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Tom Cruise’s ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ to hit theaters after two years delayed due to coronavirus

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In 1983, producer Jerry Bruckheimer was flipping through the California magazine’s May issue when he was struck by a story. “Top Guns” reads the title, with a large photograph from inside the cockpit of an F-14 fighter jet. The story opened like this: “At Mach 2 and 40,000 feet above California, it’s still noon.”

“I saw this cover and I said, ‘We have to do this. This looks awesome,'” Bruckheimer recalled. “It’s ‘Star Wars’ on Earth.”

And at the box office, “Top Gun” nearly reached “Star Wars” proportions. It was the No. 1 movie of 1986, a rocket-propelled, testosterone-fueled sensation that established then-24-year-old Tom Cruise as a major star. He made bomber jackets, Aviator sunglasses, and played homoerotic games of beach volleyball in hip jeans, just like he was doing his military service. In the 80s of Reagan’s jingoist era, “Top Gun” was about as American as it gets. The Navy has set up recruiting tables in theaters. Enrollments exploded.

If all of this—go-go patriotism, star-driven blockbuster, magazine—sounds like a time ago, it was. But nearly four decades later, and after sitting on the shelf for two years due to the pandemic, “Top Gun: Maverick” is flying full throttle into a new world.

“Top Gun: Maverick” hits theaters this week after a two-year delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.


In the film, directed by Joseph Kosinski, there is a new mission to be won and dogfights to be fought. But this time, the task of “Top Gun” seems even heavier. It’s here to prove, in a CGI, Marvel world, that a propulsive brand of cinema fueled by star power, practical effects, and cinematic prowess can still invoke the need for speed.

“I wanted him to have that old-school experience,” says Kosinski, director of “Tron: Legacy” and “Oblivion.” Much like Maverick returns to ‘Top Gun’, I wanted to bring audiences back to that type of cinema.”

Paramount Pictures, which refrained from pushing “Top Gun: Maverick” to streaming, put a military boost behind the sequel. After kicking off aboard the USS Midway aircraft carrier in San Diego (where Cruise arrived by helicopter), a global promotional tour included stops at the Cannes Film Festival (where Cruise received an honorary Palme d’Or) and a premiere. royal in London. The film finally hits theaters on Friday.

But where countless sequels have crashed and burned decades later, “Top Gun: Maverick” is perhaps a retro blockbuster that succeeds – and perhaps even rivals the original. The film has some upsides, including the ageless appearance of its 59-year-old star.

But “Top Gun: Maverick,” in which a middle-aged Maverick returns to aviation’s elite training program to train a new generation of flying aces (including Goose’s hotheaded son, Rooster, played by Miles Teller), is an action adventure. which takes a style of high-flying cinema with modern technology. With visceral aerial scenes filmed inside the cockpit and a surprisingly emotional storyline steeped in memory and loss, “Top Gun: Maverick” rekindles a daredevil spirit for digital times.


Tom Cruise’s ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ to hit theaters after two years delayed due to coronavirus

Tom Cruise received a surprise Palme d’Or at the premiere of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ at the 75th annual Cannes film festival.
(Lionel Hahn)

At the start of the film, a skeptical general played by Ed Harris tells Maverick that his species is heading towards extinction, a relic soon to be replaced by automation. Maverick replies, with a smirk, “Not today.”

“In the movie, he talks about himself as an aviator. But watching it last week, I felt like Tom Cruise was talking about the movie industry,” Kosinski said. “In the age of streaming, he still makes the case for the theatrical experience.”

But does a new “Top Gun” fit in as perfectly today as Reagan’s original in the ’80s? The original “Top Gun” was not a hit with critics. Pauline Kael called it “brilliant homoerotic advertising,” a thread Quentin Tarantino chose in 1994’s “Sleep With Me” when, as an actor, he called it “a story about the struggle of a man with his own homosexuality”.

Others have seen a Pentagon-backed recruiting film with inflated patriotism and a portrayal of American individualism in the face of a faceless, countryless enemy. Much of that is still present in “Maverick” – there’s no shortage of disobeyed orders and bad guys remain a blank slate. But Kosinski approached the film as primarily about the close-knit culture of airmen.

“I feel like the theme of the first movie isn’t really political. It’s really about friendship, camaraderie, competition, sacrifice,” Kosinski says. “That’s what we wanted to do on this film very deliberately. We designed a fictional antagonist. The mission itself is to keep the world safe. It’s not about invasion. It’s really of the relationship between Maverick and Rooster.”

In 2012, momentum was beginning to gather for a sequel. The original film’s director, Tony Scott, met Bruckheimer at the Naval Fighter Weapons School known as Top Gun in Nevada. Scott committed suicide a few days later.

“We certainly doubted that would happen,” Bruckheimer says. “But we still had an interest in trying to get the movie done.”

Bruckheimer brought in Kosinski, who had directed Cruise in the sleek 2013 sci-fi adventure “Oblivion.” Knowing from that experience what Cruise would respond to, Kosinski focused his talk to the actor on the character and the emotion. He and Bruckheimer flew to Paris to meet Cruise while he was filming a “Mission: Impossible” movie. The director, who came with a poster adorned with the title “Top Gun: Maverick”, had 20 minutes to plead his case.

“At the end of that meeting, Tom got up and he walked over to the phone and he called the head of the studio and said, ‘We’re making this movie,'” Kosinski says. “I mean, he’s a real movie star who can greenlight a movie with a phone call.”

Cruise had a few conditions. One was that Val Kilmer, who struggles to speak after throat cancer and numerous windpipe surgeries, returns to play Iceman. (The actor appears briefly but poignantly.) Another was that all actors playing pilots be trained to ride in F-16s and withstand higher G-forces. On the original, only Cruise achieved this.


Tom Cruise’s ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ to hit theaters after two years delayed due to coronavirus

Tom Cruise arrives at the world premiere of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ on May 4, 2022 in San Diego, California.

“Tom figured out a way to train the actors. In the first one, when they put them in the air with a camera in the cockpit, everyone threw up. We had no usable footage. Their eyes were rolling in their head,” he added. said Bruckheimer. “Tom said, ‘Listen, we have to find a way to get our actors up there so they can handle the G-forces.'”

It took 15 months, Bruckheimer says, to figure out with the navy, the lawyers and the film crew how to have six cameras in the cockpit. The actors playing the pilots – Glen Powell, Monica Barbaro, Greg Tarzan Davis, Danny Ramirez, Lewis Pullman and Jay Ellis – were trained for three months to prepare for the speed of F-18 flights.

“Some actors said, ‘I won’t. I’m afraid to fly.’ So we lost talented people who just couldn’t commit to making the movie the way we did,” Bruckheimer said. “The majority of the pilots we worked with on this current movie said they joined the military because they joined the first ‘Top Gun’.”

So “Top Gun” has already proven that it can have a lasting effect in the real world. “Top Gun: Maverick” hopes to show that, when done right, big Bruckheimer-style blockbusters can still outshine anything else in theaters or at home.

“This movie is about the future,” says Kosinski. “Not just the past.”

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