As someone who has watched the original 1986 film probably at least a hundred times, I walked into Top Gun: Maverick, hoping earnestly that the sequel would respect and honor the film which birthed my love of aviation.
I walked out with tears of joy in my eyes and a huge smile on my face; and then, I blasted “Danger Zone” at full volume in my car while flying out of the movie theater parking lot.
In reflecting on trying to figure out why this film moved me the way it did, I considered many things: its attention to detail to the original, its beautiful, jaw-dropping fight scenes, and its story in which we see the human side of flying; I thought about it all. All of these elements contributed to my enjoyment of the film, sure, but there was one that, to me, rose above the rest: the MUSIC.
Harold Faltermeyer’s “Top Gun Anthem” has been a staple on my playlists since I was a kid. This epic theme, which has withstood the test of time, is brilliantly resurrected and revitalized in Top Gun: Maverick. Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe have honored the original thematic material and sound while expanding it to include luscious cinematic percussion, lyrical string sections and harmonies—all while maintaining the unmistakable original DX7 synth pads and Roland drum machine.
The opening sequence gave me chills. Although at first listen, you may think it’s simply the same main title music as the 1986 film, if you listen closely, you’ll hear an enhanced driving synth bass, the previous synth strings have been replaced with live string players, and the percussion has been beefed up to be more cinematic and emotional in nature. Heard a little later on as Maverick is called back to Top Gun, Lexii Lynn Fraizer’s rendition of the electric guitar melody keeps the same spirit as Steve Steven’s original track but abbreviates and has fun with the rhythm—which is awesome.
Zimmer’s score also meticulously uses elements from the modernized anthem and the motifs from the movie’s love song (written by Lady Gaga, more on that later) to create a soundtrack that brilliantly—unnoticeably weaves the story together. In fact, sometimes it’s as simple as the first three notes of the Top Gun Anthem (such as when Mav looks at Goose’s pictures) that made the hair on my arms stand up.
There were also subtle nods to Faltermeyer’s original score, including a brief appearance of the melody from “Memories” (the music which plays in the 1986 original when Goose’s lifeless body floats on the ocean surface). All in all, the score is brilliant and honors the original film while pushing forward and advancing the franchise’s glory.
Now to the movie’s love anthem, written by Lady Gaga titled “Hold my Hand”. I’ll be honest: when I first heard that Lady Gaga was writing this song, I didn’t quite know what to think. Dare I say I was even expecting to be disappointed. However, “Hold my Hand” has quickly become one of my favorite songs I’ve seen in a movie or listened to independently of a film. What's incredible is that since we've heard the chord progression and melody throughout the film, by the time we hear the full mix toward the end, it feels like we know the song from somewhere and increases its effect on the audience more. Very impressive.
The lyrics brilliantly capture the human side of love and flying: the survivor’s guilt, the ups and downs of a career, the sleepless nights, the love that we as humans so often forget to give OURSELVES. While many could say that this song is built around Pete and Penny’s relationship, I would say it goes beyond that—far beyond that. I think this “love anthem” is more than simply about the love of someone else—it’s about loving what sets our souls on fire. You’ll have bad days, you’ll cry, but you can’t ever stop “holding the hand” of the person/pursuit/passion you love. The track is brilliant and completely fitting for a film that was advertised as a “love letter to aviation.” Perhaps it is even this generation’s new “Take My Breath Away.”
All in all, Top Gun: Maverick was an incredible movie. There are many other bloggers on the internet who have dissected its plot, accuracy, and how it compares to its 1986 original—but I’m not going to say anymore. Watching this movie was a breath of fresh air for me because I think a lot of people needed a story this powerful; a lot of people wondered why I am so obsessed with Top Gun—and hopefully, seeing this new film, anyone who’s ever wondered that has their answer. And hopefully, too, this will inspire the next generation of aviation enthusiasts to articulate just how incredible flight really is.
Because, hey, I heard from the heavens. Enough said.