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6 Ways Top Gun 3 Can Fully End Maverick’s Story

There are a lot of ways for Top Gun 3 to finish Maverick’s Top Gun franchise story after the success of Top Gun: Maverick, but not all of these options would be equally good for the franchise. Tom Cruise’s Top Gun hero Maverick was a major factor in the sequel’s success. While cast newcomers Miles Teller and Glen Powell also made a big impression on audiences, Top Gun: Maverick’s lead character was the returning Top Gun hero. The journey of the original movie’s antihero dominated the sequel’s action and almost all of Top Gun: Maverick’s stellar reviews credited Cruise’s performance for providing the high-flying follow-up with a much-needed emotional core.

Despite this, Top Gun: Maverick’s terrible original idea was set to minimize Cruise’s role in the sequel. This could have proven disastrous as Top Gun: Maverick showed that the franchise antihero still had a compelling character arc to complete even after Top Gun’s seemingly optimistic ending. That said, Top Gun: Maverick’s even more triumphant ending finished Maverick’s story perfectly. Now, the franchise faces the opposite issue. Top Gun 3 will almost certainly happen thanks to the historic box office success of Top Gun: Maverick. The sequel will need to address the fate of Cruise’s character, but this could prove tough since Top Gun: Maverick already gave its titular hero his perfect exit.

Related: Steven Spielberg Is Right About Top Gun: Maverick’s Success


6 Top Gun 3 Could Kill Off Maverick Offscreen

Tom Cruise in Top Gun Maverick training sequence

One way for Top Gun 3 to handle Cruise’s return would be for the sequel to kill Maverick offscreen. While Top Gun 3 killing off Cruise could be a mistake due to the popularity of his character, Iceman’s death in Top Gun: Maverick did pave the way for this twist. That said, an offscreen demise would be an anticlimactic end to Maverick’s story. At the very least, Top Gun 3 should give Cruise’s character an onscreen role even if the sequel does kill off Maverick. Killing the character offscreen would betray Maverick’s central role in the series, making this one of the worst options for Top Gun 3.

5 Maverick Could Die In The Line of Fire During Top Gun 3

Scene from Top Gun: Maverick of Maverick saluting to a coffin in full dress uniform

If Maverick died in the line of fire during one of Top Gun 3’s action sequences, this would be a more fitting death for him. However, this twist might still be too harsh for the escapist franchise. While Iceman did die in Top Gun: Maverick, he did so after years of happy retirement and Maverick even had a conversation with the ailing character wherein it was clear that his old rival had lived a good, full life. In contrast, Maverick spent much of the decades between the original Top Gun and Top Gun: Maverick running from himself and only found peace at the sequel’s ending after burying his beef with Goose’s son Rooster.

As such, it would be cruel to kill off Maverick in a mid-air dogfight so soon after the character had just found happiness with a new family. Not only that, but this twist would arguably also betray the long-established tone of the Top Gun series itself. Like its predecessor (which famously glamorized the Navy to an absurd extent), Top Gun: Maverick is not a war movie. The franchise does not portray war realistically, instead offering a fantasy that is wholly disconnected from the brutal, amoral reality of conflict. As such, killing off Maverick mid-flight would inject realism into a series that has never valued verisimilitude.

4 Maverick Can Retire In Top Gun 3

Tom Cruise in Top Gun Maverick

If Maverick retired in Top Gun 3, this could potentially give the character a fitting fate. Admittedly, it is tough to imagine the reckless renegade of Top Gun: Maverick settling down. However, before Top Gun: Maverick, it was equally tough to envision Top Gun’s egotistical antihero gaining any humility. Since Top Gun: Maverick already proved (via Maverick and Penny’s romance) that the character can slow down and learn to appreciate the simple joys of life, Maverick deserves some time off. Not only that, but the Top Gun franchise now has plenty of younger stars to take over his main role.

Related: Every Real Life War Maverick Fought In After Top Gun

3 Top Gun 3 Could Follow Through On Maverick’s Promise

Maverick looking afraid while flying in Top Gun Maverick

While Tony Scott’s Top Gun 2 pitch would have seen pilots contend with the reality that their jobs were becoming irrelevant thanks to drone warfare, the sequel eventually abandoned this storyline. However, Top Gun 3 could focus on this plotline and fulfill the sequel’s early promise in the process. At first, Top Gun: Maverick seemed like it was going to turn Maverick into an instructor before the plot eventually dropped him back in the cockpit. Top Gun 3, in contrast, could force Maverick to change his outlook by keeping him in a mentor role, meaning the antihero would need to use his smarts rather than his flying prowess to save the day.

Tom Cruise in Top Gun Maverick-1

Decades passed between Top Gun and Top Gun: Maverick, but the franchise’s hero resisted any offers of promotion during this time. However, his heroism in Top Gun: Maverick makes the character’s long-overdue promotion all but inevitable. In many ways, a promotion is the least that Top Gun 3 will need to give Maverick since Cruise’s character can’t stay at the status of captain without stretching the already tenuous credibility of the series. However, Top Gun 3 could make this change a central conflict in the plot, as Maverick might struggle with both the responsibilities and the stationary, detached nature of working as an admiral.

1 Top Gun 3 Could Drop Maverick Completely

Top gun maverick Tom cruise

It’s a very risky idea, but the Top Gun series could just keep Cruise’s character offscreen in Top Gun 3. Maverick could be happily occupied with Penny and his stepdaughter while an adventure goes on without him, much like Scream 6 handled Neve Campbell’s absence. This might seem like a terrible prospect, but the box office success of Scream’s latest sequel proves that blockbuster franchises can return to the screen without their recognizable central star. However, for this twist to work, Top Gun 3 would need a compelling hook. Without Top Gun franchise hero Maverick, the Top Gun: Maverick sequel could struggle to make Top Gun 3 feel essential.

More: Mission Impossible 7 Can’t Recreate Top Gun: Maverick’s Box Office Impact

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