Whenever I discuss the subject, people always ask, “So does Hollywood get the message now? Is it going to make more patriotic movies?” Of course not.
American Sniper was a hit unlike the 100 anti-war movies that Hollywood churned out during the Bush era. Some of those movies lost a lot of money. But Hollywood didn’t stop making them until Bush was out of the White House. And even then some were still in the pipeline and arrived anyway even under Obama.
Will Top Gun: Maverick, which wasn’t American Sniper, just a flashback to normal moviemaking in the 80s, which only seems startling when contextualized with the relentless wokeness and barrage of comic book movies, become a new model?
Don’t count on it. Even though it just beat Black Panther, a dumb comic book movie embraced by black nationalists and white wokes in the racialist moment as some sort of affirmation of magical history and grievance.
Paramount/Skydance’s Top Gun: Maverick smoked Sony/Marvel’s Spider-Man: No Way Home for No. 1 with $7.9M. It’s as simple as that. Many yesterday were telling me that it was always destined for Top Gun 2 to win and were baffled that Sony called No. 1 for Spidey. By midday, we were hearing that Top Gun 2 was +60% for the day, while Spidey was down -60%.
Bravo for the highest grossing movie of 2022 and Tom Cruise’s top grossing title of all-time: Not only was Top Gun: Maverick the top grossing movie over Memorial Day weekend, but in summer’s finale here of Labor Day weekend. Overall, Top Gun: Maverick is now the 5th highest grossing movie ever at the domestic box office besting Disney/Marvel’s Black Panther ($700.4M). More wow: While maintaining a robust theatrical run, Top Gun: Maverick also made its home entertainment debut August 23rd and has already broken records as the No. 1 best-selling digital sell-through title ever in the U.S. its first week of release; and is among the 20 best-selling digital releases of all time after only one week.
“It’s without a doubt, that Top Gun: Maverick is a true cultural touchstone embodying the power of the cinematic experience,” said Brian Robbins, President and CEO of Paramount Pictures. “As we celebrate this enormous achievement and the film’s massive impact, we want to extend our gratitude to Tom Cruise, our filmmakers and cast, Paramount’s marketing and distribution teams, and the legions of both new and longtime Top Gun fans who keep turning out to enjoy this remarkable movie.”
What’s missing here is any acknowledgment that Top Gun: Maverick represents anything other than a validation of Tom Cruise’s stardom and the “legions of Top Gun fans”. (Are there really legions of Top Gun fans? Top Gun is a fun 80s movie. It’s not Star Wars or Marvel or Star Trek with their perpetual fandoms growing old and consuming franchise products.) Black Panther’s box office was treated as evidence of a larger cultural moment, but conservative cultural moments remain unspoken and unacknowledged.
Unless they’re being condemned.
Paramount will try to make another Top Gun movie happen. The sheer amount of money here makes that almost inevitable. One way or another. But it won’t recognize that there’s an audience statement here about what they want and what they don’t.
In an era of declining box office revenue, when the movie industry has been reduced to providing intellectual property content for subscription streaming platforms, embracing the traditional American audience might provide an exit strategy back to when Hollywood was a real power, not just a Netflix, Apple and Amazon subsidiary.
But that would require normal patriotism aimed at middle-of-the-road audiences. And Hollywood would rather die than pivot back to its golden age.