‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Flies High ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The day before I saw “Top Gun: Maverick,” I realized that all of my fond memories of the original film “Top Gun,” were based on the Kenny Loggins official video for “Danger Zone.” “Top Gun: Maverick” is an action flick, better and less testosterone-driven than the first and veering much more into the improbable territory of superhero cinema. 

Before and after the IMAX screening of “Maverick” that I attended, I watched “Top Gun” (streaming on Netflix) and reflected on Miramar and the time period. 

In 1986, Tom Cruise was unmarried (He’d marry Mimi Rogers in 1987) and he had starred in “All the Right Moves” and “Risky Business,” both of which came out in 1983. “Risky Business” (currently streaming on HBOMax) was the film that really catapulted Tom Cruise into the leading man zone. However, he had played the lead in Ridley Scott’s cult classic, the 1985 “Legend,” but the film has three different endings (Director’s Cut, American theatrical version and European version) and only holds a 40% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 

“Risky Business” had an iconic scene of Tom Cruise dancing in his tighty whities.  Cruise was 24 when the film came out, well past the age of the high school senior he was supposed to be playing, but his physicality was on full display. 

“Top Gun” would come out the same year as Martin Scorsese’s “The Color of Money.” In the former, Cruise was acting against the 27-year-old Julliard-trained Val Kilmer. In the latter, a film about pool hustlers, Cruise was opposite Paul Newman who would win a Best Actor Oscar for his performance.

Early in 1986–the year that “Top Gun” came out, the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded, killing all seven crew members in January with their bodies found by Navy divers in March. The commander, Francis Richard “Dick” Scobee (1939-1986) had served as a US Air Force reciprocating engine mechanic and as a combat aviator during the Vietnam War. The pilot, Michael John Smith (1945-1986), whose voice was the last one hear on the Challenger voice reducer, had also been a Navy man. He has a Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering and had, among other things, been an instructor for 18 months at the US Naval Test Pilot School (for which he graduated) in Maryland. Before he was assigned to the astronaut program in 1980, he had flown 28 different types of civilian and military aircrafts. Mission Specialist Ronald Erwin McNair (1950-1986), who is African American, was the second African American in space and had a Ph.D. in physics from MIT. He was on staff at the Hughes Research Lab in Malibu, California. Mission specialist Ellison Shoji Onizuka (1946-1986) was an engineer (MS from University of Colorado at Boulder) and a USAF test pilot from Hawaii. Onizuka was the first Asian American and first person of Japanese descent in space. Mission specialist Judith Arlene Resnik (1949-1986) was a biomedical engineer, the fourth woman, second American woman and first Jewish woman of any nationality to fly in space (her first space flight was STS-41-D mission in 1984). The other two mission specialists, Gregory Jarvis (1944-1986) and Christa McAuliffe (1948-1986), were neither pilots nor in the Air Force. In a single day in January 1986, the US Air Force had publicly lost five of its top members and six pilots had been lost to the US piloting community. 

Besides the disaster in the pilot community, there were other notable moments in 1986. In April, the Chernobyle Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, which was part of the Soviet Union then, had an accident that resulted in radioactive fallout in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. Ronald Reagan was in his second term as president and the Cold War (1985-1991) was defrosting. The Berlin Wall would come down in 1989, when Reagan’s Vice President, George H.W. Bush had succeeded him as president. 

Top Gun

In the first film US Naval Aviator LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell and his Radar Intercept Office (RIO) Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards) are flying F-14A Tomcat (no not TomKat, but it’s hard not to think so), stationed aboard the USS Enterprise. On a mission against hostile MiG-28 aircrafts, Maverick helps another pilot who is suffering a mental breakdown, Cougar (John Stockwell), return to the carrier against orders.  When Cougar gives up his wings, their commander (James Tolkan) chews out Maverick, but also gives him the assignment originally meant for Cougar and his RIO–training at the Naval Fighter Weapons School at the Naval Air Station in Miramar, San Diego County. 

The day before instruction starts, Maverick, assisted by the married Goose attempts to pick up an attractive woman at the local bar (in real-life the Kansas City Barbeque). The next day Maverick learns that woman is a civilian TOPGUN instructor, astrophysicist Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood (Kelly McGillis), a character based on civilian mathematician Christine Fox, specialist in Maritime Air Superiority. 

When Maverick boasts of an inverted maneuver which Charlie believes is impossible (it is and no Polaroids can prove it), she becomes intrigued, but all of these aviators are competing to be named the TOPGUN and win the trophy with the hot-tempered Maverick matched against the more calculating and cool Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Kilmer). Maverick will increasingly see the possibility of settling down, especially seeing Goose with his wife, Carole (Meg Ryan), and young son. 

During the course, Maverick does desert his wingman and later, in another training exercise, both Maverick and Goose are forced to eject from their aircraft, but Goose is killed. Although a board of inquiry absolves Maverick from responsibility, he is shaken.  Maverick continues the course with new RIO Marcus “Sundown” Williams (Clarence Gilyard). He graduates with Iceman winning the award. 

A sudden crisis situation results in the new graduate aviators being deployed for a special mission. Maverick with Merlin (Tim Robbins) as his RIO are assigned to be wingmen for Iceman and his RIO Hollywood. A dogfight will ensue and Iceman and Maverick will eventually learn to trust one another. Maverick decides to return to TOPGUN to be an instructor and he reunites with Charlie.

The film had an infectious soundtrack, including “Playing with the Boys” and “Danger Zone” performed by Kenny Loggins, Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis,” and “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin'” by The Righteous Brothers” and the Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock song performed by Berlin, “Take My Breath Away,” which won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Original Song. The “Top Gun Anthem” by Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens won a Best Pop Instrumental Performance Grammy Award. 

During the filming, Riverside-based aerobatic pilot and aerial cameraman Art Scholl died during a spin that crashed his plane into the ocean in Carlsbad California. He body and aircraft were not recovered. The film is dedicated to Scholl. 

Top Gun: Maverick

The world has changed a lot in three decades. Tom Cruise has been married and divorced three times. Imagine how much fun the PR department would have had with the romance of TomKat and the aeronautical Tomcats. Cruise has also won an Oscar, been part of a long-running franchise and, yes, jumped on a couch in front of Oprah.

The director of “Top Gun,” Tony Scott (1944-2012), the younger brother of Ridley Scott, went on to direct the 1987 “Beverly Hills Cop II,” the 1990 “Days of Thunder,” the 1995 “Crimson Tide,” the 2010 “The A-Team” and “Unstoppable.” The new film is dedicated to Scott who committed suicide by jumping off of the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro (Los Angeles). 

The cinematic and technological world has changed, but as a character, Maverick has not. The sequel begins much like the first, with Maverick disobeying orders, but this time, instead of saving a traumatized fellow pilot, he’s doing it to preserve jobs for a research unit and he’s not doing in over the ocean in Russian airspace, he’s doing in Southern California to save the jobs of pilots who are an endangered species. 

“You know what happens to you if you go through with this?

“I know what happens to everyone if I don’t.”

He’s managed to become a captain (“You should be a two-star admiral by now or at least a senator”), but he’s stayed as a captain and can’t catch a promotion while Iceman has become an admiral (four-star admiral and commander of the US Pacific Fleet) and it’s under Iceman’s benevolent wing that he continues his hotshot ways.

Even the school where Iceman and Maverick met may not be relevant much longer because:

“One day they won’t need pilots at all. All you did was buy some time for those men out there.” 

Of course, if Maverick was discharged from the Navy, there would be no story, at least none that would require the cooperation of the US Air Force. There’s a mission, one that only Maverick can take on: “For reasons known only to God Almighty and your guardian angel, you’ve been called back to TOPGUN.” This will be his last pot. 

Although Maverick returned to TOPGUN at the end of the first film, he soon washed out after two months and there’s no mention of his disentangling with Charlie in this film. However, his new love interest, Penelope “Penny” Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly), was mentioned more than once in the original film. She is the daughter of a former admiral and now runs the bar where the TOPGUN aviators hang out. She’s raising a daughter as a single mother. The kid, Amelia Benjamin (Lyliana Wray), is not Maverick’s but Amelia knows him and warns him not to break her mother’s heart again.

This special mission doesn’t require Maverick, but they want a naval aviator experienced with dog fights to train and whittle the assembled naval aviators down to six . While Maverick is told that “every mission has its risks,” he determined to teach the aviators “how to come home.” 

The mission is to destroy a uranium enrichment plant that is situated in a valley protected by military hardware and surrounding steep mountains. “Time is their enemy” because they must maneuver in a winding river cut canyons below radar before exposing themselves and hitting the target twice–once to break down the protective cover and then to destroy the refinery itself. Amongst the aviators are another hotshot, Hangman, and Goose’s son, Rooster. Rooster holds a grudge against his father’s best friend because a request from Maverick held him back. 

The cinematography by Claudio Miranda is outstanding. This is thrilling work, and the editing by Eddie Hamilton, under the direction of Joseph Kosinski (“Tron: Legacy” and “Oblivion”) keeps the audience involved. The film is tightly paced without much time spent admiring the local scenery. There are many scenes that recall the past, but this screenplay by Ehren Kruger, Erick Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie (with story by Peter Craig and Justin Marks) doesn’t get sidetracked for too long into sentimental sighs. There is, of course, a shirtless athletic scene–this time football in the sand. The original film featured beach volleyball.

Maybe this time Maverick will settle down in San Diego. San Diegans be warned. “Top Gun: Maverick” is a fun, heroic flick, but don’t think too much toward the end. 

“Top Gun: Maverick” had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival (18 May 2022) and premiered in London the next day (19 May 2022). It will be released in the US on 27 May 2022. This review was written based upon a press screening in IMAX. 


San Diego is the homeport to the Pacific Fleet Surface Navy. It is the second largest surface ship base of the US Navy (Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, is the headquarters and home port of the US Navy’s Fleet Forces Command). The base sometimes hosts visiting surface ships from foreign Navies.

The demographics of San Diego County is 45 percent White alone (not Hispanic/Latino), 34.1 percent Hispanic or Latino, 12.6 percent Asian alone, 1.3 percent America Indian or Alaska Native and 5.5 percent Black or African American alone. Two or more races is 4.6 percent. According to city-data.com, Miramar is 35.4 percent White, 27.4 percent Hispanic/Latino, 21 percent Asian, 8.6 percent two or more races and 6.1 percent Black. 

The last film didn’t feature much diversity, but after Goose’s death, Maverick’s SIO at TOP GUN was a Black aviator. 

For “Top Gun: Maverick,” the pilots are:

  • Peter “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise): White
  • Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller): Russian-Jewish descent
  • Natasha “Phoenix” Trace (Monica Barbaro): Italian American
  • Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer): White
  • Robert “Bob” Floyd (Lewis Pullman): White
  • Jake “Hangman” Seresin (Glen Powell): White
  • Beau “Cyclone” Simpson (Jon Hamm): White
  • Reuben ‘Payback’ Fitch (Jay Ellis): White
  • Mickey ‘Fanboy’ Garcia(Danny Ramirez): Latino (Columbian-Mexican American)
  • Javy ‘Coyote’ Machado (Greg Tarzan Davis): Black
  • Solomon ‘Warlock’ Bates (Charles Parnell) : Black
  • Bernie ‘Hondo’ Coleman (Bashir Salahuddin): Black and Latino (Panamanian)

There is an Asian American face, Raymond Lee, but I don’t recall that he had a call name and none is listed on IMDb. I don’t recall him having any lines, either. (*See update below). 

So out of 12 people, seven, including the Italian American, are white for 58 percent. That would only change slightly if you included Miles Teller as White (67 percent) instead of a minority. With two people who are Latino, that would be 17 percent. For Black representation that would be three, for 25 percent. 

The Navy isn’t, of course, necessarily representative of either San Diego County nor Miramar. 

According to the AirForceTimes in a 19 March 2021 article,  active-duty airmen were 71 percent White, 15.6 percent Hispanic/Latino, 15 percent Black, 4.3 percent Asian, 1.2 percent Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islanders and less than 1 percent American Indians or Native Alaskans. 

If one looks at these statistic, then White people would be under represented. Black people and Latinos would be over represented. I requested demographic information about the TOPGUN school, but didn’t hear back. 

Naval aviators have complained as noted in a 4 April 2018 Military.com article about the lack of Black naval aviators.  While the article mentions “non-white aviators,” the discussion focuses on a binary of Black and White. 

Data provided to Military.com from the Navy shows that of the 1,404 pilots who fly Navy F/A-18 Hornets, only 26 are black and only 71 belong to any minority. There are only 33 female Hornet pilots in the Navy, according to the demographics, and just one is non-white.

According to Zippia.com, the demographics of military pilots is 86.7 percent White, 6.8 percent Hispanic or Latino, 2.2 percent Asian and 1.6 percent Black or African American. There is an unknown 2.4 percent. 

Having the main pilots portrayed as White is in keeping with the actual statistical data, however, the representation of Asians seems to be questionable. 

May Is…

May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month and it is a shame that the Asian face seems to have no lines and isn’t given an interesting call name or back story. Further more, May is also Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. “Top Gun: Maverick” isn’t a good film for either of these. 

For those of you outside of California, since 1986, something else has changed: California motorcycle laws. Since 1992, California became one of the few states (and according to IIHS.org, along with Alabama, District of Columbia, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia) that requires anyone riding a motorcycle or motorized bike to wear a helmet. While some states only use that mandate for children and teens, California law requires helmet use for everyone. 

Having grown up in San Diego County, I was warned to stay away from Navy men and heard Navy men warned to be careful on their motorcycles: 


If “Top Gun” helped and “Top Gun: Maverick” will boost the sales of Ray-Ban Aviators (model 3025), and bomber jackets, then it is a shame that “Top Gun: Maverick” didn’t choose to promote personal protective equipment (PPE) like helmets. There is, BTW, an official Top Gun store and it does include a kids section. Yes, your kid can get a Top Gun TomCat jacket. There’s also a women’s section. Woo hoo!

“Top Gun: Maverick” had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival (18 May 2022) and premiered in London the next day (19 May 2022). It will be released in the US on 27 May 2022. This review was written based upon a press screening in IMAX. 


Looking at the updated IMDb cast listing for “Top Gun: Maverick,” I notice Filipino-born Manny Jacinto (Lt. Billy “Fritz” Avalone) and Korean American Raymond Lee (as Lt. Logan “Yale” Lee) now have their call names, but did they have significant lines? 

  • Lt. Billy “Fritz” Avalone (Manny Jacinto): Filipino
  • Lt. Logan “Yale” Lee (Raymond Lee): Korean American.
  • Lt. Callie “Halo” Bassett (Kara Wang): Chinese American 

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