Miles Teller’s Top Gun: Maverick character Rooster has a surprising amount of crossover with Jeff, his antihero in the Netflix hit Spiderhead.
Warning: Contains SPOILERS for Spiderhead.
Netflix’s new sci-fi thriller Spiderhead perfectly inverts Miles Teller’s Top Gun: Maverick plot, setting up a series of reversals that make both movies more rewarding upon rewatch. Although Netflix’s George Saunders adaptation Spiderhead and Top Gun: Maverick share a director and a star, that is seemingly all that the two movies have in common on the surface. Top Gun: Maverick is a shamelessly silly action movie and a fun, nostalgic return to the franchise, while Spiderhead is a dark futuristic satire that takes aim at the prison industrial complex and corrupt pharmaceutical companies.
However, closer inspection proves that the two movies have more similarities than might meet the eye. Both helmed by Joseph Kosinski, Top Gun: Maverick and Spiderhead both put a heroic Miles Teller character through the wringer during their intense stories. However, the character arcs of Teller’s two characters are also perfect inversions of each other.
In Top Gun: Maverick, Miles Teller’s reckless hero Rooster needs to cool his hot head and learn to trust a taciturn older mentor who has his best interests at heart so they can pull off a top-secret mission. Maverick’s triumphant Top Gun: Maverick test run makes this easier, but the pair aren’t truly united in their efforts until the thrilling finale. In contrast, in Spiderhead, Miles Teller’s placid hero needs to reawaken his fiery side and learn to stop trusting a likable older mentor (Chris Hemsworth’s Steve) who doesn’t have his best interests at heart so that he can sabotage Steve’s top-secret mission. While he gradually awakens to the evil that underlies Steve’s seemingly harmless experiments, it is not until Spiderhead’s finale that Teller’s hero has to face off against his enemy.
Not only that, but the backstory of Teller’s Spiderhead character makes the connection between the two movies all the more obvious. In Spiderhead, Teller’s Jeff is in prison for accidentally killing a friend (and, viewers later learn, his love interest) thanks to his recklessly overconfident driving as a cocky young man. He is tortured by an event that mirrors the circumstances of Maverick’s formative loss of Goose, which resulted in the sequel’s hero taking Teller’s Rooster under his wing in Top Gun: Maverick. Like Maverick, Spiderhead’s Jeff even learns to forgive himself by the movie’s ending, making Rooster’s triumphant character arc in Top Gun: Maverick all the more cathartic.
The two Teller characters are a fascinating case study of the same actor and director taking two divergent stories and finding many connections that aren’t immediately obvious. Spiderhead’s Jeff is a world-weary old soul, but he’s surprisingly naive about Steve’s intentions. In contrast, Top Gun: Maverick’s Rooster is a feckless young recruit, but he is cynical about Maverick’s abilities and intentions. Teller’s Top Gun: Maverick hero and his Spiderhead antihero may seem like deeply different characters. However, in the hands of Kosinski and his talented star, the Top Gun: Maverick and Spiderhead characters become interesting inversions of each other.
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