IT’S a rare sequel that bests the original but, out this week, there’s a new member of the club.

The Godfather II, Aliens, Paddington 2 and now…Top Gun: Maverick. Now, who saw that coming?

Unlike the aforementioned classics, it would be fair to say that Top Gun didn’t exactly set a high bar for Maverick to leap frog.

While the aeronautics were exceptional and Oscar winning soundtrack memorable, all on Terra firma seems terribly adolescent looking back.

Some 36 years later, Maverick brings Top Gun to a level approaching maturity.

There remain flaws to this end, and yet, this is a follow up to set the heart racing.

Not only are the flights more dizzyingly exciting than before but the story itself boasts a far pulpier energy.

Tom Cruise, once again, leads the film as Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell.

Prowess has not translated to professional advancement for Mitchell over the years. By choice, you understand, rather than lack of opportunity.

When a fresh legion of Top Gun graduates need mentoring, however, it turns out that he’s the only man for the job.

So Val Kilmer’s Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky has it anyway.

There is, of course, a twist. Among the bright young things is Miles Teller’s Lieutenant Bradley ‘Rooster’ Bradshaw.

He’s the son of Mitchell’s former friend and late RIO Goose. Naturally, they clash. As the sparks fly, the clock ticks.

Maverick’s Top Guns have been assigned the task of destroying a burgeoning uranium facility, hidden deep inside a mountainous and highly protected canyon. Differences must be set aside if the mission is to met.

While Cruise and Kilmer return, former co-stars Kelly McGillis and Meg Ryan find themselves - in a sad indictment of the status quo - replaced by younger models. Namely, Jennifer Connelly and Monica Barbaro. More than a pity. There are new roles too for Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Ed Harris and Glen Powell.

The film is directed by Tron: Legacy’s Joseph Kosinski and boasts Mission Impossible alumni Christopher McQuarrie and David Ellison among its producers. Cruise too serves thus. Of course he does. Maverick is nothing if not a star vehicle for Hollywood’s number one action junkie.

Cruise might well be tickling 60, but he shows no sign of letting up.

If anything, his charisma and star quality has only multiplied in the three decades since he first hit the skies.