Top Gun — Maverick And Marvellous

Top Gun — Maverick And Marvellous

by Tushar Gupta - Aug 28, 2022 07:17 PM +05:30 IST
Top Gun — Maverick And MarvellousScene from Top Gun: Maverick
  • Forget the money, they should re-release this film every year for a few weeks only to inspire young minds aiming for two very different worlds — military and movies.

Ford v Ferrari (2019), a cinematic retelling of the 1966 Le Mans sports car race, has the main protagonist, essayed by Christian Bale, romanticising the perfect lap.

Talking to his son about the race car, Ken Miles explains that if one must push the machine to its limits while expecting it to hold together, they must have a sense of where that limit lies. Every gear change, every corner, all aligned perfectly.

If there were a cinematic equivalent of Bale's Miles in this regard, it would be Tom Cruise’s Maverick in the latest Top Gun.

A sequel that has been over three decades in the making has survived the sequel trap, unlike its recent peers in Jurassic World and Star Wars, and even the pandemic, given the delay in its release.

To not release it on an OTT (over-the-top) platform is perhaps Cruise’s second-best decision around Top Gun: Maverick. The first was to wait for the right story and feasible technology to shoot the film, even if it meant waiting for decades.

In terms of cinematic experience, Top Gun: Maverick belongs in the same league as Interstellar, Dunkirk, and Avatar. The emotional arc may not be as intense as that of Avengers: Endgame, but it is as moving, if not more, especially if one is from the 1980s and 1990s and grew up idolising the first part.

From the opening sequence to the final act, the entire experience, from the background score to the sound of the jets and the visuals, not entirely cooked up in some CGI (computer graphics) lab, is wholesome, comprehensive, and unparalleled.

That the movie is well-made and a roaring success stands validated by the $1.4 billion-odd global box office collection. However, there is more to it than numbers.

As a fan of Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe for over a decade, I cannot lately shake off the CGI-superhero fatigue. This is the case for many admirers of the multi-billion-dollar franchise. This is where Top Gun scores an ace. It’s not relying entirely on CGI. It's as real as it can get.

Into the first 10 minutes of the movie, an admiral whose orders are being cleverly defied by Maverick and Co waits near the entrance of an air base as a hypersonic jet, Darkstar, whizzes past him overhead, rattling everything in his vicinity and blowing the roof off the nearby security shack.

At that precise moment, reality dawns upon the average cinema goer who may not be a defence or weapons nerd that this is not another popcorn blockbuster. It's an experience of a lifetime.

The crew shot over 800 hours of aerial footage in all. It began with a three-month boot camp — organised by Tom Cruise himself, who is one of the film's producers — designed to get the actors acquainted with the challenges of flying.

Paramount Pictures Studios, as per some reports, had a deal with the United States (US) Navy, allowing them to rent F/A-18 Super Hornets combat planes for as much as $11,374 an hour.

However, why did the production house not go for advanced fighter jets, like F-35s?

One, the F-35s could not seat two pilots, so filming in fighter jets with the actors would have been impossible. Within the plot, the movie negates the possibility of using F-35s quite early, giving the audience enthralling training sequences in F-18s before the mega mission in the final act.

Two, the production team, and especially director Joseph Kosinski, wanted the actors to actually experience the g-forces acting upon the pilots in a fighter plane as their authentic reactions would add to the movie's realism.

Top Gun: Maverick is as technical as it is visual. Thus, there were special cameras mounted both inside and outside the jets. Sony’s ‘Venice’, a digital camera weighing about a kilogram, has now become Hollywood’s new favourite.

The crew installed cameras in cockpits. The actors managed the camera angles, installations, light, and their own expressions from up in the air. The director would only look at the footage after the planes landed, sometimes after waiting for hours, and would request retakes in the multi-million-dollar fighter jets. There was next to no room for error.

The movie could have been so many other things, but thankfully, it is not.

While the plot does not mention the enemy, it does not criminalise the patriotism of its characters. Neither does it demean the grandeur of the military, the US Navy in this case, nor does it offer unnecessary room for woke declarations to appease a younger audience, nor does it deviate from the spirit of the first Top Gun, released in 1986.

It is as American as it gets, unapologetically. The West could do with some more of that.

Unless a better sequel comes along, Top Gun: Maverick would be spoken of highly for its linear storytelling draped in visual brilliance, its choice to do away with CGI convenience wherever possible, its breathtaking visuals, the sound of the fighter jets, from the afterburners to the takeoffs to the missiles to the flares, and, above all, the crew’s dedication to filmmaking.

Perhaps, like Interstellar, a book around the science and making of Top Gun should be on the cards.

The movie has been the best endorsement for the US military in decades. Forget the money, they should re-release this film every year for a few weeks only to inspire young minds aiming for two very different worlds — military and movies.

In an era where green screens and computer labs can generate a billion dollars at the box office, Top Gun is both maverick and marvellous.

Tushar is a senior-sub-editor at Swarajya. He tweets at @Tushar15_
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