Top Gun 2 gave Maverick a happy ending - but Top Gun 3 still had to happen
Even though Top Gun: Maverick ended Tom Cruise's Maverick character arc perfectly, the Top Gun hero still needed to return for Top Gun 3.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for Top Gun: Maverick.
^ Although the long-awaited Top Gun sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, successfully wraps up Maverick's story, Top Gun 3 still needs to happen. It's never easy for filmmakers to know when a franchise needs to end. Some series can go on until critics and eventual fans complain that they've lost their spark, while others end after only two or three issues. With a 36-year gap between Top Gun and Top Gun: Maverick, it's hard to tell which camp the franchise will fall into.
Top Gun: Maverick's historic box office success made a sequel all but inevitable, but it did take nearly forty years for the first film to produce a sequel, despite the fact that Top Gun was also a huge success when it was originally released . Plus, Top Gun: Maverick gave its hero a happy ending, which means there's some controversy over which franchise ends with this sequel.
Top Gun: Maverick's ending neatly wraps up Maverick's character arc while setting up the story of his replacement. When Tom Cruise's Top Gun anti-hero first appeared in Top Gun: Maverick, he was An adrenaline-hungry burnout who never lived up to his potential because he never forgot the loss of his goose and blamed himself for the death of his wingman. However, at the end of Top Gun: Maverick, Maverick saves Goose's son Rooster, earns Rooster's respect, and learns to forgive himself.
Why Maverick's Top Gun 2 Ending Was So Perfect
Not only that, but Maverick's disastrous romantic life gets a positive update in Top Gun: Maverick. Early on in the sequel, the Top Gun hero admits he never really opened up about his earlier love interest, but by the end, he's reunited with Jennifer Connelly's Penny, and, this time around, he seems to be on his own Satisfied with the situation. Unfortunately, since Top Gun: Maverick includes every element of his story, Top Gun 3 can't be the same vehicle for Tom Cruise as the belated sequel and original film. Yet, paradoxically, Top Gun 3 needs to happen while the movie should still feature Cruise.
Top Gun 3 allows Cruise to see Maverick transitioning into a blissful retirement, the eternal searcher finally settling down and enjoying life. Maverick doesn't need to be killed, but he can play something like Iceman's role in Top Gun: Maverick becomes a wise old mentor to recruits. Now that Rooster has effectively proven he can replace Maverick as a pilot, Top Gun 3 should transform Cruise's role into more of a teacher than an active participant in the action.
Why Top Gun 3 Should Still Happen (With Maverick)
Not only would this give Rooster a chance to take Maverick's place and show off his flying prowess, but it would also show Maverick's new look. The character always struggles with humility and knows when to cool off, which he shares with Rooster. This stalled Maverick's professional and personal life for decades, and cost him his chances for promotion and early happiness. As such, Top Gun 3 could show how the Top Gun hero fits into the idyllic but less dramatic life he established at the end of Top Gun: Maverick.
More: Was Jennifer Connelly in the original Top Gun?