MOVIES

'Top Gun: Maverick' is awesome. Here's your guide to the summer sequel

Ahead of its May 27 release, a look at the long-in-the-making, long-time-coming sequel to 1986's "Top Gun."

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Believe the hype. "Top Gun: Maverick" rules. 

The long-delayed sequel — it was filmed back in 2018, and has been in a holding pattern ever since — finally hit preview audiences this week, and it's a thrilling, pulse-pounding, old-school blockbuster experience, a more-than-worthy follow-up to the 1986 classic. 

Tom Cruise in "Top Gun: Maverick."

(That 36-year gap puts it high on the list of longest time elapsed between a movie and its follow-up, up there with the 35 years between "Blade Runner" and "Blade Runner 2049," but not as much as the 54 years between "Mary Poppins" and "Mary Poppins Returns." And that's not counting the 64 years between "Bambi" and the straight-to-video "Bambi II," because who remembers the straight-to-video "Bambi II?")

Fans, who may have been worried about the mere notion of a "Top Gun" sequel, can rest easy. "Maverick's" got the goods, and then some.  

In lieu of a proper review — that is coming the week of May 23, ahead of the film's May 27 release — here's a quickie guide to what to expect from the year's most anticipated* sequel.

*most anticipated if you're Gen X or an earlyate millennial who has long felt a need, a need for speed

Wait, it's good? 

So good. Don't doubt Tom Cruise: he produced the movie and shepherded this thing like it was his baby, which in many ways it is. It's him revisiting his most iconic character (sorry, Ethan Hunt), the cocky pilot who does things his way even to the detriment of his career. Cruise, who turns 60 this summer, looks magnificent, and still carries himself like the 24-year-old who lit up the screen in the first "Top Gun." And he still hasn't lost that lovin' feeling

Tom Cruise in "Top Gun: Maverick."

Are there callbacks to the original? 

Too many to count. You'll hear Harold Faltermeyer's "Top Gun" theme. You'll hear Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone." You'll get the on-screen text introduction explaining what Top Gun is. And that's just in the first three minutes. "Top Gun: Maverick" is a bounty of references to the original, not in an ironic or postmodern way, just in a way that good pals like to grab a beer and talk about the old times. "Top Gun" embraces the old times in a fun, fresh way. 

Should I brush up on the original before seeing 'Maverick?'

It certainly wouldn't hurt, just to get your bearings straight. "Top Gun: Maverick" plays catch-up with the past, but focuses a lot on the relationship between Tom Cruise's Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell and Miles Teller's Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw, son of Maverick's former flying partner Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards). And if you don't know or don't remember what happened to Goose (how could you forget??), yep, it's time to either watch "Top Gun" again or for the first time. 

Tom Cruise in a scene from "Top Gun: Maverick."

Do any familiar faces from the original show up? 

Indeed. Val Kilmer plays a small but key part in the film, which proves he wasn't joking about that whole wing man thing the last time around. Kilmer, who has battled throat cancer in recent years and has relied on the assistance of a tracheostomy tube to speak, reprises his role as Tom "Iceman" Kazansky; to say more would be to give too much away. Those holding out for a Kelly McGillis or a Meg Ryan cameo should temper those expectations, though. 

Who are the new faces? 

We mentioned Miles Teller who plays Rooster, Goose's son. Jennifer Connelly plays Maverick's love interest, Penny. Jon Hamm is Cyclone, who along with Ed Harris' Rear Admiral Cole is there to bust Maverick's chops and attempt to keep him in line. Among the young pilots are Glen Powell, familiar from Richard Linklater's "Everybody Wants Some!!," along with Lewis Pullman (yes, he's the son of actor Bill Pullman) and Monica Barbaro. 

Tom Cruise and Jennifer Connelly in "Top Gun: Maverick."

What's it about? 

Still his own worst enemy (but a killer pilot), Maverick has had no career advancement over the last three decades. He suddenly gets the call to return to Top Gun, where he is tasked with guiding a new crew of pilots on dangerous but somewhat ambiguous mission, which will test their resolve, their teamwork and their ability to be the best. 

So ... do they play beach volleyball? 

Nope, it's beach football this time around, which may or may not be a low-key tip of the hat to "Point Break."  

Is it worth seeing on the big screen? 

Abso-flipping-lutely. "Top Gun: Maverick" was most recently held back from a November 2021 release because theaters still weren't fully open due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was the right choice. Audiences are now back, movie theaters are starting to thrive again and "Top Gun: Maverick" is the big-screen, get-your-popcorn, refill-your-soda, bring-your-friends, everybody-have-a-good-time movie theater experience you've been waiting for. It's not the one you want to wait to watch at home on Paramount+. It's the one you want to see on the biggest screen possible, with the loudest sound available, and the one you're going to want to see in theaters two or three times. Really. 

OK, I'm sold. 

Me, too. Can't wait to see it again. 

agraham@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @grahamorama

Top Gun: Maverick

Rated PG-13: for sequences of intense action, and some strong language

Running time: 137 minutes

In theaters May 27