(CNN Business) — The movie “Top Gun: Maverick” has once again displayed Taiwan’s official flag following criticism, jeopardizing its release in mainland China.
The mega-blockbuster – which is by far Tom Cruise’s biggest commercial debut– now shows its main character sporting the flag on his iconic bomber jacket, even in the version shown in Taiwan.
Initially, the movie trailer in 2019 he had taken another direction. During the sneak peek, Cruise’s jacket patches, which originally bore flags representing Taiwan and Japan, appeared to have been swapped out and replaced with two ambiguous symbols in the same color scheme.
This omission angered some critics, leading to speculation that the change was made to appease Chinese censors and the film’s Chinese backer, Tencent. At the time, Tencent Pictures, a subsidiary of the Shenzhen-based tech giant, was an investor in the long-awaited sequel to the 1986 classic.
Now, however, the company has folded. The Wall Street Journal reported last week, citing unnamed sources, that Tencent had given up its role as the film’s financier at the end of 2019, amid geopolitical concerns between China and the United States.
The firm was concerned about falling out of favor with Beijing officials for promoting a film celebrating the US military as US-China relations worsened, according to the report. Tencent and Paramount Pictures, the studio behind the film, did not respond to a request for comment.
a sensitive topic
China and Taiwan have a complex relationship. Communist leaders in Beijing have long claimed Taiwan, a self-governed democratic island, as part of their territory, despite never having ruled over it.
As part of its campaign, the Chinese government has pressured multinational companies to refer to Taiwan as Chinese territory, in exchange for access to its lucrative market.
The campaign has been very successful, with companies such as United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Marriott, American Express and Goldman Sachs they have lined up. Hollywood movies have also been increasingly censored over the years as China grew in importance to the global box office.
Relations between China and Japan have also been strained for some time, with tensions over disputed islands in the East China Sea rising in recent years.
Now, the update on the movie is likely to anger some fans and officials in mainland China.
“Beijing is very likely to ban the release and monetization of ‘Top Gun’ in China,” said Chris Fenton, former president of DMG Entertainment and author of the book “Feeding the Dragon: Inside the Trillion-Dollar Dilemma Facing Hollywood, the NBA , and American Business”.
“There is also the possibility that the Chinese government will exclude the studio, filmmakers and actors from the market for a long period of time,” Fenton added. “We have witnessed similar punishments in the past.”
Since 2020, China’s strict “zero covid-19” restrictions have left many cinemas closed for long periods of time, including in Shanghai and Beijing. This is in stark contrast to how moviegoers elsewhere have flocked back to movie theaters around the world.
Currently, “Top Gun: Maverick” has not been released in mainland China, and does not have a set opening date.
However, Fenton noted that “that was a foregone conclusion anyway,” given the growing geopolitical tensions between the world’s two largest economies.
“A movie that strongly promotes Western ideals and US military hegemony probably never had a chance of getting approved,” he said.
He also noted that the Chinese film market has recently eschewed Hollywood movies in favor of other titles. In recent months, patriotic propaganda war films They have topped the national box office.
“That’s a likely calculation that led to the decision [de los productores de incluir la bandera de Taiwán]Fenton said. “The global goodwill generated by the reinstatement of the flags easily outweighs any potential income from China.”
The move delighted fans in Taiwan: Taiwanese social media users applauded the decision this week, with some calling it a “pleasant surprise.”
“Top Gun: Maverick,” in which Cruise reprises his role as US Navy fighter pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, has already broken box office records, grossing more than $300 million worldwideaccording to IMDB’s Box Office Mojo.
Paul Dergarabedian, Senior Media Analyst at Comscore, said the latest round of blockbusters, including “Top Gun” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” were able to enjoy “massive international success” at despite the limitations of “some countries”.
“Hollywood is beginning to realize that the aggravation of trying to pander to capricious and unpredictable Chinese censors is no longer worth the potential benefits,” Fenton said.
With information from CNN’s Beijing bureau and Jessie Yeung.