Top Gun: Maverick, the end explained: better than the original

    Yes before seeing Top Gun: Maverick you have seen the original film again you will have noticed that almost every sequence of the sequel rhymes with another of its predecessor…until the last scene of the film which finds no prior referent. As you can imagine, there is a reason for this. To understand it, we have to go back to the first sequence of Top Gun: Maverick.

    The movie starts out like a classic Hollywood movie with a door opening into the Mojave Desert. There, we find Tom Cruise putting the finishing touches on a state-of-the-art ultrasonic fighter prototype. The more of the more. Or not. Because Admiral Ed Harris wants to shelve the project. Manned planes are a thing of the past, he says, as are pilots like Maverick, who eat, go to the bathroom and disobey orders. The army of drones has made them as obsolete as CGI for action movie actors and stuntmen. Who needs Maverick or Ethan Hunt to have superheroes? Of course, neither Cruise nor Maverick agrees with this.there would be others missing, and they will demonstrate it in a brilliant first sequence.

    Just like in the best gun as of 1986, the opening sequence has little or nothing to do with the rest of the story. It is, like in James Bond, an introduction to the characters and the challenge they will have to face -here the unbearable G-forces-, and it is also an excuse for them to send our hero back to school Top Gun, this time like Instructor of a new generation of pilots which includes the son of his old friend Goose.

    On this occasion, however, the opening includes a new element that will be essential in the plot and in the end of the film: the vindictiveness of the people against the machine. Throughout the film we will hear it again and again: “it’s the pilot, not the plane”. And so much so that an old and nostalgic F-14 can carry two state-of-the-art aircraft if it has Cruise at the controls.

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    With Maverick in the elite pilot school, the film finally lands on the main conflict, which is twofold. On the one hand, the mission – to destroy the uranium refinery of an undetermined country with aerobatics worthy of Luke Skywalker -, on the other, the drama. Maverick doesn’t want Goose’s son, Rooster (Miles Teller), to die flying a plane like his father, but neither does he want to lose his godson for stopping him from achieving his dreams and frustrating his career.

    In between we find Tom Cruise’s romance with Jennifer Connelly, who replaced Kelly McGillis as the main man’s romantic interest. A plot that bets on intimacy, redemption and melancholy rather than the scorching teenage energy of 1986, but Cruise is about to turn 60. What do you want. The movie wasn’t going to miss the chance to test whether Cruise’s years and surgeries have made it obsolete for bedtime and action sequences. Spoiler: of course not. Just as the writers did not miss the moving reunion between Val Kilmer and Tom Cruise.

    The end of Top Gun: Maverick closes all these intrigues with an unquestionable fidelity to the first film. First, Maverick and Rooster land on the aircraft carrier with their mission accomplished.. Everyone cheers for them and the two embrace with their differences resolved. Like 36 years ago. The film even redoes the arc of a rivalry turned friendship like that of Iceman and Maverick with the characters of Miles Teller and Glen Powell, the Val Kilmer of this new generation.

    Later, Tom Cruise reappears at Penny’s bar, The Hard Deck, with the wistful gaze of a returning hero with a mission accomplished and loneliness in tow. This is again a reference to the last scene of best gun but this time Maverick is not looking for Kelly McGillis, but Jennifer Connelly. He can’t find it, as Penny has taken her daughter on vacation, possibly fearing that Maverick won’t return alive from the mission. In 1986, the film ended here, with the reunion of Maverick and ‘Charlie’. A “and they had a lot of pilots and they were happy and ate partridges” (although now we know it wasn’t exactly like that), but Top Gun: Maverick holds the reunion in abeyance to continue to the true ending, making a post-credits scene totally unnecessary.


    Meanwhile, Lady Gaga’s song “Hold My Hand,” which came to replace the Berlin theme in the sequel, begins to play on the soundtrack, and with that music we reach the final scene. We’re back on an airfield like we were at the start, but now Maverick and Rooster are together between planes flown on the photo board with Goose. That’s when Penny arrives in a 1973 Porsche 911 S in search of Maverick (McGillis was driving another 1958 Porsche; Top Gun: Maverick pay attention to all the details). PEnny gets out of the car and she and Maverick get into a small plane, take off and “Hold My Hand” blares over the speakers before the credits roll.

    They are not flying in a state-of-the-art fighter, not even an old F-14, but in a traditional aircraft. If anything came to prove Top Gun: Maverick it’s that the important thing is the pilot not the plane. Even Rooster managed to successfully bomb the uranium base despite the technical failure of his laser, let’s see how a drone was going to do that.

    That Maverick and Penny end up flying a plane after all that means Tom Cruise is still an action hero who flies his planes himself, who doesn’t need stuntmen to film his scenes even though everything can now be done with digital effects and that always has an appeal that disarms everyone; and that also means that 80s-inspired action cinema is still alive and kicking.

    The end of Top Gun: Maverick it means, in short, that Ed Harris will have to keep waiting. Technology does not make humans obsolete. Suck that, Admiral.

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