital camera technology and optics.

Basic camera movements

In-flight action in this movie is gut-churning, and here's why; the actors' dedication did not stop at the rigorous training. The actors themselves captured the in-flight action sequence once inside the cockpit. They have a brand new camera system with 6 Sony digital cameras with Imax quality that captures everything. It captures the POV of the actors inside the F/A-18s in basic camera movements.

They needed to understand cinematography by learning to operate the cameras and know what looks good on screen. Still, these are not complex camera movements, considering it's an action film. In-flight, actors would not hear the director telling them to stop and do it again; it was up to them to make a good shot. They would review the clips and direct themselves repeatedly until they got good angles and scenes that could make the cut.

“Out of a 12- or 14-hour day, you might get 30 seconds of good footage. But it was so hard-earned. It just took a very long time to get it all. Months and months of aerial shooting. We shot as much footage as the three Lord of the Rings movies combined. I think it was 800 hours of footage.” (Joseph Kosinski, Director)

Compared to the 80s Top Gun, film production effects today are advanced. Of course, we have seen a lot of movies that have wowed us through the years, but what makes the original and the sequel binge-worthy? The film's creators insisted on a realistic feel. They wanted to take us to what it's like to be in a Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet; feel every G-force in every flight. Behind the scenes, Tom Cruise explains how it is impossible to create the Top Gun experience without being captured and shot life. When you shoot something raw, you do not need any complex camera movements; you just capture the action.

What the actors in the cockpit and the viewers' POV see is not a simulation or green screen; it is an actual F/A-18s flying at Mach speed. If they relied on cheaper and simple effects, it would take away the experience they want to share with the viewers, especially on the big screen. You can't just fake the intensity, and superseding the original meant they needed to use the high-performing aircraft for the movie.

This movie is emotionally driven more than the action.

One of the best things about Top Gun: Maverick is that it took us back to that nostalgic feeling. With his iconic leather jacket and Kawasaki superbike, the young and old Tom Cruise rides the sunset in the present and chases the fighter jet. The sequel did not go far from the original storyline-wise.

Still, it gave the viewers a new perspective on how the present aviation and military technology will wipe out fighter pilots like Maverick. In the movie, Ed Harris, who plays Rear Admiral Chester "Hammer" Cain, describes the likes of Maverick, a dying breed. The future of fighter jets is unmanned and would decrease risks, and pilots like Maverick tend to disobey orders.

Aside from the macho feel we get from every aviator movie, it is also emotionally driven. According to the Daily Mail Online UK, thousands of men have admittedly cried to the sequel. Even actor Glenn Powel who plays the role of Lt. Jake "Hangman" Seresin replied to a tweet that the movie is as safe place for man-tears. The movie goers shared their experience on Twitter on how Top Gun: Maverick makes men cry:

Men can relate to the emotional scene where Val Kilmer returns, a.k.a Admiral Tom "Iceman" Kanzansky - making us remember the lines "you can be my wingman anytime." His role as a former adversary turned into Maverick's close friend. Even more sentimental When Maverick speaks to Goose. We see how actor Miles Teller "Rooster" looks like his young father Goose. This gave us a trip to memory lane; when he sat and played Jerry Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire" impressively bringing just the right amount of drama to make any grown man cry.

It made the original even more popular.

With direct sequel movies, we don't usually go back to watch the first one as, of course, we expect it to be better than the original movie. However, the 1986 Top Gun has become even more popular since it is already a cult classic; re-watching it is a must before you watch the sequel.

The original has been tagged as one of the best aviator movies, but not everyone has seen it. I remember watching it as a child, but I only remember Tom Cruise and his aviator glasses; my mom and aunts would sing Take My Breath Away. The only reason I am familiar with the original movie is that whenever there are film documentaries or countdowns for the best movies made in the 80s, Top Gun always appears.

So, when Top Gun: Maverick hit the theaters, I immediately cleared my schedule and said to myself, "I need to watch the original; I need to know!"


IMDb ranking shows that Top Gun 1986 ranks 4th with 6.8-star ratings after Hustle with 7.4-star ratings, and of course rank 1, Top Gun: Maverick with 8.6-star ratings. According to IMDb, both movies bag two rankings in the top film this year. The sequel made the original even more popular as it was embraced by a new generation. Boomers would totally get why, but today's generation appreciates the beauty of movie classics. Top Gun is no longer a macho movie; it is now a movie for all.

IMDb Most Popular movie rankings (Credits:

You can still use music you made 30+ years ago.

The 80s was a very vibrant decade, from fashion to music. Whenever you hear the "Take My Breath Away" song by Berlin, boomers would immediately associate it with Top Gun. How can they ever forget Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone."

Music never gets old, and Top Gun: Maverick proves once again that you can use music you made 30+ years ago. The music remains very iconic, and I can not imagine Top Gun without "Danger Zone," the Top Gun anthem; when the first notes kicked in the sequel's opening, it just gives you goosebumps!

The music brings you back to the 80s, and for those who were not born yet in the 80s, it still gives them that goosebump feeling after watching the original. As I said, you just continue where you left off.

It is the filmmaker, not the camera.

Top Gun: Maverick filmmakers have understood that the audience is hungry for a movie that will wow them. It has been a long time since we felt the magic of a realistic touch in film. Top Gun: Maverick is a rare gem, and we must thank the filmmakers behind this movie. Tom Cruise co-produced the sequel with Jerry Bruckheimer, and they were determined to produce a film that would be a great splash to the audience.

Credits: Esquire Magazine Online

Director Joseph Kosinski, who also directed the movie Tron: Legacy, which was his first debut, the sequel to Tron film in the 80s, is famous for his movies Oblivion, Spiderhead, and Only The Brave. The filmmakers' goal with Top Gun: Maverick was very ambitious, and the production cost 170 million dollars; it is now predicted that Top Gun: Maverick may hit the 1 billion dollars box office earnings.

The movie spared no expense to make the film as good as possible and authentic as possible, the film makers had to use state of the art technology and brand new cameras that can adapt to long hours of filming but they did not forget the importance of telling a story. As much as we, the audience have almost felt that G-force, we felt the heart wrenching story, and yes it made grown men sob like babies in the theaters.

More than the action sequence, it's the emotions that we felt when Maverick utters the phrase “talk to me Goose” hits close to home. Just as I was about to dry those tears we are taken into a scene where it seems like Maverick has sacrificed himself for Rooster but no, it takes us to a highly adventurous scene where everybody comes together.

The filmmakers indeed know where to hit the spot. It showed us that filmmaking is not all about the technicality and the technology, filmmaking is about the story you tell; the impact that you make the viewers feel while watching from start to finish. The film industry is constantly evolving with new technology and it's a fast paced industry wherein it seems like you need to pick up the pace and have the latest cameras and applications, but a true filmmaker knows that it is a good story that made this film even larger than life.

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