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Top Gun: Maverick’s fight against CGI

In the times that CGI rules Hollywood, Top Gun: Maverick brings a refreshing and most needed “real life” feel back to the cinema

Tom Cruise’s need for speed returns as he reprises Pete "Maverick" Mitchell 36 years after the iconic 1986 movie, this time the free spirited lieutenant must train a new generation of fighter pilots to complete a dangerous mission.

When filmmaker Tony Scott directed the original 1986 Top Gun, he had hopes of filming the actors in the air but was stopped when cast members began throwing up whenever piloting the f-14, making the footage unusable. With the same concept of shooting in the air, Tom Cruise, together with the film’s aerial coordinator, Kevin LaRosa Jr., took it into their own hands to design an intense five-month flight training program, beginning with the cast flying in a smaller aircraft (Cessna 172), allowing the cast to feel a small taste of what G-force is, how it is like to take off, land, and know where to look and put their hands.

Once the actors were comfortable flying with the Cessna 172, they changed to aerobatic aeroplane, the Extra 300, a model similar to the planes seen in airshows being able to pull up to 8 G forces. This built their G tolerance to the point where they were mainly not getting sick.

The third level of training was with the L-39 Albatross, giving the cast the fighter trainer jet flying, letting them to experience a fighter trainer jet. When they graduated from that, they were ready for the real thing: flying the F/A-18 super hornets.

Although there was a lot of flying involved, they still needed to understand the theory behind it all, needing to complete the ASTC (Aviation Survival Training Curriculum) to qualify for piloting the planes. A exentise curriculum that included: Acceleration/G-Forces, Altitude Physiology, Reduced Oxygen Breathing Device Training, Aeromedical Aspects of Ejection, and Aviation Life Support Systems, before proceeding to Ejection Seat Trainer and Virtual Parachute Descent/ Parachute Landing Fall/ Lateral Drift Training.

The cast needed to complete water training, a physically demanding training such as survival stroke, survival gear inflation and underwater problem-solving. Methods included being rotated underwater in an ejection seat and being dragged across the pool attached to a parachute, from which students had to disentangle themselves.

Not only did Cruise devise a training process for the cast but he also worked closely with the Navy to develop the cinematographical approach to flying. A set up of six 6k Sony Venice digital cinema cameras with lightweight lenses and the new Rialto system extending the camera’s sensor blocks, allowing for film to be shot over the actors’ shoulders and in toward the plane. This meant that the actors themselves needed to learn how to direct to get the best possible shot.

What was the result of the vigorous training ? A critically acclaimed movie with incredible action scenes.


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