June 1, 2022

Top Gun

Top Gun: Maverick, the long-awaited sequel to the 1986 classic starring Tom Cruise, smashed Memorial Day records to take $156 million at the U.S. box office over the holiday weekend. It marked the 59-year-old superstar’s first ever $100 million opening weekend… The movie, which follows Cruise’s title character three decades after the events of Top Gun, has received rave reviews among critics and audiences.” Fortune

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From the Left

The left calls for transparency into changes to movie scripts made at the military’s request.

“In the original Iron Man script submitted to the Pentagon… Tony Stark was against the arms dealers, including his own father, complaining that ‘the technology I’m trying to save lives with is being twisted into some truly destructive weapons’. In the eventual film, Stark becomes an arms dealer to the US military…

“In the 2014 version of Godzilla, a Japanese character’s reference to his grandfather surviving Hiroshima was excised: ‘If this is an apology or questioning of the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that will be a showstopper for us,’ say the Pentagon’s notes. Instead, Godzilla, a monster inspired by US atomic bombing, is revived by a nuclear weapon and wades into battle alongside US military ships and jets.”

Steve Rose, The Guardian

“The Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency have exercised direct editorial control over more than 2,500 films and television shows… This includes a history of excising unsavory or controversial topics — or ‘showstoppers’ as they’re often called in the documents — including depictions of war crimes, torture, security of the nuclear arsenal, veteran suicide, sexual assault and racism in the ranks. At the same time, these institutions have used their clout to promote weapons, gin up recruiting and normalize U.S. military action around the world…

“[In 2018] the ‘Production Assistance Agreement’ formally stipulated the Pentagon’s right to ‘weave in key talking points’ in exchange for all that expensive equipment [in this film]. What exact changes did the Pentagon make to the new ‘Top Gun: Maverick’? We don’t know… The military has repeatedly invoked a ‘trade secrets’ exception to block our Freedom of Information Act requests when it comes to its most high-value assets. Americans should have a right to know the extent of the military’s influence on the shows and films they consume.”

Roger Stahl, Los Angeles Times

“[The original ‘Top Gun’ was] rife with eye-rolling sexism… the kind of movie where Maverick following a woman into the bathroom and suggesting they do it on the countertop is supposed to be seen as hot, not creepy…

What breaks ‘TGM’ out of its sexist history is its embrace of a different kind of masculinity. The film is an exploration of what it is to be incredibly good at one thing -- yes, he's still dangerous in the air! -- while quite vulnerable in other areas. One of the film's many high points is a short, emotional scene between Cruise and Kilmer as the now-ailing Admiral Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky; the onetime adversaries have forged a friendship in the intervening decades…

“At its core, of course, ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ still goes hard on the American exceptionalism, on the idea that being smug and difficult and breaking the rules is just part of patriotic heroism. It's bellicose in a way that is not un-problematic… But mostly, honestly, it's two hours of sheer, visceral fun on the big screen, which feels very retro. In the best possible way.”

Sara Stewart, CNN

From the Right

The right praises the film for returning to the ethos of the 1980s, and refusing to pander to the Chinese government.

The right praises the film for returning to the ethos of the 1980s, and refusing to pander to the Chinese government.

“As formulaic (and yes, even cheesy) as both films are, there’s a wholesome feel-goodness to them both. It’s hard to capture it adequately with words here – it’s not love of country (that’s implicit here but just faintly so), it’s not pride in our military and technology (explicit without being ham-fisted); it’s the sense that we are capable of greatness, of doing the right thing, of sacrifice, of heroism, of selflessness, and of love…

There are no politics in this movie. There is no preaching. It’s just good guys (and gals) doing a good thing for good reason – and we, the audience, are given permission to cheer that unabashedly. It is 2022 but it was also 1986. And for even just a little while, the cynicism and heartache we’ve experienced collectively in the intervening years receded. It made me feel like a kid again – in the best of ways. And it choked me up to realize how much I’ve missed that – how much we all have.”

Susie Moore, RedState

“The return of Harrison Ford in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ was simply sentimental. It feels like something deeper is going on here. It’s not just the truly phenomenal action sequences we’re cheering; it’s the culture that gave rise to them. In this disheartening new world in which military generals parrot the virtues of diversity and inclusion instead of merit and readiness, and every sequel comes with a PR campaign about the rainbow-flag-representing characters that have been added, the old-school style of the new Top Gun class is an invigorating shock…

“Like James Bond who has gone on long after the sun finally set on the British Empire, ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is nostalgia for Reagan’s America writ large across our collective imagination. The movie itself may not realize how much it speaks to a longing for more confident days, but the fact that it is being so warmly embraced suggests they may still be possible.”

Megan Basham, Daily Wire

“[The film’s] success shows once again that Hollywood does not need to pander shamelessly to China to make money. The film opened to a $124 million domestic gross and a $248 million international gross. And it accomplished that despite not being released in the world's most populous nation, China. China’s Tencent Pictures initially invested in the film, which may explain a trailer in which Taiwanese and Japanese flags had been altered on the jacket worn in the original film by Cruise’s character. But Tencent ended up pulling out of the project, and the Japanese and Taiwanese flags were restored…

“China’s undue influence over American culture, from Hollywood to sports to legacy media, is something that must be undone. If Hollywood can finally recognize that the Chinese market is not the end-all, be-all and that films can succeed without bowing to Chinese censors, it will go a long way toward releasing the CCP’s grip on American entertainment. It’s a welcome, if overdue, development.”

Zachary Faria, Washington Examiner

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