17 'Top Gun' callbacks to watch for in 'Top Gun: Maverick'

Michael Ordoña, Jen Yamato and Glenn Whipp, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

If you feel the need — the need for nostalgic callbacks galore — worry not. “Top Gun: Maverick” has you covered.

Tom Cruise is back in the cockpit as U.S. Navy airman Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, 36 years after he flew to superstardom in the 1986 hit “Top Gun.” He’s now an experimental test pilot hiding from the ghosts of his past while continuing to push limits, fly fighter jets and defy authority.

But Maverick’s not alone blasting his way back from the past. Along with a crop of new flying aces, he’s brought loads of fan service and flashbacks to the original film with him.

Directed by Joseph Kosinski and written by Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie, “Maverick” is chock full of that lovin’ feeling for its predecessor. Though the sequel stands alone, and in certain respects — action scenes, absence of creepy behavior toward women in bars — is clearly superior to the original, “Maverick” often feels like an homage to the original. Here are some callbacks you might have missed.

—The movie’s opening sequence may seem familiar. Watching the first minutes of “Top Gun: Maverick,” you would be excused for thinking you wandered into a time warp. There are the title cards explaining the origin of the Navy’s Fighter Weapons School, aka Top Gun. There’s the crew readying the planes for takeoff. There’s composer Harold Faltermeyer’s synths lulling us into nostalgia zone. And that font.

Kosinski says he wanted to let people know that this is a “Top Gun” movie and — hell yes! — he loves the original just as much as you do. (Maybe more, given all the footage from the 1986 version he incorporates into his sequel.)


—We’re still in the “Danger Zone.” To that end, the Kenny Loggins hit is back in pretty much the same position in the sequel as it was in the original (in that copycat opening sequence), though not repeated as often as it was in the 1986 film.

—Maverick still zooms around San Diego on a Kawasaki motorcycle. And because he’s Maverick, he doesn’t wear a helmet. Neither does his old lady. Really, this is a more a Tom Cruise thing: He loves riding motorcycles in movies and loathes helmets, probably because if he wore one, we wouldn’t be able to properly appreciate his Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses and flashy smile. Who cares if it’s the law? He’s Maverick/Tom Cruise! As he told Iceman (Val Kilmer) in the original, “I ... am ... dangerous.”

—And he’s still irritating admirals. In the first movie, we learned that he’d misbehaved with an admiral’s daughter (more on that later). In the second one, he raises the hackles of another, this time played by Ed Harris, by disobeying orders. We don’t know about you, but when it comes to elder movie authority figures we would not want to annoy, Ed Harris is right at the top of the list.

—Jennifer Connelly’s Penny Benjamin was in the original. Sort of. Connelly did not appear in “Top Gun.” But her character in the sequel, a single mom who runs a bar, takes Maverick sailing and gives him all the feels, was only referenced in the 1986 film. The first mention comes early in the original when Maverick is chewed out for his latest hijinks and we‘re told he has “a history of high-speed passes over five air control towers and one admiral’s daughter!” (Wink-wink, nudge-nudge.)


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