Top Gun: Maverick: Val Kilmer's Iceman Return in Sequel Explained

We're talking full spoilers for Top Gun: Maverick below, you're on the highway to the Spoiler Zone! After over three decades, a sequel to Top Gun is finally playing in theaters and the critical response to the film is nothing short of stellar. The Tom Cruise-lead sequel is on its way to a huge box office opening as fans of the film and the actor's big-screen-wizardry are eager to see the madman in action. Fans of first film will also certainly be eager to see how it ties into the original, including how Val Kilmer fits into the film. Let's break it down below.

When Top Gun: Maverick begins it's quickly revealed that Tom 'Iceman' Kazansky is now an Admiral in the United States Navy and is leader of the Pacific Fleet, he's also the reason that Tom Cruise's Captain Pete "Maverick" Mitchell is recruited to return to Top Gun and teach the crop of returning students. The film also makes it clear that the friendship between Maverick and Iceman has persisted of the years with Iceman consistently getting Maverick out of trouble every time he digs himself into a hole. At a certain point Maverick heads to Iceman's home to reunite with him, giving Cruise and Kilmer one scene to share with each other.

As fans may recall, Kilmer was actually diagnosed with and was successfully treated against a case of throat cancer a few years ago. As a result procedures performed on his trachea however the actor doesn't have much of a voice anymore and previously had to feed himself via a feeding tube. Kilmer's condition was written into the film, with Maverick being informed by Iceman's wife that his cancer returned. 

The pair share a scene where Maverick tries to weasel his way out of being the Top Gun instructor, and his reluctance to put Miles Teller's Lieutenant Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw (the son of "Goose" from the original Top Gun) in danger. Iceman mostly speaks through a computer in the scene, but ultimately convinces Pete to return to Top Gun and to prepare the recruits for the very dangerous mission at the heart of the film's plot. Tragically it's not long after this sequence that Iceman passes away off screen. Maverick attends the funeral along with the other Top Gun recruits as well.

"I really rallied hard for him to make the movie," Cruise previously told People about including Kilmer in the sequel. "The kind of talent that he has, and you see that scene, it's very special, it's just very special." 

"That was a huge, huge get — having Val come back to play Iceman," director Joseph Kosinski said  in an interview with Total Film. "To get to work with an actor of that caliber, to see the chemistry, the camaraderie between him and Tom, and to have those two characters reunite in this film, was a really special moment, and one of my favorite parts of the film."  

Top Gun: Maverick is now playing in theaters worldwide.