[OSCAR REVIEW] Top Gun: Maverick hits the top of VFX game
March 12, 2023
Top Gun: Maverick is the much-anticipated sequel to Top Gun (1986) and premiered in movie theaters on May 22, 2022. The movie was well received by audiences and is nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Visual Effects.
This sequel follows the first movie’s main character, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise reprising his role), as he deals with instructing a new generation of fighter pilots. One of the core conflicts of the story comes when one of the pilots Maverick has to train is revealed to be the son of his dead best friend, Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (played by Miles Teller). Most of the movie occurs at the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School, otherwise known as Top Gun, in North Island, California.
The film uses as many real-life shots as possible, cameras fitted into actual jets, and actors undergoing multiple months of flight training to pilot their aircraft. Most stunts were also done without the use of greenscreens or other special effects, which is very on-brand for Tom Cruise. However, many shots had to implement VFX to ensure that scenes looked as life-like as possible. Numerous backgrounds, missiles, and explosions were all created with the help of VFX. Ryan Tudhope, the VFX supervisor of the movie, said, “It was all about trying to capture and be true to the reality of what we had caught up in the air. We wanted audiences to enjoy the story and to be immersed in all the footage […]” (Hollywood Reporter). The type of jets actors filmed in was also altered with VFX. In the movie, Maverick flies in an F14 and a newer plane called the “Darkstar.” The F14 is a retired jet model, and the “Darkstar” is entirely fictional, so VFX and CG had to be used to create these planes.
Every scene and background in the movie seemed very realistic, so I think they did a great job ensuring the VFX supported their cinematography and didn’t take away from the audience’s experience.”
Even though the movie is nominated for Best Visual Effects, one of the film’s major selling points is its practical stunts. This emphasis on practical filming downplays the movie’s visual effects to the point where I didn’t even know VFX was used heavily in the film. Every scene and background in the movie seemed very realistic, so I think they did a great job ensuring the VFX supported their cinematography and didn’t take away from the audience’s experience. I don’t have much to critique about Top Gun: Maverick’s VFX, and I think their visuals, in general, are one of the film’s strongest points, but I can’t say the same about some other aspects of the movie, like their plot or character development.
Overall, Top Gun: Maverick does an excellent job of blending real shots with VFX, creating a realistic visual masterpiece that will be sure to leave a thrilling impression on audiences everywhere.
Screenshot from the Top Gun Official movie trailer viaParamount Pictures
Top Gun: Maverick ticks all the boxes… except maybe when it comes to plot
Top Gun: Maverick, directed by Joseph Kosinski, was released this past summer. The long-awaited sequel to the original Top Gun from 1986, Top Gun: Maverick was the number one seller for all movies in week one of its release. The movie was in the theaters for months, constantly gaining popularity and shattering expectations.
But what led to all this success?
The production of the movie, which took four years, was incredibly detailed. But, at times, I found myself questioning the storyline of the movie; Is the movie a romance between Pete Michelle and Penny Benjamin, or an action movie about F-18s piloted by Maverick, Rooster, and their acquaintances?
In Top Gun: Maverick, Pete Michelle, commonly known as Maverick (Tom Cruise), gets assigned to train a few of the best young fighter pilots in the U.S. for a secret mission with Hondo (Bashir Salahuddin) as an assistant coach. Maverick is training Rooster, Bob, Hangman, Phoenix, Payback, and Fanboy, all under the watch of Admiral Beau Simpson. The characters are well casted and the overall plot of the movie works well enough for the sequel.
The characters all did a great job bringing this movie back to life. Tom Cruise did an especially good job as Maverick. Cruise also played a large role in training numerous other actors in preparation for their roles as fighter pilots. Without Cruise, this movie would not have been what it is today. Coming back more than two decades later to recreate the original, Cruise checks all the boxes in this film.
Along with Cruise, both Jennifer Connely and Miles Teller had crucial roles in the newest sequel. Connely brings Penny Benjamin to life in Top Gun Maverick. Penny, a new character in the franchise, plays the part of Maverick’s lover. She gives him a community outside of the navy. Teller plays goose’s son, Rooster. There is an interesting relationship between Maverick and Rooster that evolves throughout the movie.
The lack of beloved Meg Ryan and Kelly McGillis from the first movie left something to be desired.
For Top Gun: Maverick, the directors took a plot similar to the first and added new effects and exciting visuals. There are many iconic scenes in the new Top Gun that leave people in awe of the quality of the action. In Top Gun: Maverick there are all new aircraft save for the F-14 Tomcat. The use of actual aircraft and actual stunts set the bar very high for other action movies. The training scenes stuck out for multiple reasons. During the training for their secret mission, Maverick pulled his shenanigans, giving Michelle’s personality even further.
The much-anticipated beach volleyball scene was replaced with an iconic football on the beach scene with One Republic’s “I aint worried” accompanying the action. Most, if not all of the scenes in the movie were well put together, though there appears to be a bit of repetition in the plot. Overall the plot is acceptable, with a very predictable storyline that isn’t all that different from the original. With the technology they had to make such an incredible movie, they should have developed a more iconic plot.
Top Gun: Maverick appeals to many people. The montages of exhilarating airplanes and the return of Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, and a couple of other original cast members brought Boomers and Gen X-ers back to the theater, while also appealing to younger generations who like a good action movie.
Top Gun: Maverick is truly a timeless movie and a perfect sequel to the iconic original.
This review is part of a series released on films nominated for Oscars. The 95th Annual Oscars ceremony takes place today.