After a 34-year hiatus, Tom Cruise will be slipping back into the pilot’s seat in the upcoming “Top Gun: Maverick,” set for release in the summer 2020. Upon the movie trailer’s release last week, fans were largely pleased to see Cruise in top form returning to the character that made him a box office star in 1986. Take a look:
Though not much appears to have changed in the three decades since “Top Gun” became a cultural phenomenon, social media has been abuzz with one glaring difference between the upcoming sequel and the original: two distinct patches representing the Taiwanese flag and the Japanese flag on Maverick’s famous leather jacket have been replaced, presumably as an acquiescence to China.
“Over the weekend, obsessive fans began calling attention to a potentially significant difference between the classic leather jacket Cruise wears in the original film and the one he’s shown putting on in the new trailer,” reports The Hollywood Reporter. “Two patches on the back of the jacket that originally showed the Japanese and Taiwanese flags appear to have been replaced with unidentifiable symbols in the same color scheme.”
Some might dismiss the observation as paranoid conspiracy theorizing, but the evidence of China’s grip on Hollywood — to the point of American movie studios censoring creative content to make a few bucks off the backs of a totalitarian government — has been in evidence. In fact, the New York Times cited several instances in a detailed article on how movies have changed whole storylines and characters in order to appease China’s state media:
Hollywood’s embrace of China has not come without strings attached.
So when the creators of “Pixels” wanted to show aliens blasting a hole in the Great Wall of China, Sony executives worried that the scene might prevent the 2015 movie’s release in China, leaked studio emails show. They blew up the Taj Mahal instead.
But in the 2016 movie “Doctor Strange,” the Ancient One is Celtic, played by the white actress Tilda Swinton. Moviemakers decided to change the character’s ethnicity early in the process, reportedly to avoid offending the Chinese government.
As recently as two decades ago, major Hollywood movies were sharply critical of China. “Seven Years in Tibet,” which depicts Chinese soldiers brutalizing Tibetans, was one of the top 100 grossing movies of 1997. Also that year, Disney released Martin Scorsese’s “Kundun” — a sympathetic portrayal of the Dalai Lama’s early life in Mao-era China and his subsequent exile in India — despite objections from the Chinese authorities.
Beyond that, movie studios have gone to great lengths to appeal to Chinese audiences by presenting the country as a technologically advanced superpower, as in the cases of “The Martian,” “2012,” “Gravity,” and “Looper.” In fact, the web-show “Honest Trailers” lampooned this spectacularly in the mock-trailer for “Independence Day: Resurgence.”
Further adding to the suspicions about “Top Gun: Maverick” is the fact that Tencent Pictures, owned by the Chinese company Tencent, is “a co-financier of the new Top Gun movie,” according to THR. Skydance, which is co-producing the film with Paramount, is also partly owned by Tencent.