The reported 800 hours of footage recorded in the making of the new Top Gun movie was well worth it, according to those who got a first look at the film at CinemaCon in Las Vegas on Thursday. Top Gun: Maverick "generated rave first reactions" and at several points had viewers openly cheering, Variety reports. "It took everyone's breath away," writes Richard Trenholm at CNET. In introducing the film, Paramount Pictures President Brian Robbins said star and producer Tom Cruise—who reprises the iconic 1986 role of US navy fighter pilot Pete "Maverick" Mitchell—had earned his reputation for being the most daring actor in the business.
The student becomes the teacher in the latest film, with Maverick now in charge of training a group of young pilots, including the son of his late buddy Nick "Goose" Bradshaw. Miles Teller plays Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw. Other stars include Jennifer Connolly, Jon Hamm, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris, and Val Kilmer, who returns as Tom "Iceman" Kazansky. The actors had to learn to use camera equipment while taking flight in real-life jets, whose tiny cockpits didn't permit a crew. "I had to teach them how to turn the cameras on and off, and about camera angles and lenses," Cruise tells Empire. "We didn't have unlimited time in these jets. If they were going up for 20-30 minutes, I had to make sure that we got what we needed."
Director Joseph Kosinski ended up with 800 hours of footage, or "as much footage as the three Lord of the Rings movies combined," he tells Empire. It seems to have paid off. The sequel is "absolutely terrific in every conceivable way," tweeted Erik Davis of Rotten Tomatoes. "The action & flying is crazy intense & continually changes & evolves." It's so emotional "I actually cried," added Jeff Sneider, senior film reporter at Collider, who said the film was the "perfect blockbuster" and predicted it'll get a Best Picture nod. It will be screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May before a theatrical release on May 27. (Read more Top Gun stories.)