June 30, 2022
Skeptical about movie sequels living up to the success of the first one, my attitude about the highly publicized Top Gun: Maverick changed after watching some interviews about the production. Now I plan to see it in a theater with a pilot friend who loved the original, but like me, feared the new one might disappoint.
Released Memorial Day weekend 36 years after the 1986 Top Gun, many cast members did interviews on the major network news and talk shows, as well as some professionals who consulted on production. Tom Cruise felt strongly it needed to be in movie theaters exclusively, not on streaming services as other films were during recent years of COVID precautions. They delayed the release over two years to ensure a shared audience experience reacting to stunning cinematography showcasing actual jet flying sequences not done in the first “Top Gun.”
I suggest starting with a fascinating interview with elite military pilots recorded right after their private screening of the new film. The discussion includes the host of the Fighter Pilot Podcast and others who taught at the actual U.S. Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Program, commonly called TOPGUN. They endorse the authenticity of the flying portrayed and the greater emphasis placed on actual flying, resulting in the quality of the visuals best viewed on the big screen.
One video clip or print interview typically leads to another, such as one detailing Tom Cruise’s “flight school” the cast described undergoing for this sequel. Each agreed to a crash aeronautics course and intensive flight training and rigorous physical conditioning designed by Cruise and aerial coordinator Kevin LaRosa, Jr. Though skilled pilots did the actual flying (including former Blue Angels pilot Frank Weisser), scenes filmed with actors in cockpits of the jets required complex rehearsal for far more than dialogue. Actor Glen Powell fell in love with flying so much he completed additional coursework to earn his private pilot's license in March 2020.
Explore nonfiction titles in the MCPL collection for more insights about the real pilots and instructors inspiring the original film, its sequel, and the many viewers who aspired to make aviation their career. For example, Dave Baranek’s memoir Topgun Days: Dogfighting, Cheating Death, and Hollywood Glory as One of America's Best Fighter Jocks covers his unique role as a consultant to the original Top Gun film as well as his career as a pilot and instructor at the elite Fighter Weapons School.
Here are a few more:
- Top Gun: American Story by Dan Pedersen
- Top Gun’s Top 10 Leadership Lessons from the Cockpit by Guy M. Snodgrass
- Strike: Beyond Top Gun by Rick Llinares
- Eye of the Viper: the Making of an F-16 Pilot by Peter Aleshire
- Viper Pilot: A Memoir of Air Combat by Dan Hampton
- Jet Girl: My Life in War, Peace, and the Cockpit of the World's Most Lethal Aircraft, the F/A-18 Super Hornet by Caroline Johnson
- F-14 Tomcat by David F. Brown
- One Hundred Years of U.S Navy Air Power, edited by Douglas V. Smith
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