Val Kilmer’s reprisal of Tom “Iceman” Kazansky is pivotal for Top Gun: Maverick, even if the character ends up dying in the film. After more than three decades, Tony Scott’s cult classic film, Top Gun is finally getting a follow-up. Directed by Joseph Kosinski, Top Gun: Maverick reunites fans with Tom Cruise’s Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who is now a Naval captain and instructor in the titular flying school.
While the upcoming Paramount production is a direct sequel to the 1986 blockbuster, very few actors are returning for it. Instead, Top Gun: Maverick is introducing a new generation of pilot trainees at the US Navy’s Fighter Weapons School in San Diego. That includes the son of Maverick’s former RIO, Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards), Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller). Other fresh-faced characters include Glen Powell’s Hangman, Lewis Pullman’s Bob, Monica Barbaro’s Phoenix, and Danny Ramirez’s Fanboy. Aside from Cruise, however, Kilmer is coming back to revisit his Top Gun role as Iceman.
Maverick’s return is mandatory since he’s the focal point of Top Gun: Maverick, but Kilmer’s role is less obvious. After all, rumor has it that Iceman will eventually just die in the sequel. But, even if that proves true, he may still be essential to the film. Firstly, Maverick needs to establish a strong connection to its predecessor. Part of the main character’s arc appears to be that he’s stuck in the past. He’s averse to change, hence why he’s not willing to stop flying, choosing to remain a Captain rather than advance in his career. Depending on how life treated Iceman, his story separate from his old flying partner could serve as a parallel, highlighting Maverick’s resistance to change. Meanwhile, Kazansky’s death could be a stark reminder that times are changing, especially if he’s the last remaining link to Maverick’s past.
Iceman can also factor in other aspects of Top Gun: Maverick. One theory suggests that he’s the biological father of Hangman. There’s barely anything known about Powell’s role in the movie; Paramount hasn’t even revealed his full name yet. Couple that with the fact that he bears a striking resemblance to Kazansky in the original Top Gun, the theory seems plausible. Assuming that this is the case, then Maverick will be teaching the sons of two of his former flying partners — the other one being Rooster. If Iceman dies, Mitchell would feel the urge to step in and be the father figure to both the younger Bradshaw and Kazansky. This would be a good way to explore this side of the character even though he doesn’t seem to have a biological child of his own. Maybe, this could even convince Maverick to give up his penchant to push the limits when it comes to flying as looking out for the young men could be his new sense of purpose.
It’s worth noting that trailers have yet to physically show Iceman, although it’s confirmed that Kilmer is back for the sequel. While Iceman’s return would definitely add to the nostalgia factor in Top Gun: Maverick, there’s also likely a clear narrative need for him based on what’s known about the movie’s arc. Considering his personal ties to Mitchell, not to mention his rumored relationship with Hangman, his involvement makes sense, even if that means that the blockbuster ultimately sees his death.