It's Time To Talk About That Iceman Scene In Top Gun: Maverick

Contains spoilers for "Top Gun: Maverick"

If you were expecting "Top Gun: Maverick" to indulge in the same iconic moments from the 1986 films by way of dogfights and volleyball games, you'd be wrong. The supersonic 2022 sequel breaks the mold by giving us dogfights and beach football this time around (see, don't you look silly?) while still honoring the legendary staple of '80s cinema that came before it. But besides the incredible aerial spectacles and Tom Cruise's diamond-cut grin being on constant display due to all the fun that he's having, "Maverick" spends time reuniting two icons in what might be the most heartwarming scene of the entire movie.

The on-screen pairing in question comes with Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Cruise) paying a visit to his rival-turned-friend, Tom "Iceman" Kazansky, seeing Val Kilmer as one of the few original cast members reprising his role. It's an appearance that Cruise himself pushed to include as being integral to the new "Top Gun" chapter. After being diagnosed with throat cancer in 2015 and going through both chemotherapy and two tracheotomies, Kilmer recently announced that he was cancer-free but lost his voice as a result. 

Nevertheless, Kilmer's appearance as Iceman is just as impactful, with the former foes having a heartfelt sit-down and leading to what is easily one of the most memorable scenes in the film. Ultimately, though, this heart-to-heart talk leads to what could be one of the poorest plot decisions in "Top Gun: Maverick."

A welcome hello leads to an unwanted goodbye in Top Gun: Maverick

Teased as soon as our hero returns to base in the new sequel, the former top-of-the-class candidate is informed that Iceman suggested Maverick train the new recruits and see if they've got the right stuff. To those who haven't gone over the cast list with a fine-tooth comb following the film's announcement, it'd be fair to assume that the appearance of Kilmer's gum-chewing alter-ego goes as far as a framed photo at the academy and not much else. Instead, the film takes an emotional and impactful step by having Maverick's former "wingman" sitting down in an office and telling the seasoned hotshot what's what.

It's a perfectly executed moment that could induce a minor tearing up, and deservedly so, given the history between Maverick and Iceman from the original "Top Gun" as well as Kilmer's well-documented health issues. Iceman talking through messages on a computer makes for an effective sequence thanks to Kilmer, who manages to steal the scene with a glance or a smile that fits perfectly. Not only is it a commendable effort from the former Top Gun, but it's a fitting addition for a character being the only one to make Cruise's legendary hero face his demons. However, that all gets undercut thanks to a creative choice that feels totally out of place and handles like a plot point that is clearly meant to leave a mark and fails.

Iceman didn't need to die in Top Gun: Maverick

While it's an understandable choice to include Kilmer's real-life limitations to match his character in "Top Gun: Maverick," the most questionable decision is having Iceman finally succumb to them for a moment that doesn't feel earned or necessary. When Mav turns up at the Iceman household, he's told by the now-Admiral's wife that his cancer has returned and that they've not told anybody as he doesn't have much longer. Shortly after and following tensions already rising back on the base, Maverick is told the news that his friend has sadly passed away.

It's an event that sends mixed messages, which never quite land safely for Maverick's character arc. Is his former comrade's passing supposed to finally alert him to the fact he's the last of a dying breed, or perhaps he should slow down and consider a future that he's flown right by for the past few years? Either way, it can be considered a poorly executed tug at the heartstrings that doesn't feel warranted. Additionally, this makes the possibility of seeing Kilmer standing amongst the other higher-ups following the completed mission a far more effective choice and more enjoyable to see — even if Iceman would have died off-screen, it would have been nice to see him live long enough to celebrate his friend's success.  

As far as faults go in this near-perfectly designed blockbuster, this is where the movie takes the biggest hit, but one that thankfully doesn't diminish one of the most unexpected and effective moments of two old war heroes talking like old friends.