Hollywood watchers are calling “Top Gun: Maverick” a rare American military film that connects with fans and critics without promoting woke politics.
The sequel to 1986’s “Top Gun” has an A+ Cinemascore rating, and a 99% audience score and a 97% critics rating at Rotten Tomatoes. According to Box Office Mojo, it has grossed $747 million worldwide through June 5, giving the film a rare confluence of box-office success, critical support and audience esteem.
“That hardly ever happens,” said Hunter Duesing, a film teacher and co-host of the “Midnight Movie Cowboys” podcast.
When President Lyndon Johnson gave John Wayne military assistance to make the 1968 film “The Green Berets,” audiences flocked to Wayne’s effort to glorify the “American fighting man.”
But critics slammed the film because it supported the Vietnam War.
The “Top Gun” films are a different story. In both the 1986 original and this year’s sequel, Navy fighter pilots face off against an unnamed enemy country.
SEE ALSO: Cruise control: Pentagon hoping ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ will boost recruiting like original did
Mr. Duesing, based in Texas, says the personalities of star Tom Cruise and producer Jerry Bruckheimer have a lot to do with that.
He noted that Mr. Bruckheimer, a well-known donor to Republican political candidates, is a specialist at turning out box office hits like “Black Hawk Down” and “Pearl Harbor” that depict the American military in a positive light without any political agenda from the left or right.
Hollywood forecasters are predicting that “Top Gun: Maverick” will be the first film to break $1 billion in box office receipts for Mr. Cruise, a longtime star who also headlines the long-running “Mission Impossible” franchise.
And it may do so without the benefit of a release in the world’s biggest movie market, as Maverick’s iconic jacket includes an image of the Taiwanese flag, preventing a release in China.
Christian Toto, the editor of HollywoodInToto.com, says “Top Gun: Maverick” also has unified audiences by avoiding any racism or sexism subplots in its choice to use more diverse actors than the original.
“The film offers a generic, pro-military message that doesn’t overstay its welcome. The cast is diverse, but the script doesn’t beat us over the head with that diversity,” said Mr. Toto, a former features writer for The Washington Times.
The author of “Virtue Bombs: How Hollywood Got Woke and Lost Its Soul” adds that it’s become “rare for both critics and audiences to throw their arms around a movie” in recent years.
“Tom Cruise cares deeply about his brand, and he’s unwilling to stain it by weighing in on the latest culture war fight,” Mr. Toto said.
In recent years, critics and fans have often been at odds over their film preferences.
Reviewers have savaged breakaway conservative hits like “God’s Not Dead” — a 2014 Christian film that earned $64.7 million on a $2 million budget — while praising more niche films that few moviegoers saw in theaters.
Sasha Stone, a Los Angeles-based film blogger who edits the website Awards Daily, says the media often elevates some films at the expense of what moviegoers enjoy seeing.
She says “Top Gun: Maverick” is a traditional Hollywood action movie that returns to an older formula of success.
“That means there is a central male hero who saves the day,” Ms. Stone said. “There wasn’t much for those on the left to attack. They leaned in just enough to deflect potential attacks and in so doing created a green light for people to simply enjoy a film.”