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Jennifer Connelly On Why Now Is The Right Time For Top Gun: Maverick To Come Out - Exclusive

In case you were hiding out in a cave somewhere over Memorial Day, you probably read or heard that "Top Gun: Maverick," the highly-anticipated legacy sequel to the original, 36-year-old film "Top Gun," came out over the four-day holiday weekend and toppled box office records. The film not only yielded the biggest opening weekend of Tom Cruise's career, but its $160 million intake made it the biggest Memorial Day opening of all time.

The follow-up to the 1986 movie centers around the lives, loves, and trials of a group of pilots at the Navy's elite Fighter Weapons School and finds rogue airman Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (played by Cruise) still flying planes at high altitudes, high speeds, and with high risk, while evading promotion and retirement for more than three decades. Maverick returns to the school to train a new team of pilots — including the son of his late friend Nick "Goose" Bradshaw — for a mission so dangerous that he is the only one truly qualified to fly it.

With the actors actually taking to the skies in F/A-18 fighter jets specially outfitted with IMAX-certified cameras, "Top Gun: Maverick" leaves the aerial sequences of its predecessor — and most other movies about flying — still on the runway. The Joseph Kosinski-directed film is so realistic and immersive that it demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible.

With the movie business still struggling to find its feet after being ravaged by COVID, and "Top Gun: Maverick" itself sitting on the shelf for literally years after filming was completed, star Jennifer Connelly — who plays Maverick's love interest, Penny Benjamin — thinks the world is ready at last for the film. "I feel like this is a celebratory movie," she told Looper in an exclusive interview.

The world needs a little 'Top Gun' right now

"Top Gun: Maverick" was actually filmed in late 2018 and early 2019, with the movie originally slated for release in the summer of 2019 before being delayed to June 2020 to allow more time to work on the flying scenes. But the pandemic scuttled those plans, with the film's arrival eventually pushed to December 2020, then July 2021, then November of that year, and finally May 27, 2022, which thankfully stuck.

At the same time, movie theaters only slowly began reopening in a meaningful way in the summer of 2021, and even though more films began to come out in a traditional fashion for the rest of that year and into early 2022, only "Spider-Man: No Way Home" was arguably the kind of moviegoing event that everyone had to see and talk about immediately — until now.

"It's great," shared Jennifer Connelly about having "Top Gun: Maverick" finally see the light of day after all the delays. "I think it actually feels like such a great moment for it now. I know I'm so ready to be having a kind of collective experience again. ... It's a spectacle of a movie, but it has a lot of heart, and I think it really delivers."

"Top Gun: Maverick" certainly deserves to be seen on a big screen, and while it leans heavily on nostalgia over the first movie and has a script that follows one predictable narrative beat after another, it's the kind of film that — with its audience-friendly emotional moments and truly stunning aerial footage — movie theaters were made for. "If you want to go out and have an experience in a big theater with a group of people," added Connelly, "it's so deeply satisfying."

"Top Gun: Maverick" is in theaters now.