Why ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Almost Had a Different Opening Sequence

·5-min read

The highly-anticipated sequel to the 1986 “Top Gun” movie has taken off around the world, bringing a new audience as well as fans of the original into movie theaters. “Top Gun: Maverick” opens with a sequence that pays homage to the first film visually and sonically as the music launches into Harold Faltermeyer’s famous “Top Gun” anthem.

Editor Eddie Hamilton, who locked picture back in July 2020, breaks down how he helped edit the opening scene.

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Paying homage to the original

In the first frames of the film, Hamilton had marks to hit as the film paid homage to the original through score, music and cinematography. The opening was almost a mirror of the 1986 original.

“Tom always said we had to start the film the same way with Harold Faltermeyer’s opening and then “Danger Zone.” It was the first thing Joseph and the DP Claudio Miranda shot.

“They went on to the USS George Washington in July 2018 and they shot for five days. I had over 15 hours of footage activity on deck and that was the first thing I did, break it down and build that opening montage.

“We changed the caption opening description to include men and women, and that was the only difference from the original movie. That was one of the very first things we showed to the studio.

“The following year, in 2019, Tom and Claudio went back to another aircraft carrier to film the sequence where Tom launches off. They did a few days of that, so I had more shots of people doing thumbs up and catapults being loaded and people saluting.

“This opening was important that everyone who loved “Top Gun,” sat down in the theater, and immediately felt like we really cared about their experience, that we were treating the original movie with respect, and honoring Tony Scott.

“Within two minutes, we wanted everybody to be in. Also, to take the very state of the art technologies in terms of cinematography, sound and music and editing and give people a great cinema experience.

“This was the hardest editing job I’ve ever done by many orders of magnitude. I kid you not. It was the longest climb up a huge mountain for months and months and months and months and months. Then you stop and you look around, and you’re only halfway done.

“But we got there and it turned out so well. Thanks to the brain trust of Tom Cruise, Jerry Bruckheimer, Joseph Kosinski and Christopher McQuarrie. We all cared so passionately about the result, and the quality control threshold was set so high by Tom, but also by us by ourselves, because we wanted it to be great. We didn’t compromise. If he didn’t feel a scene was working, we’d go back and take another swing at it. Or we’d go back and reshoot pieces of it with extra closeups or coverage.

“It took ages to get all combinations of music right in that big scene in the bar, and finding The Who track for the dogfight, and getting the score – where to put it, where not to put it. In the end, the sound mix ended up being extraordinary, and we spent seven weeks mixing the sound which is the longest I’ve ever spent on a movie.

“The sound mixer, Mark Taylor had just locked “No Time to Die” which is over three hours long, and they did that in three weeks, so it took us twice as long.

“Tom said this film needed to be sonically perfect from beginning to end. We went through and stress tested every frame of that movie.”

An Alternative Opening

At one point, there was a different opening that deviated slightly from the nod to the original. Hamilton explains:

“At that point, we used to leave the deck activity and go underneath the deck. That was when we would see Maverick stood looking out to sea. He would say, ‘Talk to me, Goose.’ In a way, that was us kind of catching up with the beginning of the third act.

“But it felt like too much of a downer, and we ultimately decided that it was slightly confusing, because people were like, ‘Wait, is this as a flashback? What is it?’

So we got rid of that and we faded to black beautifully on that nice aerial shot of the aircraft carrier. Then we take a moment and fade up on Mav.”

“The audience is caught up on where he is now. There’s this huge hangar with the plane, motorbikes and trinkets. He taps the calendar and it says Mach 10. So, you think it’s going to be a big day for him. It had to be all about character and reseat you in the character of Maverick.

‘He’s still Maverick and he’s still a rebel, and wants to stick it to Ed Harris, and he wants to take that Darkstar plane up and save everyone’s jobs because he knows that they’re going to be shut down unless he can go to Mach 10.

‘It was just a great way of revisiting the myth of Maverick, the character.

‘Originally, that scene was going to be a bit more of a heist. Originally, it was going to be about the team getting ready to take this plane up and and they’re racing against time.

“But in the end, it didn’t quite sit emotionally correctly, and we decided to make it purely about Maverick’s character, and about why he’s doing this, which is to help the people.”

“It was all to sell the love of aviation and the idea that Maverick has been flying his whole life. So, we took the ‘Talk to me, Goose’ line out from the beginning, and we put it in the Darkstar sequence. So, when he’s looking out, and he’s watching that stunning sunrise, and you have that beautiful music cue that Hans Zimmer and the team came up with for that moment. You’re really settled into that moment of introspection and the majesty of flying.

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