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Summer 2022 gave way to a multitude of trends that dominated popular culture, from the revival of Stranger Things fever to the writings of Colleen Hoover. No media, however, captivated attention quite like that of the long-anticipated Top Gun sequel, Top Gun: Maverick. A wave of mustaches swept the world as a result of this box office success, as the 80’s film franchise proved itself as a classic to a new generation of audiences.
The film combines nostalgia and incredible practical effects in order to formulate a must-see blockbuster that makes it almost impossible to look away from. The movie was filmed in Lake Tahoe all the way back in 2016, but multiple production delays, including ones related to the Covid-19 outbreak, led to a delayed release. When the film was finally released in theaters on May 27th, 2022, the long wait proved to be worth it. Top Gun: Maverick accumulated $126.7 million in its opening weekend alone, making it Tom Cruise’s first film to debut at over $100 million. This financial success continued as the weeks passed, with Maverick staying within the top five charts for 10 weeks and eventually becoming the seventh highest-grossing film of all time after surpassing James Cameron’s Titanic.
Not only has Maverick been a financial success, but it has been a success following the COVID-19 pandemic. After the spring and summer quarantine periods of 2020, movie theaters still have not quite reached the same heights as pre-Covid. Streaming services are appealing to audiences much more. Subsequently, many movies released to theaters have found themselves reaching nowhere near the level of success producers once believed they would, simply because no one wanted to leave their couch to see them. With the release of Top Gun: Maverick, it seems that all hope is not lost for movie theater releases, as millions of people finally left the confines of their homes to experience this new classic. This, as well as the release of the new Elvis movie this summer, should give cinemas a bit of optimism as they move forward in the age of streaming. Though we may never see theaters as they were prior to the pandemic, Top Gun: Maverick proves there is always a certain charm to watching films on the big screen.
Numbers alone cannot explain the success of Top Gun: Maverick. Maverick reached heights even the Titanic never could (literally and figuratively). What is it about a sequel to an ’80s pilots-action film that is so appealing? What truly sets the Top Gun: Maverick franchise apart from other films in the present Hollywood era is its impressive lack of CGI. Tom Cruise, the lead of the film, insisted that little to no computer effects should be used in production. This demand was made in order to secure his involvement, and what Tom Cruise wants Tom Cruise gets. Though it led to many nightmares on set, including a production cost upward of $150 million, Maverick’s use of practical effects does pay off and leaves the audience feeling as if they too are soaring on a highway to the danger zone.
Though its limited CGI effects may be one reason audience members cannot look away from the screen, at the end of the day, the reason Top Gun: Maverick has become such a phenomenon is due to the relationships between its central characters. Much like the original film, Maverick’s focus on cultivating believable and captivating characters creates a film experience beyond your run-of-the-mill action flick. Tom Cruise’s portrayal as the Navy pilot Lt. Pete “Maverick” once again charms the hearts of viewers, and newbie Miles Teller’s arrival as LTJG. Pete “Goose” Bradshaw’s son does not disappoint. Both men prove to be incredibly natural in their respective roles, and along with the rest of the stellar cast, Maverick proves itself to be not just visually appealing but also endearing. These two leads are the heart and soul of the movie, and their love and friendship for one another add a layer of depth to the otherwise action-packed film.
Whether you saw the film in order to watch the football scene (wink wink) or to relive the atmosphere of the classic, Maverick provides an entertaining watch for every demographic. The original Top Gun defined a generation, but Maverick has redefined multiple generations. Audience members ranging from five years old to fifty all experience the same child-like wonder as the classic Top Gun theme transports them into a world beyond reality. *