Top Gun: Maverick (2022) was one of the most-anticipated movies of 2022. The long-awaited sequel of Tony Scott‘s 1986 Top Gun was a masterclass on what sequels should be or attempt to be. Undeniably, expectations were high when Paramount Pictures first announced a sequel development in 2010. 36 years after the first film release, its lead cast member, Tom Cruise, having aged well, was able to reprise his role.
Arguably one of the hardest working actors in Hollywood, Top Gun: Maverick easily fed into his adrenaline-rush, action-packed performances for which he is known. The film became the second highest-grossing movie of 2022, coasting its way to $1.496 billion at the Box Office. Here’s a comprehensive review of Top Gun: Maverick‘s the plot, cast, and behind-the-scenes trivia.
Top Gun Homage And Nostalgia
For older audiences of the 1986 Top Gun, Joseph Kosinski‘s Top Gun: Maverick offers a nostalgic trip back in time. It brings closure to some of its main characters. While there’s no closure with what happened to actress Kelly McGillis‘ Charlie Blackwood character, Top Gun: Maverick opens with Pete “Maverick” Mitchell’s insubordination.
It also helps connect the dots on how Pete Mitchell’s life and career turned out, after opting to return to Top Gun as an instructor, to be closer to Charlie. Although only in a minor role, Mitchell’s rival-turned-friend, LT Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, also makes a brief introduction. Over 30+ years, Iceman is now an Admiral and commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Part of the subplot of Top Gun: Maverick references LTJG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, whose character was played by Anthony Edwards. Just as his death traumatized the young Pete Mitchell in the 1986 Top Gun plot, Mitchell still felt the guilt and responsibility at the start of Maverick. Worse off, he had to train and work with Goose’s son, Lieutenant Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw. Special mention is the use of the retired F-14 Tomcats, which were retired by the United States Navy on September 22, 2006.
Top Gun: Maverick’s Plot And Setting
Tom Cruise‘s Pete Mitchell is introduced as the deviant naval officer he has always been. To prevent Rear Admiral Chester “Hammer” Cain from canceling his hypersonic “Darkstar” scramjet program, Mitchell chose to do a last-minute prototype test for Hammer. After achieving the Mach 9 speed target, he chose to push it higher to Mach 10, ultimately destroying the jet. Over the years, Mitchell’s insubordination has kept him from flag rank, with his rank (after 30+ years) as Captain.
Mitchell’s former rival and now respected friend, Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, uses his connection to assign him to train a group of elite Top Gun graduates for a secret mission. When Mitchell visits Iceman, he helps Mitchell overcome his past guilt and advises him to move on. While meeting with the young elite Top Gun graduates, Mitchell meets a former lover and the character’s love interest, Penelope “Penny” Benjamin. After several fighting and in-fightings, Mitchell is able to prove to the mission’s head, Air Boss Vice Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson, that his strategy is achievable. Leading the squad, Mitchell and his young elite team are able to infiltrate the uranium enrichment plant, heavily guarded by fifth-generation Su-57, GPS jammers, and surface-to-air missiles (SAMs).
When they’re intercepted as they make their exit, Mitchell sacrifices his jet to save Rooster’s jet (avoiding losing him like he lost his father). While others believe Mitchell died from the attack, Rooster defies orders to find him. Together, they take down most of the fifth-generation Su-57, except one. With no countermeasures or ammunition to fight back, they wait for death in their stolen enemy’s F-14 Tomcats. Rooster’s rival and new friend, LT Jake “Hangman” Seresin, flies solo to shoot down the enemy fighter jet, saving Mitchell and Rooster.
The Main Cast of Top Gun: Maverick
Besides Tom Cruise reprising his role as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, Val Kilmer also plays an older Tom “Iceman” Kazansky. Kilmer, like his character, had battled throat cancer for years. Jennifer Connelly played Tom Cruise’s character’s love interest, Penelope “Penny” Benjamin. Miles Teller played son the son of Goose, Lieutenant Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw. Jon Hamm played the head of the mission and the Commander of Naval Air Forces, Vice Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson. Actor Ed Harris played the head of the Darkstar program, Rear Admiral Chester “Hammer” Cain. Glen Powell played Rooster’s rival for the mission, LT Jake “Hangman” Seresin.
Other main cast members include Lewis Pullman as LT Robert “Bob” Floyd, Monica Barbaro as LT Natasha “Phoenix” Trace, Charles Parnell as Rear Admiral Solomon “Warlock” Bates, and Bashir Salahuddin as Chief Warrant Officer Four Bernie “Hondo” Coleman. Other actors who played pilot and mission candidates include Jay Ellis as Payback, Danny Ramirez as Fanboy, Greg Tarzan Davis as Coyote, Manny Jacinto as Avalone, Raymond Lee as Yale, Jake Picking as Harvard, Jack Schumacher as Omaha, and Kara Wang as Halo.
Top Gun: Maverick BTS Trivia
It’s no secret Tom Cruise loves to make his films as realistically practical as possible. As such, he demanded CGI and green screens should be used minimally. Cruise has been a licensed pilot since 1994 and reportedly has several aircraft. He flew Jennifer Connelly in one of his post-war planes to help her overcome her fear of flying. To help the actors stay in touch with their characters, they were asked to pick their call signs. When asked why he chose Rooster, actor Miles Teller says the inspiration was to keep it in the family since his character’s father had Goose as his call sign.
Most cockpit scenes were achieved by the actors inflight, who had to adjust the camera for perfect lighting and sound. With no live feedback to the director on the ground, the production team had to wait for the planes to land before inspecting if it was done right. The actors would have to fly back up in the jets to compensate for any error. Besides undergoing extensive G-force training sessions, Tom Cruise personally designed a 3-month aviation training course for the actors riding in the F-18. Sadly, director Tony Scott could not direct the sequel because he committed suicide (jumping off Vincent Thomas Bridge) on August 19, 2012. His older brother, director Ridley Scott, was approached to direct the sequel but turned it down. In the end-credit of Top Gun: Maverick, the movie is dedicated to Tony Scott.
Val Kilmer suffered throat cancer for years. The tracheotomies performed caused the actor to lose his voice and eat with a feeding tube. However, rather than using Sonantic’s AI technology, which the actor uses to speak, Kilmer opted to use his voice in the film. It was later digitally altered to make it more audible. In one of the film’s earliest scenes, when Pete Mitchell flies the Darkstar to prove its Mach 9 capabilities, the lifting of the roof of the shack where Rear Admiral Chester “Hammer” Cain (Ed Harris) stood was unplanned. Several behind-the-scenes revelations and interviews with the actors prove why Top Gun: Maverick remains critically acclaimed and a box-office juggernaut.