Tom Cruise is one of the biggest box-office stars of all times. And in a career that has spanned the decades he is once again wearing the crown.
Film-goers may remember Cruise for his initial breakout vehicle, the 1983 classic “Risky Business.”
Other hits would soon follow for the actor-producer; notably, the “Mission: Impossible” franchise series, which kicked off in 1996 and played out over six installments.
This is where Cruise really established his credentials as an action star. He reportedly performed many of his own stunts, a rare feat in a business that in many cases computer-generated action scenes have supplanted authentic ones.
He is presently sitting atop the box office, courtesy of his latest blockbuster “Top Gun: Maverick.” The movie is the long-awaited sequel to his 1986 hit film “Top Gun.” Its Memorial Day weekend box-office tally rang in at over $150 million, making it the biggest debut of his career.
It’s been a long road for the movie’s 2022 release. Paramount Pictures first announced the idea in 2010 and secured from the original film the indispensable services of Cruise and Val Kilmer to reprise their roles.
Tony Scott, the first “Top Gun” director, was tapped to direct the sequel. Sadly, Scott passed away and pre-production was consequently halted. Years later Joseph Kosinski was brought in to handle the direction, and work on the project resumed. In a moving tribute, “Top Gun: Maverick” is dedicated to Scott’s memory.
Release of the sequel to “Top Gun” had been scheduled for July of 2019, but it was delayed until 2020 to allow additional time for some of the more complex action sequences to be filmed.
Paramount rescheduled the release to June 2020. But due to the onset of the pandemic, a new date of December was set. Then it was bumped to July 2021, and then to November as the studio and film industry attempted to cope with the unexpected prolonging of pandemic-related restrictions.
Writers painstakingly developed the characters with deference to the stars’ younger “Top Gun” selves.
In the case of Cruise’s character, Maverick’s romantic interest is portrayed by Jennifer Connelly. Her character’s name, Penny Benjamin, was brought up in dialogue in the original movie by Maverick’s Radar Intercept Officer and best friend Nick “Goose” Bradshaw. The dialogue revealed Penny to be the “admiral’s daughter,” a family relationship that was inserted into the new sequel’s plot.
Maverick has a new assignment in the sequel, i.e., to train a group of young pilots for the Navy’s Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program, aka “Top Gun.” The crew of young aviators includes the son of Maverick’s now-deceased best friend, Goose.
In part because the new movie is a sequel to a film released over three decades ago, it includes themes that a whole lot of people have been hungering for. It is unapologetically pro-America, pro-military, and pro-manhood.
Social media posts tell the story of spontaneous hoots and hollers from gleeful movie attendees being emitted at cineplexes around the globe.
In Taiwan specifically, according to the Central News Agency of Taiwan, audiences who were present at the premiere of the film broke into applause and cheered at the sight of their national flag being displayed onscreen in the movie.
The Taiwanese and Japanese flags had reportedly been removed from a 2019 trailer because of China’s political demands.
“It is unprecedented,” Ho Siu Bun, a film critic in Hong Kong, told VICE.com. “Major film studios have never been shy about pandering to the Chinese market. And even if it is a simple scene, editing is very costly. So no one knows why they changed it back.”
China’s Tencent Pictures had been designated as an investor and marketing partner of the film. However, the Chinese company backed out of the business arrangement.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Tencent pulled out due to concerns that Chinese leaders might be miffed over the pro-military content of the film. It is presumed that Chinese officials would not pleased with the scene restoration of the Taiwanese and Japanese flags. So far “Top Gun: Maverick” has not been given a release date in China.
Cruise’s film, and the success it has experienced so far, brings up an important cultural issue that has seemingly received very little attention, but is deserving of public discourse.
Once upon a time Americans had a common bond in the television that they watched and the movies that they viewed. Hasn’t been that way for a while now.
But there really are palpable things that serve to bind any society together as a culture. One of these things is having a common body of literature, or in modern-day terms, a common body of entertainment fare. Something that everyone is tuned into at a given time.
These media components have the capacity to serve as a kind of glue that secures people together in a life experience. It also can translate into a unifying cultural dynamic.
One other film-related note deserves commentary.
“Top Gun: Maverick” is one of the first slices of entertainment media in quite a while that is not just entertaining. It is a nod to visceral manhood, which over time has been relegated to the cutting room floor.