Tom CrusieTop Gun

Could Top Gun 3 Actually Work Without Tom Cruise?

Thanks to the success of Top Gun: Maverick, Top Gun 3 is now almost inevitable, but what are the chances that it will succeed without Tom Cruise?

If Paramount+ moves forward with Top Gun 3, what are the chances that it does well without Tom Cruise? After more than three decades, the sequel to Tony Scott’s cult classic, Top Gun was released: Top Gun: Maverick. The sequel gave Cruise the opportunity to revisit one of, if not his most iconic roles ever as the daredevil pilot, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. Top Gun: Maverick has become a massive critical and commercial hit for Paramount, which makes the chances of Top Gun 3 happening appear highly likely.

Unlike its predecessor which takes a holistic approach to its storytelling, Top Gun: Maverick zeroes in on Maverick as its primary character. The sequel follows the veteran pilot as he continues to hold onto the past and refuses to let go. A series of events including the death of Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer) and his reunion with Nick “Goose” Bradshaw’s (Anthony Edwards) son, Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller) force him to confront his hang-ups and finally move forward with his life. Top Gun: Maverick ended on a high note; after struggling to find his place in the Navy, Mitchell gets back to the good graces of the organization and deals with his personal relationships.

After more than two months in theaters, Top Gun: Maverick remained strong at the box office, dethroning James Cameron’s Titanic as the 7th highest grossing film at the domestic box office. Globally, it has earned over $1.35 billion. Between this and the high praises from both fans and critics, it’s difficult to imagine Paramount not attempting Top Gun 3. What’s uncertain is if Cruise will be up for it.

Top Gun 2 Perfectly Ended Maverick’s Story

There were theories that Top Gun: Maverick would end with the death of Maverick; marketing for the film heavily suggested this. Surprisingly, this wasn’t the case. The Top Gun sequel leaves Maverick in a great place, both personally and professionally. While it’s uncertain if he retired after his last adventure, successfully carrying out the dangerous mission effectively restored his image in the Navy and earned him the respect of his superiors and subordinates. He’s also the happiest he’s been in a while as he patched things up with Rooster and rekindled his romance with Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly). Given these, a potential Top Gun 3 that centers on Maverick again risks undoing the character’s perfect ending. It’s worth noting that, unlike most modern blockbusters, there’s no clear set-up for a sequel. Top Gun: Maverick has a definitive ending, and it could very well function as the franchise’s end.

Could Top Gun 3 Really Work Without Tom Cruise?

Considering Top Gun: Maverick’s box office success, it’s difficult to imagine Paramount+ passing up the opportunity to make it a full-blown action franchise. Despite taking a long time to make the Top Gun sequel, Cruise is actually well-versed in starring and producing long-running film series as he’s one of the main creative forces behind the Mission: Impossible movies. In the event, however, that he chooses to not return to the potential Top Gun 3, Paramount would have their work cut out for them to make it as successful. Cruise is synonymous with the Top Gun films; he’s the face of the franchise and it would be difficult to move forward without him. While Paramount can force their way into making Top Gun 3 without Cruise’s involvement, they’re risking not only doing something that will be ultimately disappointing but also ruining the legacy of the franchise.

Would Top Gun 3 Happen Without Tom Cruise?

Cruise is known to have incredible passion and commitment to filmmaking and storytelling. This is one of the reasons why he insists on doing his insane stunts in the Mission: Impossible franchise. The actor, however, is particularly protective of the Top Gun franchise. For years, he had been asked about a potential sequel, but instead of capitalizing on that interest, Cruise waited for the perfect story and made sure that they did it in the best possible way. Hence, why there are barely any CGI effects in the movie to make it as realistic as possible. After the overwhelmingly positive response to Top Gun: Maverick, it’s safe to say that he will be more meticulous about revisiting the story for a potential Top Gun 3. So even if Paramount decides to greenlight the project, the chances of it moving forward without Cruise are small to none. The actor wouldn’t simply get his hands off of the franchise and let someone else handle it, especially considering how important it is to him. Even if Maverick is no longer the focal point of the story, Cruise would have to still be creatively involved in Top Gun 3. He knows that franchise better than anyone and has long been integral to its success. If Paramount is smart, it won’t force doing Top Gun 3 unless the actor is attached to it.

What Tom Cruise’s Role In Top Gun 3 Could Be?

As Iceman said in Top Gun: Maverick, it’s time to let go. Maverick should follow this advice, give up flying, and find another avenue to serve the Navy and there are several ways to do that. Firstly, he could return to TOPGUN and continue to impart his flying knowledge to his contemporaries. Secondly, he could lead a new branch in the organization which specializes in highly dangerous and classified missions. This way, Maverick could continue working with Rooster, Hangman (Glen Powell), and Phoenix (Monica Barbaro). Together, they can prove potential Top Gun 3 villain Rear Admiral Chester “Hammer” Cain (Ed Harris) wrong about phasing out pilots and replacing them with AI. Otherwise, Top Gun 3 could be a transitional film as it shifts its focus on either Rooster or Maverick’s true successor, Hangman while Mitchell plays a mentor type of character.

Admittedly, it can be frustrating that Top Gun 3 hasn’t already been greenlit. Following the box office success of Top Gun: Maverick, not to mention the positive response to it, announcing a threequel now sounds like a no-brainer. However, it isn’t that simple. Aside from deciding on a compelling narrative that would live up to the same standards as its predecessors, Cruise is also going to be busy in the next few years. Aside from the Mission: Impossible franchise, the actor is revealed to be developing four other projects with frequent collaborator, Christopher McQuarrie, which means that at the very least, Top Gun 3 wouldn’t be out until later this decade, if at all.

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