LOS ANGELES • It took Hollywood star Tom Cruise (right) 36 years to head back to the danger zone, and movie critics said on Thursday it was worth the wait to see Top Gun back on the big screen.
The sequel to the 1986 blockbuster, called Top Gun: Maverick, earned a 96 per cent positive rating from 76 reviews collected on the Rotten Tomatoes website.
In the movie, Cruise, 59, reprises his role as Pete Mitchell, the cocky Navy pilot who has never risen through the ranks because of his penchant for bucking authority.
Mitchell, whose code name is Maverick, is asked to train a group of young fighter pilots for a specialised mission.
Mr Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press called the new film "a textbook example of how to make a sequel".
"The movie satisfies with one foot in the past by hitting all the touchstones of the first film and yet stands on its own," he said.
Box-office analysts project the movie will rank as one of the biggest box-office hits of the summer.
It had been scheduled for release in June 2020, but distributor Paramount Pictures delayed the release multiple times during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice Pro, estimated that ticket sales would hit US$100 million (S$139.4 million) over the Memorial Day weekend at the end of the month in the United States and Canada.
That would make it the highest-grossing debut of Cruise's career.
The actor is promoting the movie at events around the world.
At a premiere in San Diego, he made a grand entrance by piloting a helicopter onto an aircraft carrier.
Next week, he will attend a screening at the Cannes Film Festival in France.
Critics said the movie offers thrilling flight scenes, an emotional story and strong performances by the supporting cast, including actor Miles Teller, who plays the son of Goose, Maverick's partner who died in the original film.
But most of the praise was showered on Cruise.
"It's a fresh-faced gloss on the original... powered, like the original, by a star who'll simply never stop being a star," wrote Mr K. Austin Collins of Rolling Stone magazine.
Ms Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly said the movie "belongs in almost every scene to Cruise".
"At this point in his career, he's not really playing characters so much as variations on a theme - the theme being, perhaps, The Last Movie Star," she said.
•Top Gun: Maverick opens in Singapore cinemas on May 26.