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Chinese investors pulled out of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ over pro-USA message: Report

Tom Cruise in the movie trailer for "Top Gun: Maverick." (Paramount Pictures/Released)
May 31, 2022

A Chinese investment firm that once financially backed the long-awaited sequel to the 1986 Tom Cruise classic “Top Gun” reportedly backed out of the movie’s production over its pro-U.S. message.

The Chinese tech firm Tencent Holdings originally signed on to provide $170 million to finance the production of “Top Gun: Maverick” in 2019, but the film hit theaters this weekend without any mention of the Chinese company’s support, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

According to people familiar with the matter, Tencent Holdings backed out of the movie production after concerns grew that the pro-U.S. sentiments of an action franchise centered around U.S. Navy fighter pilots would upset Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials. Those concerns have increased amid rising tensions between the U.S. and China in recent years.

Hollywood and China have seen increased cooperation on movie deals in recent years. While Hollywood moviemakers stand to gain by bringing their movies to the Chinese market, they also have to meet the approval of Chinese censors. The Wall Street Journal reported China has not approved “Top Gun: Maverick” to hit theaters in the country.

Tencent Holdings’ involvement in the movie production previously caught attention after flag patches of Taiwan and Japan, which were seen on Cruise’s bomber jacket in the original film, were removed in early trailers for the movie.

Though Taiwan governs itself as an independent nation, China considers it a part of its territory. The Taiwanese flag is seen in China, as a symbol of Taiwanese independence. The ommissions of the Taiwanese and Japanese flag patches caught the attention of some eagle-eyed fans and led many to speculate that the changes were made to appease Chinese censors.

Bloomberg reported the Taiwanese and Japanese flags were restored in the final version of “Top Gun: Maverick.” It is unclear what role Tencent Holdings’ involvement in the movie had in the exclusion of the Taiwanese and Japanese flags, or if its decision to back out of the movie had anything specifically to do with the return of the flag patches.

Ho Siu Bun, a film critic in Hong Kong, told VICE World News that the back and forth changes over the Taiwanese flag was “unprecedented.”

“Major film studios have never been shy about pandering to the Chinese market,” Ho said. “And even if it is a simple scene, editing is very costly. So no one knows why they changed it back.”

While it’s unclear if “Top Gun: Maverick” will hit Chinese theaters, the movie has already done well with U.S. audiences. The movie is expected to make $150 million from its opening weekend in the U.S. over the long Memorial Day weekend. The movie was number one at the U.S. box office, ahead of Marvel’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” “Downton Abbey: A New Era,” and “The Bad Guys.”