Top Gun: Maverick's Editor Was 'Desperate' For The Movie 'Not To Suck' [Exclusive]

Despite their massive earnings this year, not even dinosaurs ("Jurassic World: Dominion"), Marvel superheroes ("Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness"), or the wrath of yellow henchmen ("Minions: The Rise of Gru") could have staved over the sheer force that is Tom Cruise piloting a fighter jet. As of this moment, "Top Gun: Maverick" has raked in over $1.4 billion at the box office, standing tall as the highest-grossing film of the year. I was sure the legacy sequel factor would give it a push, but this has undoubtedly turned into the surprise mega-hit of 2022.

What's even crazier is that "Top Gun: Maverick" is pretty good — great even! In many ways, this rousing action spectacle from director Joseph Kosinski ("TRON: Legacy") found the perfect way to please the fans of Tony Scott's original, while constructing a sturdier film in the process. "Top Gun: Maverick" is the result of transforming a mid-'90s Jerry Bruckheimer actioner into a contemporary showcase for the updated leaps in aerial filmmaking.

Cruise was determined to actually fly these birds into the stratosphere, and I'll be damned if he didn't do exactly that. The film acts as a reminder of what our blockbusters could look and feel like, without sacrificing color, clarity, or emotional complexity. If there's anyone else who's truly relieved that this project was received well by audiences, it's Eddie Hamilton, the film's editor.

A two-year journey

In an exclusive interview with /Film's Jack Giroux, Hamilton talks about how his journey to put "Top Gun: Maverick" together came with its own set of challenges. He may not have flown in one of the fighter planes, but the pressure that came with hitting his mark at the right time was persistent in his head nevertheless:

"For me, it was a two-year journey of editing the film. I was desperate for it not to suck, because I'm a fan. I've been to see films and been desperately disappointed over the years. I didn't want the audience to have that experience. Everyone's going in with their arms crossed, because everyone thinks, 'Well, why are you even trying this? It's going to fail. It's a poison chalice.'"

You can count me among the initial dissenters. I have little reverence for the '86 film, so naturally I got sick of seeing the same trailer in front of almost every movie I went to see for the past two years. Fast forward to today, where I get to look back on how foolish I was, and eat my words for even doubting this team. 

The success of "Top Gun: Maverick" is even crazier when you consider that it was supposed to come out over two years ago. Cruise and Kosinski played the long game during the pandemic, which proved to be the best decision they could have made. Hell would freeze over before the "Mission: Impossible" star ever let Paramount send it straight to VOD.

Hamilton wanted to get the little details right

As an editor, Hamilton worked with Cruise to unleash those bouts of nostalgia without losing the devil in the details (via /Film):

"Every detail of the movie has been carefully thought through and we want to win you over in those first two minutes, so that you lean in and then we can reintroduce you to Maverick and then take you back to 'Top Gun.' We wanted you to feel like you were back in the world, the feeling of the world that Tony Scott had created in 1986. We all felt that."

Where legacy sequels often overextend their hands to their predecessor, "Top Gun: Maverick" chooses its nostalgia buttons very carefully. For example, Kosinski recreates the takeoff montage of Scott's film, as "Danger Zone" underscores our return to this world. But immediately after, we're thrust into the seemingly impossible Mach 10 launch, which holds up as a more exhilarating action sequence than is found in most action movies. It was in that moment that I could see this was going to be something different.

As Hamilton intended, it felt like I'd been transported back to the world that Scott put together over three decades ago. But rather than feeling stuck like we're stuck in the past, he makes it feel as if the world of "Top Gun" evolved since we last saw it. Even the beach get-together feels more in tune with this team's natural development, rather than a half-baked homage.

Hamilton is one of Top Gun: Maverick's greatest assets

"Top Gun: Maverick" is a well-oiled machine with a lot of moving parts. Cruise is responsible for his performance, in addition to getting his co-stars ready to kiss the sky. Kosinski is the mind behind finding a way to bring a corny '80s flick into the 21st century. Hamilton, however, is the mind behind putting it all together into something special.

Editors are crucial to the flow of an action film. This isn't even Hamilton's first rodeo with Cruise, as he edited the last two "Mission: Impossible" features.

Cruise made all of his stunts look like incredible feats, but if Hamilton had edited the aerial battles in the same choppy manner as that disorientating clip of Liam Neeson hopping a fence in "Taken 3," then it's all for naught. At just over two hours, "Top Gun: Maverick" is constantly on the move, but never at the expense of its story or characters.

When it came time for the big mission, I was on the edge of my seat. I knew the stakes, along with the exact parameters Rooster (Miles Teller), Phoenix (Monica Barbaro), Payback (Jay Ellis), Fanboy (Danny Ramirez), Bob (Lewis Pullman) and Maverick had to follow. Hamilton assures us that we know who is on the aerial battlefield at all times, and where they need to be. If there's any film from this year that ought to be studied on how to construct an economically structured action flick, this is it.

"Top Gun: Maverick" is now available to rent or buy on most VOD streaming platforms.