Aerial scenes are so realistic in “Top Gun: Maverick” that some may feel a bit of motion sickness. The dynamic action is accelerated when seeing the film in the IMAX format. (Paramount Pictures)

By IZUMI HASEGAWA, Special to The Rafu

The 1986 movie “Top Gun” soared to the top of both the box office and the music charts for its theme song, and became a pop culture phenomenon. It also cemented Tom Cruise’s international A-list star status as unshakable.

Thirty-six years later, the long-awaited sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick,” has finally been released. Its debut was originally set for 2019, but circumstances including the pandemic postponed the opening several times.

Famous for doing his own stunts as much as possible, Cruise once again gets on a motorcycle and into a fighter jet, reveling in dynamic action scenes. It’s clear that the actors playing trainees are as young as Cruise’s children and are in awe watching what the star does, both in character and as himself. The respect is obvious for his genuine spirit as well as for a big-time action star.

Cruise will reach his 60th birthday in July (in Japan a 60th birthday is celebrated as kanreki*), but his enthusiasm is unmistakable, almost as if he is defiantly insisting he can keep pace with younger actors.

*It is said that the ten calendar signs (jikkan) and the 12 signs of the Chinese Zodiac (jūni-shi) complete one cycle when the birth year of the zodiac returns on a person’s 60th birthday, or kanreki.

There are many moments in “Maverick” when the personality of the character Cruise plays overlaps with his own. Cruise’s talent continues to amaze – the combination of being an actor and a producer who gave the greenlight to this script. I have interviewed him several times, and I am reminded that he is a person who fully understands what the profession of a star actually is. He does it thoroughly and completely. His professionalism shines through in this latest work as well.

The story of the new film picks up 30-plus years after of the exploits of the original “Top Gun.” Pete “Maverick” Mitchell has returned to Top Gun School as an instructor

who imposes rigorous flight training to a new generation of elite pilots, preparing them to complete near-impossible top-secret missions.

One of the trainees is the son of his deceased companion, “Goose,” leading to a conflict between old pro and new blood.

Fans are likely not only looking forward to the aerial scenes (I recommend watching at an IMAX theater) that almost give you motion sickness, his over-the-top action sequences,

or his still hot looks (he is as handsome as 36 years ago), but also how Val Kilmer appears and reprises the character of Iceman, who makes a strong bond with Cruise’s Maverick.

Because Kilmer has been battling throat cancer, he has difficulty speaking. Many may be wondering how his character reunites with Maverick and how the scenes play out, but the only spoiler I will give is this: you won’t be disappointed.

The scene is basically perfect and you will be moved.

“Top Gun: Maverick” is currently playing in theaters everywhere. Rated PG-13.

Japanese poster for “Top Gun: Maverick.”

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