ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

‘Top Gun: Maverick’: Lessons on Making a Sequel That Surpasses the Original

Sequels are often a dangerous gamble but the 'Top Gun' sequel 'Top Gun: Maverick' hit the jackpot.

Published
Cinema
6 min read
story-hero-img
i
Aa
Aa
Small
Aa
Medium
Aa
Large

Sequels are a precarious gamble, even with the best of films, but Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick manages to surpass both expectations and its legacy. Hitting cinemas 36 years after the original Top Gun (released in 1986), directed by Tony Scott, Top Gun: Maverick brought Tom Cruise and his Aviator back to the big screen.

When Top Gun released, it was a huge commercial success and the US Library of Congress even selected the film to be preserved in the National Film Registry. The sequel banks on the charm of the first film and elevates it, becoming an example of how to make a successful sequel.

1. An Interesting, Everlasting Premise

Top Gun is a film about the crème de la crème or the ‘best of the best’ of naval aviators with Tom Cruise at the helm as Lieutenant Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell assisted by his Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Nick ‘Goose’ Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards). The duo are sent to TOPGUN, the Naval Fighter Weapons School.

Sequels are often a dangerous gamble but the 'Top Gun' sequel 'Top Gun: Maverick' hit the jackpot.

Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards in Top Gun.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Here on, Maverick and Goose face their adversaries (and friends, of course) to come out on top and win the TOPGUN trophy. Top Gun is not an underdog story– how can it be? The film’s success relies on people loving the main characterthe brash, young pilot who has a penchant for danger, is cocky, and often gets into trouble with the top brass.

Sequels are often a dangerous gamble but the 'Top Gun' sequel 'Top Gun: Maverick' hit the jackpot.

Tom Cruise as Maverick in Top Gun: Maverick.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Films where people battle it outespecially when it’s a reckless character pitted against one that goes by the bookis a successful formula. Rivalry sells on celluloid and it sells better with a healthy dash of camaraderie and screenplays by Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr. in Top Gun and Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie in Top Gun: Maverick see to it.

2. A Character, No Matter How Iconic, Isn’t Impossible to Improve

When you read it here, it doesn’t seem like a character to back but Tom Cruise makes him palatable in the best way possible but even those who didn’t like Maverick in Top Gun will warm up to him Top Gun: Maverick because the character now has emotional depth, aided both by his now heartwarming relationship with TOPGUN's best from his batch Tom 'Iceman' Kazansky and his contentious rapport with Goose's son Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller).

Sequels are often a dangerous gamble but the 'Top Gun' sequel 'Top Gun: Maverick' hit the jackpot.

Miles Teller as Goose's son Lt. Bradley Bradshaw.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

In the sequel, Maverick is dealing with his demons from the past, both figuratively and literally. Goose’s death has taught Maverick to be more cautious, if not for himself, at least for the ones under his wing. When Maverick returns to TOPGUN as an instructor, he makes it clear that making sure his students come from their missions is a priority for him.

Sequels are often a dangerous gamble but the 'Top Gun' sequel 'Top Gun: Maverick' hit the jackpot.

A scene from Top Gun featuring Maverick and Goose.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Top Gun: Maverick trusted its characters, both old and new, and in the same breath, made them better. The makers knew Maverick is an iconic character but that doesn’t make him untouchable.

3. A Big Hero Can Coexist With a Big Film

Tom Cruise had just stepped into the film industry in the 1980s and if anything, Top Gun made Tom Cruise and not the other way around. With the way things stood, Cruise played one of many, and was surrounded with an inimitable cast– Kelly McGillis as TOPGUN instructor Charlie, Anthony Edwards as LTJG Goose, Tom Skerritt as CDR 'Viper' Metcalf, Val Kilmer as Lt Iceman, and many others.

The film, itself, solidified its presence in the archives of cinema so well that while Cruise is now a huge star, he still remains a presence in Top Gun. Sure, he is still the only one who can do it all but he is constantly challenged and matched by his students keeping the one question running throughout the film– who, if anyone, will leave him behind?

Sequels are often a dangerous gamble but the 'Top Gun' sequel 'Top Gun: Maverick' hit the jackpot.

The cast of Top Gun: Maverick.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Add to that, the fact that Tom Cruise is a brilliant actor and so is every other cast member.

While Cruise owns the screen, Miles Teller as Rooster and Glen Powell as Jake 'Hangman' Seresin are a delight to watch together and it almost reminds one of Maverick and Ice sparring in the original but this time, it's better because Rooster carries a legacy and unlike almost everyone else in the film is very unimpressed by 'THE' Maverick.
Sequels are often a dangerous gamble but the 'Top Gun' sequel 'Top Gun: Maverick' hit the jackpot.

Rooster walks away from Tom Cruise as Maverick.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

4. Take Something Good, Make it Better

Top Gun: Maverick follows much of the base template as its predecessor and several times in the film, the plot seems to borrow almost directly from it and yet, it doesn’t seem trite. On camera, Claudio Miranda achieves the same high-octane sequences that Jeffrey Kimball (a master in lighting and setting the scene) did.

Sequels are often a dangerous gamble but the 'Top Gun' sequel 'Top Gun: Maverick' hit the jackpot.

A scene from Top Gun.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Sequels are often a dangerous gamble but the 'Top Gun' sequel 'Top Gun: Maverick' hit the jackpot.

A still from Top Gun: Maverick.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

The 2022 release, directed by Joseph Kosinski, seems more like an homage to the original than it does a copy.

It’s a tricky line to walk but the gap of 36 years between the film works in their favour– nostalgia is a huge factor. Top Gun: Maverick is a template for how films can work with a larger-than-life hero played by a popular actor, and still stay true to its roots. While Tom Cruise might get people to the theatres, they stay for the dog fights, the plot, the action, and more.

The sequel even uses sequences from Top Gun, mostly as flashbacks. We see the camera stay…just a bit longer…on photos of Goose and Ice and the original team.

Sequels are often a dangerous gamble but the 'Top Gun' sequel 'Top Gun: Maverick' hit the jackpot.

A picture of Maverick and Goose from their days at TOPGUN.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

5. Acknowledge That Some Things Need to Change

Personally, the charm of Top Gun wore off over the years for multiple reasons– the film was so glaringly white and male, there was no final showdown to look forward to, most of the stakes seemed high only for the characters, and hubris is a great adversary… but for how long?– but Top Gun: Maverick is brilliant from start to finish.

There are two women (with speaking roles): Jennifer Connelly as Penelope or Penny plays Maverick's love interest, a single mother and bar owner who has seemingly patched her relationship with her daughter up. Then there’s Monica Barbaro as Lieutenant Natasha Trace or 'Phoenix' who is also an extremely capable aviator.

Sequels are often a dangerous gamble but the 'Top Gun' sequel 'Top Gun: Maverick' hit the jackpot.

Tom Cruise and Jennifer Connelly in Top Gun: Maverick.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

The film also has a nod to the inherent sexism Monica must face as one of the two women in the entire TOPGUN batch through her conversations with Hangman. The women get better roles than they did in Top Gun. It’s nothing to write home about but it’s not the worst.
Sequels are often a dangerous gamble but the 'Top Gun' sequel 'Top Gun: Maverick' hit the jackpot.

Monica Barbaro in Top Gun: Maverick.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

After its release, several people accused Top Gun of being war propaganda and many of their arguments hold merit. Top Gun: Maverick too hasn’t come far from that idea because the final mission is still to destroy a rival’s Uranium stronghold but there’s less chest-bumping now, less assumptions of nationalism and grandeur.

Top Gun: Maverick is a wildly successful film for these reasons and more and, at the end of the day, is a better film than Top Gun. Tom Cruise, now with multiple Mission Impossible films in his repertoire is ever the star and yet, in a film like Top Gun: Maverick, everyone involved in the best of the best.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
Read More
×
×