Tom Cruise's' Top Gun: Maverick' Praised as 'Barrier-Breaking' in Glowing First Reviews

Top Gun: Maverick opens in theaters May 27

The first reviews for Top Gun: Maverick are in — and they're overwhelmingly positive.

Tom Cruise makes a triumphant return as Capt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in the long-awaited follow-up to 1986's Top Gun, and critics are praising his performance in the "barrier-breaking sequel," as Variety's Peter Debruge writes in his review.

But according to Debruge, Maverick doesn't rely on being "The Tom Cruise Show," and instead involves "perfectly coordinated teamwork among six pilots, recalling the group air battle that bonded Iceman (Val Kilmer) and Maverick in the original movie."

IGN's Matt Donato calls the movie "the Top Gun sequel purists will crave," praising it as "an out-of-bounds blast of afterburner fumes and thrill-seeker highs that's sure to please audiences looking for a classic summer blockbuster."

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Tom Cruise plays Capt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in Top Gun: Maverick
Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick (2022). Paramount Pictures

RELATED GALLERY: Top Gun: Maverick World Premiere Photos

"If Maverick can't quite match Mission: Impossible — Fallout for sheer kineticism and well-orchestrated awe, this long-delayed sequel does more to clarify what that means than anything Cruise has ever made," writes David Ehrlich for IndieWire, giving the film an A- grade. "And the reason for that is simple: Tom Cruise is Maverick, and Maverick is Tom Cruise."

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In Ross Bonaime's review for Collider, he gives Maverick an A grade and says the action flick "is the rare case where it absolutely deserves all the massive praise," and "improves upon the original in every conceivable way."

There is some criticism, though. As Peter Bradshaw opines for The Guardian, Maverick "is actually less progressive on gender issues than the original film, which did after all put a woman in charge: astrophysicist Charlotte Blackwood, played by Kelly McGillis, was the trainer (inspired by real-life Pentagon official Christine Fox). Now it's Maverick in charge and there is just the one female pilot under his instruction: Phoenix, a thin role for Monica Barbaro."

Things We're Looking Forward to in 2022 - TOP GUN: MAVERICK
Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick (2022). Scott Garfield/Paramount

"McGillis has evidently not been invited back and her character is never mentioned," Bradshaw adds. "The unmarried Maverick's love interest this time around is a nice woman who runs the local bar, an entirely thankless part for Jennifer Connelly."

RELATED VIDEO: Tom Cruise Arrives at World Premiere of Top Gun: Maverick in a Helicopter He Piloted

The new film finds Maverick three decades after his graduation from the TOPGUN Naval aviation program, when he is called back as an instructor for the elite fliers. Among his young charges is Lt. Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw, the son of his late best friend, Goose (Anthony Edwards in the first movie). Miles Teller, who plays Rooster, was among the actors cast as new class of pilots. Also joining were Glen Powell, Greg Tarzan Davis and Lewis Pullman.

Aside from the hands-on skills required for the film, Cruise, 59, still had more to share with his co-stars, when the training was over and the cameras turned off.

"There were times after we were wrapped for the day, we would spend an hour circled around him, listening to the stories that he's been through," Davis, 28, tells PEOPLE in a new all-Top Gun special edition.

Adds Pullman, 29, "Every one of the pilots has a story of him talking about what he thinks is great about them, what they can do with that quality. He teaches you, basically, how Tom Cruise became Tom Cruise."

Top Gun: Maverick flies into theaters May 27.

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