“Top Gun: Maverick” is earning applause not only for being better than its 1986 original, but for standing up to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) after it reinstated a Taiwan flag on the bomber jacket worn by Tom Cruise’s navy pilot character.
In the original “Top Gun” film, Cruise’s character, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, wears a bomber jacket with a navy patch showing Taiwanese and Japanese flag patches. However, both flags were replaced with emblems when the sequel released a trailer in 2019.
Since then, there has been speculation that the CCP may have influenced the decision to remove the flags, as the movie was partly produced by Tencent Pictures, the film-making arm of Chinese tech giant Tencent. The company is known for complying with Beijing’s censorship rules in China and extending its monitoring and censorship to U.S. users through its popular messaging app WeChat.
The flags have reappeared in the movie’s worldwide release. The film has been a huge success since its theatrical release by Paramount Pictures last week, grossing $156 million in the United States and earning $282 million worldwide through May 30.
In Taiwan, the “Top Gun” sequel has also been a hit, grossing over NT$81.5 million (about $2.8 million) in five days since May 25, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency. Some Taiwanese moviegoers have since taken to their Facebook to express excitement about seeing the Taiwan flag on Maverick’s jacket on the big screen.
The movie has not secured a release date in China, and the Chinese regime’s censors could likely block the film from reaching its movie theaters over the Taiwan flag. The CCP sees Taiwan as a part of its territory and rejects anything that might suggest the island’s de facto nation-state.
Chris Fenton, a long-time Hollywood executive and film producer, recently took to Twitter to say that the decision by the “Top Gun” sequel to put back the flags was an encouraging sign.
“Risk/reward calculus for #China’s market now murky,” he wrote. “Result: #Hollywood can #FreeSpeech & #FreedomOfCreativity again.”
In a separate tweet, Fenton declared that Hollywood is “fighting back,” pointing to the “Top Gun” sequel’s decision as well as Marvel’s decision to include “a newsrack belonging [to] The Epoch Times” in the “Doctor Strange 2” movie.
In “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” a yellow newspaper box sits in the background during a fight scene when Doctor Strange takes on a monster called Gargantos on the streets of New York City. The box has the Chinese characters 大紀元時報 for the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times.
Fenton previously told the publication that he believes the new “Doctor Strange” movie would face censorship in China. The Marvel movie also has not secured a release date in China.
“This recent development of The Epoch Times being seen as one of the major stars in the movie is definitely throwing a wrench in any sort of shot that they did have of getting into that market,” Fenton said.
The English- and Chinese-language websites of The Epoch Times—known for their uncensored coverage of current affairs in China—are censored in China.
Taiwan’s de facto embassy in the United States—the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office—was also excited to see the return of the Taiwanese flag.
“At last, somewhere along the line Hollywood did the right thing!” the office wrote on Twitter.
The fact that Beijing did not demand the flags to be removed could have been related to Tencent’s decision to sever ties with the movie. According to The Wall Street Journal, Tencent withdrew from the Paramount Pictures production due to concerns that Beijing might be angry about the tech giant’s affiliation with a film celebrating the U.S. military, citing unnamed sources.
Ian Easton, senior director at Virginia-based think tank Project 2049 Institute, wrote on Twitter that it was “great news” that “Top Gun 2” had cut ties with Beijing, citing the Journal’s report.
“After a brush with anti-American censorship, Top Gun 2 shed its ties to China’s government and won its soul back,” he wrote. “How many other American movies have sacrificed their values and principles at the [altar] of Chinese investment?”