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'Top Gun' sequel a welcome trip to the danger zone: review

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Early on in "Top Gun: Maverick," Tom Cruise hops on his sleek motorcycle, wearing Aviator sunglasses and a leather jacket with patches, and speeds into a time machine.

No, that's not right. It's actually us who take a trip back. More than 30 years after Cruise smirked his way to the cocky heights of the '80s as the maverick Navy pilot codenamed Maverick, he effortlessly picks up the character in a new chapter of "Top Gun" that is an absolutely, thoroughly enjoyable ride – a textbook example of how to make a sequel. "Top Gun: Maverick" satisfies with one foot in the past by hitting all the touchstones of the first film – fast motorcycles, the song "Danger Zone," military fetishisms, humorless Navy bosses, shirtless bonding sports, "the hard deck," bar singalongs and buzzing the tower – and yet stands on its own.

It's not weighed down by its past like the last "Ghostbusters" sequel, but rather soars by using the second to answer and echo issues with the first.

Tom Cruise arrives at the "Top Gun: Maverick" world premiere on May 4, 2022, in San Diego, California. (Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic) Cruise is, of course, back, reprising his rebel test pilot now based in a forgotten corner of the Mojave Desert, a mere captain when he should be an admiral because he keeps bucking authority.The years have not calmed Maverick from his impulsive, hot-headed style.

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