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How to Get Yourself Ready to See 'Top Gun: Maverick'

Tom Cruise Top Gun Maverick
Tom Cruise stars as Capt. Pete Mitchell in "Top Gun: Maverick." (Paramount Pictures)

Here's your spoiler-free guide to making the most of a trip to the movies to see the long-awaited sequel to "Top Gun." "Top Gun: Maverick" opens in theaters on May 27, 2022.

If you're online this month, you won't escape "Top Gun" mania. People over the age of 45 will try to tell you just what a big deal the original movie was back in 1986, but it's impossible to truly explain just how much "Top Gun" took over the culture that summer.

After a decade of movies that focused on the dark side of military service, here was a thrilling picture where American aviators were the best in the world and took out the enemy with a minimum of collateral damage.

Back in the day, a "Top Gun" producer claimed that Navy recruiting went up "500%" after the movie's release. The press has embraced that number and it's impossible to confirm or deny,, but there's no doubt that Navy recruiters had a very busy summer in 1986.

The culture has changed in infinite ways over the past 36 years, so it's unlikely that "Top Gun: Maverick" will have the same impact that the original did on the kids of 1986. That truth can't take away from the fact that, in many ways, "Top Gun: Maverick" is an even better movie and one that doesn't depend on anyone's love for the first one to get by.

Even though "Top Gun: Maverick" stands on its own as entertainment and anyone can go in cold and follow the action, there are a few things that you can do to maximize your enjoyment of the new movie when you see it for the first time.

1. Watch 'Top Gun' a Day or Two Before You Head to the Theater.

Sure, you've seen "Top Gun," probably more than once. But, unless you're one of those superfans who can recite every line of dialog in order, when was the last time you watched it?

There are some subtle callbacks to the original movie in "Top Gun: Maverick" and one not-so-subtle recreation of one of the most iconic sequences, updated with modern camera techniques and Navy gear.

"Top Gun: Maverick" is definitely not a rehash that recreates the story beats from the first movie. In fact, anyone who's never seen the first movie can follow what's going on. Still, there is extra fun to be had if you have details from "Top Gun" fresh in your mind.

"Top Gun" is streaming now on Netflix and Paramount+ and available to buy or rent on digital.

2. Watch 'Val'

Val Kilmer, the actor who played Maverick's rival, Tom "Iceman" Kazansky, in "Top Gun," has lived a fascinating life and enjoyed a roller coaster of a career over the last three decades. He decided to tell his story in a moving documentary that addresses his career choices and health issues in a remarkably straightforward way.

Iceman's role in "Top Gun: Maverick" is more than a cameo, and you'll enjoy his appearance even more if you've watched his documentary.

"Val" is streaming on Prime Video.

Related7 Surprising Things We Learned About ‘Top Gun’ from Val Kilmer’s Documentary

3. Review the Capabilities of the F/A-18 Super Hornet


The young hotshot aviators in "Top Gun: Maverick" are all trained to fly the Navy's current fighter jet. The movie's production team is especially proud of its attention to detail when it comes to portraying the actual experiences of the men and women who fly. Watch the video, read the Wikipedia article and prepare yourself to either appreciate or pick apart what you see in the movie.

4. Review the Capabilities of the F-14 Tomcat


No spoilers here, but let's just say that Maverick's mastery of the F-14 plays a crucial role in the story that "Top Gun: Maverick" wants to tell.

5. Learn About the SR-71 Blackbird


This plane doesn't actually appear in "Top Gun: Maverick," but what kind of secret plane would you guess test pilot Capt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell might actually be testing before he goes back to "Top Gun"? I mean, the SR-71 is getting pretty long in the tooth.

6. Forget Everything You Know About Arithmetic


Anyone who didn't sleep through high school literature classes should know about the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge's idea that fiction requires the "willing suspension of disbelief" so that readers can fully embrace the experience.

"Top Gun: Maverick" will drive audience members who demand full accuracy out of their collective minds. Bradley Bradshaw makes an appearance in the original Top Gun," sitting atop the piano as his dad bangs out "Great Balls of Fire." The future aviator, call sign "Rooster," is maybe four years old. That would make the young aviator who appears in "Top Gun: Maverick" around 40.

Also, if you follow the original movie's timeline, Capt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell would be pushing 65 when "Top Gun: Maverick" opens. The math is never going to square, and you'll be a happier person if you go with the story and ignore the numbers. If you're the kind of person who can't just let go of that stuff, stay home and let everyone else enjoy the show.

7. Drop the Extra $$$ for a Dolby Cinema or IMAX Experience

Anyone who didn't work on "Top Gun: Maverick" and hoped this would be their year for an Oscar in the sound category has to realize that the "TGM" crew should have this one locked up. If the cinematographers want to recognize genuine breakthroughs in their field, they'll also vote for the team behind this movie.

Your "Top Gun: Maverick" experience should be as immersive as possible. There are a ton of movies touting their Dolby Cinema or IMAX experiences that leave audiences wondering why they spend the extra cash. No one will feel that way after experiencing the full whoosh of "Top Gun: Maverick."

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