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Ed Harris’ undisclosed admiral character points this out right off the bat in the trailer with the words:
30-plus years of service. Combat medals, citations, the only man to shoot down three enemy planes in the last 40 years. Yet you can’t get a promotion, you won’t retire, and despite your best efforts you refuse to die. You should be at least a two-star admiral by now. Yet here you are. Captain. Why is that?
To which Maverick answers: “It’s one of life’s mysteries.” But if you’re not content with Tom Cruise’s very “movie-line answer” there are a few reasons the Navy Personnel Command told USNI News regarding how someone with Maverick's career could potentially still be a captain, even though the likelihood is pretty uncommon. Let’s break it down:
If Maverick Has Previous Enlisted Service
The Navy said the most straightforward answer to this question is if Maverick has previous enlisted experience. Since Tom Cruise’s character was a lieutenant in the 1986 original, this doesn’t exactly add up. He’d already risen in the ranks at the age of 25, but for some reason stayed stagnant at captain for decades. That's likely because he has a “need for speed” and didn’t want to quit flying fighter jets, but we’ll have to see.
If Maverick Took A Break In Service
The second reason the Navy imagines Maverick could be Captain is if he left active duty for a while and later returned. I could see this being a possibility in Top Gun: Maverick, perhaps leaving his post for some odd years (maybe for the Navy Reserve) and returning to his roots to a new cast of characters, including Goose’s son Bradley, played by Miles Teller and an old friend, Val Kilmer’s Iceman. Maverick already has a nostalgic element to it, so perhaps it will be for our protagonist as well.
If Maverick Is Retired, But Retained His Service
The final reason the Navy cites as a possibility for Maverick is the rare occurrence of a retired captain retaining their service. The scenario allows individuals to stay in uniform despite reaching their statutory retirement. The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act allows service to extend active duty based on the needs of service and board action, but for Maverick there would have been a mandatory retirement time set.
Of course, then there’s the option that Top Gun: Maverick will transcend logic with Tom Cruise’s character. The actor doesn’t like to play by movie rules anyway, namely with his Mission: Impossible death-defying stunts. Although the production has worked closely with the Navy, so you’d think they would consult them on matters of the character’s plothole.
What do you think about Tom Cruise’s Maverick still being a captain in the Top Gun sequel? Let us know in the comments below. The movie hits theaters on June 26, 2020.