Maverick’ proves Hollywood can succeed without China

Since its Memorial Day weekend release, Tom Cruise’s “Top Gun: Maverick” has soared at the box office like an F-18 fighter jet. The film has reportedly grossed $300 million in North America and over $550 million worldwide so far, though it hasn’t been released in Russia or China. The financial success of the film shows that Hollywood can succeed without bowing to authoritarian regimes.

“Top Gun: Maverick” encountered controversy early in its production. Tencent Holding, a Chinese tech giant, has signed on to be one of the film’s backers. The 1986 film “Top Gun” was immensely popular in China in the early 1990s. Paramount executives reportedly hoped that with Tencent’s money and marketing involvement, the sequel would gross at least $80 million in China. box office in China, the largest film market in the world.

Driven by the pursuit of profit, Hollywood has a long history of capitulating to Chinese censors. For example, Marvel Studios changed a Tibetan character to Celtic in “Dr. Strange” (2016) to woo Chinese censors. Disney reportedly shared the live-action script of “Mulan” (2020) with Chinese authorities “to avoid controversy and secure a release in China.”

After Paramount released an early trailer for “Top Gun: Maverick” in the summer of 2019, people were quick to point out that the image of the Japanese and Taiwanese flags that decorated Maverick’s iconic jacket in the 1986 film had been replaced by indefinite symbols with similar colors in the sequel. .

Many saw the change as another example of Hollywood placating Chinese censors because China sees Japan as a strategic rival. On Taiwan, Beijing has long insisted that the self-governing island is a province of China and has intensified its pressure campaigns to force foreign governments and companies not to categorize Taiwan in their list of countries but only as a Chinese territory.

Paramount probably hoped that removing the Japanese and Taiwanese flags from the bomber jacket in “Top Gun: Maverick” would make Tencent happy and ensure Chinese authorities approve the film. But Tencent withdrew its financial support at the end of 2019, fearing that “Communist Party officials in Beijing were angry at the company’s affiliation with a film celebrating the US military”.

Meanwhile, Paramount’s capitulation to Beijing has faced backlash in the states. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, asked in a Tweeter, “What does it say to the world when Maverick is afraid of Chinese Communists?” He introduced legislation that would “prohibit the U.S. government from providing technical or other support to agencies on film projects if a studio anticipates a request or obtains one from the Chinese government to make changes to a film.”

A few months later, then-Attorney General William Barr criticized Hollywood for “regularly censoring its own films to appease the Chinese Communist Party, the world’s most powerful human rights violator” and giving the Party communist “a massive propaganda stunt”.

Pen America, an organization dedicated to defending free speech, released a damning report titled “Made in Hollywood, Censored by China.” He lambasted Hollywood for “making difficult and troubling trade-offs on free speech” and “placing investors and Chinese government gatekeepers has simply become a way of doing business.” One of the examples cited by Pen America was the flag swapping shown in the first trailer for “Top Gun: Maverick.”

This criticism and the withdrawal of Chinese money from Hollywood could have had the desired effect. Earlier this year, Sony/Marvel reportedly rejected a request from Chinese censors to remove the Statue of Liberty from the movie “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Chinese authorities pushed for a ban on the film’s release in China, but the film still became a smash hit. It grossed $1.9 billion worldwide, making it the sixth highest-grossing film of all time.

The financial success of “Spiderman” seems to have strengthened Hollywood’s backbone. I went to see “Top Gun: Maverick” last weekend. When Cruise put on his iconic bomber jacket, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Japanese and Taiwanese flags on his back. Chinese censors certainly don’t like it, but whatever. A film about US military prowess shouldn’t have to bend the knee to Beijing to begin with.

I found “Top Gun: Maverick” enjoyable for several reasons. The ageless cruise was more charming than ever – the aviator sunglasses, jacket, bike and smile were irresistible. The shirtless beach sports scenes paid homage to the 1986 film’s beach volleyball sequences. No one seemed to care about “toxic masculinity” seeing exposed abs and washboard muscles.

Of course, the dogfight sequences were jaw-dropping, and they were made for the big screen. You have to watch the film at the cinema to really appreciate it. After last year’s disastrous and humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan, Americans were hungry for even fictitious military success. Like the first film, “Top Gun: Maverick” is decidedly pro-American. It showcases our military at their best and is a huge morale booster. I hope “Top Gun: Maverick” makes military recruiting easier, as the 1986 film did.

I also love that “Top Gun: Maverick” is free from wokism and political correctness, which is all too common in today’s entertainment industry. Americans want to be entertained, not lectured by overly privileged people about all that is wrong with America.

The Top Gun pilots for the difficult mission were a racially diverse group, but they failed to achieve this by demanding affirmative action to compensate for historic oppressions. Instead, they had to prove they were the “best of the best” through rigorous training, competition, and relentless testing by their instructor, Maverick.

“Top Gun: Maverick” proved that as long as Hollywood focuses on telling a good story in the most entertaining way, it can be financially successful without giving in to China. Hopefully more studio executives will take this lesson to heart.

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Post expires at 3:19am on Wednesday June 22nd, 2022