Iceman returns to Top Gun: Maverick couldn't be better

The return of Val Kilmer in Top Gun: Maverick was hyped, but Iceman's long-awaited reunion with Maverick still exceeded expectations.

While Iceman's role in Top Gun: Maverick was relatively minor, the character's role in the Top Gun sequel was a highlight of the film, perfectly honoring Val Kilmer's iconic chemistry with Tom Cruise. The Iceman and Maverick brotherhood is Hollywood legend. Real-life actors Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer famously clashed on the set of the 1986 classic, only for the pair to go on to become such close friends in the decades that followed, So much so that Cruise refused to work on Top Gun: Maverick unless Kilmer also returned for the sequel.

In Top Gun: Maverick, Tom Cruise's Maverick has been a thorn in the side of the Navy's top brass for decades after the original Top Gun. Audiences learned early on that his close friendship with the Iceman (now a decorated admiral) got him out of disciplinary action, which remains the brash rebel's main problem. Iceman put Maverick in charge of training Top Gun's recruits: Maverick performs their potentially deadly missions, though he doesn't communicate directly with Cruise's character until halfway through the sequel. Fortunately, his presence is the perfect distillation of their partnership.

Iceman's Maverick Role Is Small, But Honors Val Kilmer & Top Gun

period After undergoing treatment for throat cancer in 2014, Kilmer lost the ability to speak. The entire scene is a testament to the chemistry between Cruise and his co-star, and captures the gravity and warmth of their decades-long relationship, as Kilmer speaks mostly through the device. Still, Iceman's final Top Gun: Maverick line is some of the film's funniest and most poignant moments.

Iceman assures Maverick that he is a natural leader despite his misgivings, and gives his colleagues the confidence to lead recruits to victory, which is already poignant. At the same time, the decision to incorporate Kilmer's real-life situation into the script is brave and moving. What makes the scene soar, however, is the duo's final confrontation.

Iceman's Top Gun: Maverick Return Is Everything It Needed To Be

This scene shows Maverick's relationship with his friends as he grapples with aging and mortality. When Iceman asks Maverick who's the better pilot, he also lets the notoriously egotistical character show a little humility and grace. It's a small moment and a funny joke, but in the context of Top Gun: The Maverick Story, it's one of the earliest examples of Maverick growing up.

Top Gun: Maverick's goofy beach soccer scene proves Maverick is a shrewder teacher than he looks, as they bond his nervous students together, but his mentoring skills will be worthless if the character can't cede control to someone else in a crisis. By even jokingly suggesting that Iceman might be his equal as a pilot, Cruise's mavericks prove he's finally learned when to stop his notorious self. He's finally showing maturity.

Iceman & Maverick's Reunion Is Top Gun 2's Best Scene

Kilmer and Cruise's charisma brings their short film together, but the two have a lot of competition in this regard. Top Gun: Maverick's cast is full of fascinating newcomers, and the rivalry between Miles Teller's Rooster and Glen Powell's Hangman proves that the dynamics of Iceman and Maverick can be successfully recreated for a new generation. However, it's the nostalgic sight of seeing a pair of lifelong friends reunited that makes the Iceman-Maverick conversation the strongest single scene in Top Gun: Maverick. The brilliance that surrounds these two screen veterans in this moment is a testament to that.

In a film of life-and-death dogfights, mid-air chases, and intense action, a brief, quiet conversation between two friends who haven't seen each other in years makes "Top Gun: Maverick" really shine. While characterization played a big part in Top Gun's success, legendary action director Tony Scott's seminal film was driven by its mind-boggling action sequences. Top Gun: Maverick, by contrast, is a tribute to Kilmer and Cruise's virtuosity.

The power of director Joseph Kosinski's character-first approach is evident in the praise for the Top Gun: Maverick Iceman/Maverick reunion. It's hard in any project to make two characters happily talking into a compelling scene, but making this reunion the most compelling scene in a movie that's otherwise packed with intense action shows Korsin Ski's reverence for the source material. Iceman's lone Top Gun: Maverick scene is followed by the character's funeral, and as sad as the moment is, the crowning achievement of the Top Gun sequel is how well deserved the tragic scene is.

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