Top Gun: Maverick may be a movie about fighter pilots in the U.S. Navy, but its primary conflict isn’t between warring nations. In fact, the movie is so unconcerned with the nature of war that the enemy country is never seen. No, outside of the usual Tom Cruise movie conflict of people thinking his character isn’t awesome and coming to accept that he is awesome, the primary struggle in Top Gun: Maverick is between Maverick and Rooster, the son of his former radar intercept officer Goose.
In the 1986 original, Goose’s death consumes Maverick with guilt, temporarily preventing him from graduating from the Top Gun program or flying a dangerous mission. In Maverickwe learn that Maverick promised Goose’s widow that he would prevent their son Bradley from becoming a fighter pilot. And yet, Bradley not only distinguishes himself as a first-class pilot but also becomes a student in Maverick’s class in the film.
Despite a very pronounced mustache, Miles Teller bears little resemblance to the actors who played his parents in the original film, Anthony Edwards and Meg Ryan. In fact, Teller’s brooding and bitter performance carries none of the goofy energy Edwards brought as the guy happy to stand in Maverick’s shadow.
That is, until an important early scene at the local pilot’s bar, where Rooster leads patrons in a rousing rendition of Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire.” The sing-along establishes Rooster as both cocky and well-liked by his friends. As the crowd gathers in close (if you needed a reminder that this movie was shot pre-pandemic), Rooster only grows more electrified, replicating the Killer’s wild boogie-woogie style. For Maverick, the moment reminds him again of what he’s lost. Director Joseph Kosinski thus interjects footage from the first movie into the scene in the finished version of Maverickshowing us Goose performing the same song while young Bradley (originally played by Aaron and Adam Weis) watches along.