Top Gun: Maverick is the most popular film of the year, with a lot of credit given to the fact that the film focused on real practical action whenever possible, and that it had Tom Cruise in it. All of the Top Gun actors are actually up in the air, and the fighter jet action is almost entirely real.
Cinematographers are accustomed to filming nothing in big CGI heavy films. When all that is going to be in the shot is CGI, all digital artists need is an empty canvas to put the work into. This was reportedly against the rules of Top Gun: Maverick. Aerial coordinator Kevin LaRosa Jr. says that even when CGI was in use, it was only intended to enhance something that was real.
My number 1 Top Gun: Maverick rule was: Somethings always in lens. You know? There are certain aircraft that are not readily available in the film. Those are F-18 fighter jets that were never reskinned or enhanced. Were never filming just CGI films. Were always filming real, practical aviation assets flying in front of a lens. I think that the audience can tell when something is real.
The F-14 is a key example of CGI enhancement given in the third act of the film, which means that the production actually used a more recent F-18, and then used CGI to recreate it as the older one. The CGI is there, but the film still shot a real aircraft.
Tom Cruise had stated for years that he would need to build a sequel to Top Gun using real jets, not CGI, and he was able to sway everyone involved to adopt it. LaRosa Jr. claims that the no blank sky rule was not something he created, but something he was taught by everyone above him in the ranks.
Everything had to be real from the start, from Tom, Joe Kosinksi, and Paramount, and if it was going to be CGI it was strictly an enhancement. So, we were always photographing a subject aircraft. We never shot a blank sky.
Every decision made by Top Gun: Maverick was the correct one. If you make any significant mistake, you will not win over $1 billion at the global box office. Fans clearly dont mind CGI heavy movies, but they also enjoy the real thing.