This week on the podcast, we break down the exciting new film, "Top Gun 2 - Maverick" by filmmaker Joseph Kosinski. You can watch behind the scenes footage and interviews about the making of the film here.
Once a month, as part of our Movie Club series of the podcast, we share a noteworthy film and discuss it in depth. In this episode, we talk about how Top Gun 2 demonstrates leadership, why the filmmakers decided to use more expensive practical effects instead of digital, and what the film's popular reception teaches us about audiences today.
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Hello, and welcome to this episode of the podcast. With our movie club series. So for those of you who are new to the podcast, the movie club is kind of this fun thing. We try to do a new movie every month. And we'll just discuss it together. Talk about. How it was made, maybe some behind the scenes information. And we're also focusing on media literacy, how to have a discussion about a film after you watch it. Which is really the main purpose of this. And there's lots of BTS materials and stuff like that, but we only bring that in to the discussion if it's relevant to the media literacy portion. I think, really what we're interested in. With movie club is trying to help people. If you're listening to the podcast, most likely you're a filmmaker, but we're trying to hope. Hopefully trying to help families and friends and groups of people who watch films at all, to be able to discuss them in a way that is actually productive because we feel that movies can become. A really valuable part of our lives. And, and my movies. I mean, stories. Media literature. We can think of movies that way, too. Right? So it's just an opportunity for us to not only extract more value. out of the stories that we are experiencing or the movies that we're experiencing. But also to find more enjoyment out of them. Yeah. I grew up with a mom who was always in a book club. And when I got old enough to read the books that she was reading, I would join her book club and we'd get together about every month or so. And discuss the latest book we'd read. And I thought that was so fun to sit together and discuss stories with other people who were familiar with the story. And now that we make movies. Hey. Thought it would be super fun to make the same sort of thing for movies. So typically we also try to include movies. You might not have seen before. This was one of the most valuable parts of film school for Ken tonight was getting to see films we'd never heard of. We would have completely missed. If it weren't for our professors showing us those films. And today's is not, is not an example of that top gun was, is one you've probably seen, but. We do try to mix in some older, black and white films, international films. Documentaries, things like that. As well. So every once in a while, we'll do these popular. Box office hits two. Yeah. So we are today going to do top gun Maverick, which is not an obscure film. In fact, it has just become paramount pictures, highest grossing film of all time. And it broke Titanic's domestic box office record. Sands inflation. And it's doing really, really well. It's doing great via word of mouth. And honestly, I thought the movie was going to flop. I thought it was going to have bad reviews. I thought that for several reasons, which I won't divulge, but it was also delayed like forever, because it was going to be released in 2020. And it got pushed back two whole years because of because they refused to release it. Other than like a summer. Theatrical release. So it was good timing. They did finally bring it out. I think they're all happy with that decision. You know what I think. No one could have known that it would've turned out so well for them. So congratulations to the filmmakers, but we want to talk about it because it's a film that a lot of people are going to be watching and talking about. So we thought we jumped into that conversation. Sometimes we've talked about movies that are more obscure and that's really valuable, but we'll also sometimes hit these big Blas blockbuster films because. That's what everyone's talking about. There's a big conversation happening about it, but right now, the conversation that I hear happening about Topcon too, is that it's perfect. It's super-duper awesome. We all love it. I haven't talked about it much with our film friends. But I've also, that's what I've been hearing on, like YouTube and online reviews. A lot of praise mostly. Yeah. All I know is I just went on a girls' trip. And all the girls were talking about how they want to convince their husbands to get miles tellers, mustache. So that's one of our friends has done it. Very trendy. It's only growing up. Not only her. So. That's the thing. But honestly, I didn't even think I would watch this film because it's a, it's a SQL and I haven't seen the first movie. And sometimes I'm hesitant to watch something when I haven't seen. Whatever came before it. And I feel like I have to, you know, Do some research and watch things beforehand, but. It actually makes sense even without, well, they, they do a lot of handy flash backing to make sure that nobody gets lost. For sure. Yeah. It's very clear. It's very well told in that way. It's, it's not confusing at any point. I feel like we all understand. The details of what's happening in the narrative and what has happened before. But what would you say. I mean, we usually talk about basic premise and themes. So why don't we start with just so the Bayshore. Yeah. Short version. I'll do better this time. All right. So basic premise in my mind for top gun Maverick is that Maverick is a top, well, former top gun pilot. He's now. Well, He's now a test pilot. He is called back to top gun is sort of a last chance. Because he is a rebel and doesn't like to obey orders and he's been dodging promotions in the, Navel. Well, what do I call it? The Naval air force. I don't The Navy. It's not the air force. It's like the Navy. Heir people. Wow. And my well, my dad was in the air force, so I don't know what to call these Navy people, but they fly airplanes, but they're in the Navy. So it's very confusing. And, so he is sent back to top gun to instruct. A bunch of top gun graduates. Regarding a mission that is really, really hard to, they're going to have to fly in and do this thing. But among those among that group is the son of a man who used to be. Mavericks wingman who died while, and they are playing with Maverick because of an accident. And you get that backstory a little bit. So it's really about him having to connect with this. This young man who is now. Under his tutelage. And reach him in a way that will help him to be prepared for. We're seeing combat for the first time so that he's not going to die. And he feels a lot of personal responsibility is sort of a. Sort of a father, but he also feels a lot of failure regarding not only the death of this young man's father, but, but also, the way he has sort of failed to connect with. With, this young man. So that's really the setup of the film is him trying to reach this young man and trying to survive. The Navy. And there they're all pretty upset with him and there's a lot of distrust, but. He has to kind of prove himself and has a chance at, redeeming his own reputation and also connecting with. This young man, which is really a personal redemption. Because of his, his failure to save his father. So it's a compelling premise, I think. Yeah. I think it's really relatable. It's nice that it has lots of different age groups. You know, there's these young top gun students that are kind of the younger generation and there's the older generation who are kind of in the parental roles or the father figure role in. The case of Tom Cruise's character. I think the main thing that I took from it was. This idea of influence versus control. And. That we cannot. Control other people and it's actually not the best thing for them. And one of the best ways to be a good influence is to trust and to let people make mistakes sometimes. And to let them. Fly and let them, you know, Maybe even die or, whatever has to happen. I feel like that's the arc that I saw, Tom cruise. What is his character name? Maverick nevers. The Maverick experiences and. It's. Kind of the theme that stood out to me as well. Yeah. Aye. We talking about like a character arcs, right. His, his journey. It's interesting because he's kind of, he's got a lot of braggadocio, which not only do most Tom cruise characters have, but that's really the nature of the top gun environment is something that they always do in these movies. My reports that I've heard of the real life, top gun academy. Is that that's realistic. Of course. I don't know if it looks exactly like. These smoldering sweaty beach body. Arrogant. You know, competitive environments. Portraying the movie, but I'm sure there's lots of competition and it probably takes a lot of, Self-confidence to go into such a demanding. Field of work. I mean, it's remarkable what these people do in real life. But he goes from this sense of sort of never growing up. I feel like, cause he, he, he could be like a two-star Admiral is something that one of the characters says at the beginning. He could have gone a position of leadership, but he just likes to fly airplanes period. And he doesn't want to do anything else. And. And. In some ways he's still trying to be the best, but he just enjoys it. And there's nothing really wrong with that, but there's like a sense of like, He still hasn't grown up. He still hasn't learned to respect authority. And because of that, he's actually really able to engender respect from. From this team very well until he starts to make some. Strides towards that self maturity and, and, And he also has to trust them, which is hard for all parents to do. Right. And it's sort of interesting, cause he's not a parent in this movie, but he feels like when he's in sort of this fatherly role, He's in a leadership position, which is. I found as I read parenting books that there some of the best books on leadership as well. Good parenting books. Aren't the ones. Yeah, I agree with that. And so there's a lot of good themes that cross over there. So, yeah. Yeah. What, I guess, elements of the craft backup. That interpretation for you. Well, I mean, in terms of theme, I don't know if I really clearly define what I think the theme is. I was talking more about matters. Character art. Yeah. What would you define as the theme? And bounce this question back to you. Uh, That's a good question. I mean, I have, there's some things they say that I feel like they want you to think, or the theme. I don't really. That's about espouse them. But. Oh, you don't, you don't. Those things don't think just do is like, I guess in a high stakes scenario, like this. Yep. We'll have training. Yeah. It's more rely on instinct. I have a Twitch muscles sort of instruments. It'd be a dangerous thought to live your life by another situations. Right. We usually have time to think in most life situations, but he said specifically up there. You can't think. Yeah. Yeah. Which I. Important distinction. I would agree with that based on. I mean watching the combat sequences really convincing that that's true. There's not much time for thought and you have to really respond. And trust that you've been trained, but that's me is the magic of like a theme of preparation, which is. Always inspiring for me to see that. But. I don't know. What, what are the themes? Were you, did you personally glean, you know, from the film. That's a hard one. I feel like it is very similar to the character arc. It's just that good leaders. Allow the people who follow them to make mistakes. And that that can be a teaching moment. That we shouldn't try to control or prevent mistakes because that's part of how you learn. Even in something like this, where it is a very high stakes scenario and there is life and death at play. To a certain degree. As leaders, we do still need to respect the freedom and agency of those. We lead. And, Be encouraging of them and supportive and teach them, but also allow them to. To make those choices. It's actually really compelling. I think the context of the story in regards to the theme that you just shared, because. On the one hand, they have to be willing to let them make mistakes, but they're in a situation where mistakes could mean life or death. So they have to be willing to put them in a position where they could make mistakes, but prepare them. Sufficiently that they. Won't or likely won't make those mistakes because he really wants them to survive. And he's afraid of putting, Goose's son, his wing man son in a position where he could die because he loves him. Well, he loves him, but also he feels. Responsible for the father's death. Therefore he feels responsible for protecting the son. And so he's been holding the sun back so that he won't be in situations. Where he could be. Hurt or killed in this particular, situation. And so. That is tricky. How do you give people the latitude to potentially fail? You have to believe in them and give them the chance to fail. But at the same time and the, and I really like, because in the movie, it's not just this. This young man who's played by miles teller. Goose's son. It's not just that he's in a situation where he could die. Or rather that he wants to be in that situation. It's not that he like he's he was upset because he hold them back from. Oh, gosh, what's it called? Flight school. Yeah. Well, it's not something. Yeah, something like that. He held him at the, he held him back at the academy. And so it put his career behind and he was really frustrated about that. So there's somewhat of like a game of catch-up that he feels like he's doing. But then once he's actually in this position of risk, You can tell he's scared. He's scared of the responsibility and the risk involved with this mission. And if he will be capable of. Rising to it. But he's forcing him to be in that situation is the, is the only thing that's going to kind of help him have the impetus to rise to it. Which. I think that. The context of these super high stakes is a really valuable illustration to those of us who frankly, most of the time when we're parenting or leading, let's say removing making, we're not in a position of such high stakes with those we're leading. And yet it still feels like that. Right? It's like, I cannot let them fail. Or if they do that, they're going to mess it up or they're going to break that thing, or they're going to put us behind schedule, or I have investors to, you know, answer to that, all these things that we deal with in normal life. But in this case, it's he could die. And yet the best thing for him was. I mean to let him do what he was already willing to do, which is risk his life to do his job. To grow as a person. Which allowed. Maverick. To also grow as a person, which is kind of the cycle. I think of leadership. So, yeah, I don't know. I think there's a lot of themes there that I don't know if I like super stated clearly one singular theme, but. There's a lot happening that I think is really valuable narratively. Yeah. I also think of like his leadership and that he just went and did it. And that's when he really gained the respect of the team, even though that was not what they wanted him to do. Probably should have started there. Yeah. He really showed them, like, I can do this. Of course, this can be done. They had respect for him and they believed in him and followed him into it, trusting them with his life. Yeah. Meaning, he had to prove to them that the course that they would have to run to successfully complete this mission. There are some spoilers here. He ha he has to convince them that it's even possible. And for weeks, none of them were able to accomplish it. And then he's the one who actually proves that not only that to them, but to his own superiors. That his plan of action. Is physically possible to accomplish. In the F 18. And for the human body. Tom Cruise's human body. Yeah. Okay. Great. So. What would you steal? What was the most emotional part? You know? Biggest things you want to take away from this filmmaker. Yeah, I think most emotional part, the ending is really solid and it has a really great act three, which I won't get into, but they really raised the stakes and pushed the story. I always like it. In one of these sort of three act kind of movies. When the movie feels like it's just about done. And then they just kind of push it a little farther. It's a nice solid three acts. It feels very earned. So. I think that last portion of the film. Where he and milestone Tiller's character in a plane together. I think that portion is probably the most emotional for me. And I really enjoyed it. Some of some of the, ending's a little saccharin with the big music and, you know, whatever, but honestly just live with that. They really, they, they established that from like the opening scene that this is going to be a little. A bit of a throwback and kind of a. You know, this isn't going to be like a super. Serious challenging, serious. Yeah. So, I mean, if you don't want him to watch that, then. And don't watch dog. But, they're going to lay it on thick with this movie and that's fine. And then as far as stealing or learning, I did steal, I researched heavily the behind the scenes on how they shot this because we recently shot some. P 51 Mustang aerial footage, and which is the plane at the beginning. And end of the film that. Um, Tom cruise. Actually owns it's his plane. Yeah. He wanted to get that in this movie because yeah, he likes it, I guess. And so we, we actually saw some people doing stuff for a client for a commercial, and that was lots of fun. And I tried to kind of mimic the way that they mounted the camera in the cockpit. I looked at the same. They wouldn't really like similar yet. It's that cockpit shot. When I watched it in the theater, I was like, oh, that's like exactly what we did. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, we're basically as great as them. No. What they did on a technical level was so much bigger, but. so I did still that, but in terms of like overall filmmaking and stuff, I think the biggest thing that I'm always inspired by, by Tom cruise movies. In general are just how much they do accomplish in camera. And he's very much into that. It's a much more fun way to make movies. This is just me speaking as a practitioner and this just inspired me that it is. Often better. It leads to, I think, a better end product and a way better process, like way more fun to make movies that way for people who maybe aren't as mathematically minded, as some wonderful VFX artists out there who can. Think that way. There obviously lots of effects in this movie, like digital trickery and stuff, but. But because they had a base, I think of doing as much in camera as possible. And then just fixing and adding stuff with VFX where needed. I really. I think that paid off for them. And I think it pays off for me when I. Pushed to do movies that way. And I don't, it really is just a lot of fun. I totally agree. I mean, if you do watch some of the behind the scenes stuff, you'll see that. Tom cruise, put the actors through a training where they did underwater training and a bunch of other trainings so that they could actually be in the planes actually going at those high speeds and that their bodies were prepared to experience the GS. And I'm sure that there were other people more competent in regards to flight school and Naval academy training than Tom cruise involved in that process. And the behind the scenes commentators, like to make it sound like Tom did everything. You know, he wanted to get the top pilots and people involved that he could. In that process. And I think that was really fun for the actors to actually be in the planes. Obviously they weren't actually flying them, but they were actually in them. They were flying. Routines. Well, We're in the movie. Oh, sorry. Yeah, I think that's what I would take away too. I also think it's just good to see what audiences. Want in theaters? Like for me, it was interesting. It was exciting to see. People respond so well to a film that was pretty clean. Pretty family-friendly for all different ages. I mean, not little, little kids, but. Kids' parents, grandparents. It wasn't extremely offensive and it was just uplifting and like, it's fun to watch kind of way. But it also had. An element of spectacle and I think. We don't always want to just go watch something like that's a gritty drama. And even though that is good and there are things we can learn from that it's really important to watch serious films. I think it's also important to. Tell stories that are fun to watch and that people can. Enjoy for entertainment, with their families and kind of. As a way to escape or get out of their life for a minute and have some fun. Yeah. Well, I'm not just that, but that they inspire and they give you some hope for humanity in the future. And I think that this movie does that well. Like I also think it was patriotic. If you live in United States and. I mean, I think there are more patriotic films that have been made and more interesting commentaries on the United States and our history and our government. But. It's nice to see that we're allowed to do that. We can celebrate. Our country's wherever you're from and not be ashamed of that. And so I think that. Very little good change comes from shame, whether that's personal or collective. So that was also nice to see for me that like, This was a movie that wasn't like shy about being like, look at this incredible thing that these incredible service people do. And the sacrifices they make or are willing to make. And let's celebrate that too. While we're while we're talking about it. And I'm like, yeah, I don't feel like that's bad. I don't feel like we should be like, no, we should be talking about. You know, the imperfections of these people are doing more. On our complicated history. It's like, yeah, there's time for that. But there's also time for celebration. And I think. It's nice to see the diaries actually still room for that conversation. For a lot of people. So that was refreshing to me. Yeah, I think it was a productive message without hitting you over the top of the head. So hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for joining us on this podcast. We really hope you enjoyed it, and we hope you enjoyed top gun Maverick. If you haven't already seen it. And it's still in theaters for probably several more weeks, honestly, because it seems to be doing really well, but. If not, you can wait until it comes out on streaming, which I think it is out already on a streaming service, but, We hope to see you on the next episode of feature filmmaker. And also the next episode, that is a movie club episode. Okay, we'll see you then. Bye bye