In show business, as in life, timing is everything.
And if the $160 million record-breaking haul of “Top Gun: Maverick” over Memorial Day weekend is any indication, Paramount Pictures and star Tom Cruise couldn’t have timed their release any better.
What makes that feat even more amazing is that the film was originally slated for 2020 but got shelved for two years—another seeming victim of COVID lockdowns. But instead of dampening its appeal, the wait has only seemed to whet audience appetites for a fun, fast-paced, and unabashedly American piece of entertainment the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time.
How did that happen?
Simple: Cruise knew what his audience wanted and he gave it to them. As a result, “Top Gun: Maverick” gives us a diverse cast without calling attention to that diversity. Instead, the film presents a roster of characters who are all united in their desire to carry out a dangerous mission—and find out who among them is the best of the best.
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That fierce competition forms the backbone of the story, much as in the original film. The new generation of Naval aviators exude all of the swagger, confidence and ego that Maverick (Cruise) and Iceman (Val Kilmer) did back in the day.
That’s also what sets the new “Top Gun” apart from the culture of today, in which participation trophies are the norm and nobody keeps track of the score. It’s as if this film has set astride the country like a colossus and announced, “Stuff all that! America is the greatest, and we’re not afraid to say it!”
It’s hard to believe it now, but there was a time when movies wielded that sort of ethos, and did it proudly.
Back in the 1980s, particularly, Hollywood gave us the likes of the original “Top Gun,” “Iron Eagle,” “Navy SEALs,” the “Rambo” franchise and “Red Dawn“—stories that reflected a cultural confidence borne of the idea that America was a force for good in the world.
So could the runaway success of “Top Gun: Maverick” signal that the culture is embracing a return to those values—and turning away from the woke, America-last sensibilities that have made Hollywood a factory for leftist agitprop?
There are indications that is exactly what’s happening.
In all likelihood, Democrats are facing a wipeout in the midterm elections this November. Joe Biden has an approval rating lower than any president in modern history. People are tired of being shamed by social justice warriors who have proclaimed America an evil, racist place.
They hunger for pride, accomplishment and the belief that anything is possible—because we’re Americans, dammit!
And here comes “Top Gun: Maverick” just in time to ride that wave.
Apparently some people are worried that TOP GUN: MAVERICK is propaganda. This is silly: of course it’s propaganda! The best kind of propaganda. American propaganda! https://t.co/lBT7VDMvg8
— Sonny Bunch (@SonnyBunch) June 1, 2022
Cultural shifts often swing hard in the opposite direction after a period during which the dominant social mores have been discredited. We saw it after the malaise of the Carter presidency, which resulted in the election of Ronald Reagan and the resurgence of patriotism, national confidence and the elevation of personal success as a noble goal.
After years of elevating victimhood and grievance, the love audiences and critics have shown for “Top Gun: Maverick” indicates we’re poised for a hard swing to the right.
It can’t come soon enough.
Marc D. Giller is the author of the novels HAMMERJACK and PRODIGAL (Bantam Spectra) and a contributor to the STAR TREK anthology SEVEN DEADLY SINS (Simon & Schuster). His current thriller CANDIDATE Z is available from Amazon.