WARNING: This review contains spoilers from Paramount’s ‘Top Gun: Maverick.’

It’s been 36 years since Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (played by actor Tom Cruise) sped off into the sunset with Charlie Blackwood (played by Kelly McGillis) on the back of his motorcycle, leaving millions wanting more.

Finally, after what seemed like countless delays, we have it.

“Top Gun: Maverick,” released Tuesday, strikes a solid balance between new and nostalgia, revisiting similar conflicts, adding new characters, and tying up almost four decades of loose ends. And its finale is almost enough to make you believe in U.S. exceptionalism again.

In the post-war America in which we are currently living, a military mission with insurmountable odds that can only be accomplished with the help of a flawed and conflicted but ultimately honorable hero seems just what we all need.

The setting for this mission is never really revealed. It’s simply an unnamed hostile country with a dangerous Uranium-enrichment facility. The real enemy, for Maverick at least, is time.

A captain still after more than three decades of service, he never managed to lose the reckless streak that makes him, well, Maverick.

Like the tone of the entire movie, he is caught in the past — haunted by the death of Goose (Anthony Edwards), a relationship with unfinished business, a mushy bromance with his former nemesis, Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky (Val Kilmer), and a desire to make things right with Goose’s son Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller).

It’s funny, the lines are pithy, and there are dogfights galore. If you watch in surround sound, any scene involving an aircraft packs enough G-force noise to practically vibrate you out of your chair.

And while this sequel revisits almost all of the themes and storylines from the original movie, it makes some changes too.

To the chagrin of many, there is no follow-up to the positively thirsty beach volleyball scene. Instead, the Top Gun pilots in “Maverick” engage in an equally sweaty but much less erotic double-football romp in the sand. It’s fun, but it might not take your breath away-aaay-aaaay.

Is the movie corny? Certainly, but in the right way.

Throwback music, high-school-style romance, the absurdist cockiness of the pilots — it’s all very stereotypical in a way that brings joyful reminiscence about the 80s and does little to remind the viewer of things going on in the world today: a much-needed respite from reality.

Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digital Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.

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