The following story digs into the details of the first 15 minutes of the upcoming sequel Top Gun: Maverick, so stop reading now if you do not want to know how the movie opens.
Paramount Pictures easily won the imaginary “competition” between studios at CinemaCon about who can show the best footage from upcoming movies. Sony brought Jason Reitman’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife to kick off the event, and Disney/Marvel showed Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in its entirety. But Paramount just left all of them in their dust (or, jet fuel) when they showed audiences the first 15 minutes of the upcoming sequel Top Gun: Maverick. And let me tell you, if the rest of the movie can match this opening, we are in for something extremely special.
The movie opens with a title card explaining the elite Navy program where the top one percent of all fliers enroll. The nickname used for this program, of course, is Top Gun. The movie’s opening credits accompany the expected montage of pilots and crew members prepping planes to take off from massive Naval carriers out at sea. The montage is accompanied by the classic Top Gun theme song…
And the minute the planes hit the skies, the movie actually kicks into Kenny Loggins’ classic “Danger Zone,” letting audiences know that while original Top Gun director Tony Scott no longer is with us, replacement filmmaker Joseph Kosinski knows exactly what the audience for Top Gun: Maverick wants, and it delivers.
Following the table-setting montage, the movie shifts over to the Mojave Desert, where Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) works on a vintage airplane in a dusty but sun-drenched garage. We scan the walls of Maverick’s workspace and see plenty of photos of his original co-pilot, Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards), who died in the original movie. Eventually, Maverick pulls the cover off of his motorcycle, taps a calendar on his wall that has “Mach 9” written on the current date, and races off into the desert… driving parallel to a jet that’s taking off in the distance.
When Maverick arrives at his destination, he is informed by one of his colleagues (Bashir Salahuddin) that the Mach 9 test they had scheduled for that date is scrapped. The government isn’t impressed with Mach 9. They want Mach 10, and are going to invest in a craft that can achieve that. Maverick is told that an Admiral is on his way to the test site to oversee the shut down. “He’s not here yet,” Maverick says, that glint in his eye. “If they want Mach 10, let’s give them Mach 10.”
So, Maverick and his team prepare for a test flight, and they get off the ground right as the Admiral (Ed Harris) arrives. He argues that he is early, and wants to know what the hell Maverick is doing. Clearly, this man has never met Maverick before. We cut back and forth between the cockpit of Maverick’s sleek jet and the control tower, as they track his speeds. Mach 7. The plane is holding together. Mach 8. The plane is heating up. (The footage, meanwhile, is spectacular, with Kosinski capturing what comes across as incredible practical techniques for the flying sequences. The cinematography is jaw-droppingly beautiful.)
You know what happens. Maverick makes it to Mach 10. “He’s the fastest man in the world,” Maverick’s colleague proclaims. The Admiral, clearly pissed off beyond belief, at least credits the renegade pilot for having a huge set of balls. Then, Maverick decides to push it. He wants to go a little bit above Mach 10. Which he manages to do… until his plane comes apart in the atmosphere. It wasn’t meant to go that fast. All he can do is bail.
The footage concludes inside of a diner in the middle of the desert. Maverick walks in, covered in dirt, grime and dust. Everyone watches him as he walks over to a table, picks up a glass of water, and chugs it. He looks around and asks the people, “Where am I?”
“Earth,” a little boy answers.
This was a terrific opening salvo for Top Gun: Maverick. It found the right amount of nostalgia for the old movie (which won’t appeal to younger audiences), but still was exciting enough to hook new theatergoers. We can not wait to see how the rest of the movie plays out when Top Gun: Maverick lands in theaters on November 19.
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Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Sean created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.