Asia Pacific

'Top Gun' sequel, co-produced by China's Tencent, drops Japanese and Taiwanese flags

by Jesse Johnson

Staff Writer

Eagle-eyed viewers have spotted a curious discrepancy in the first trailer for “Top Gun: Maverick,” the sequel to the beloved ’80s classic “Top Gun,” which Paramount debuted Thursday — the patches on the iconic leather jacket worn by star Tom Cruise no longer bear the Taiwanese and Japanese flags.

One possible reason for the difference could be that “Top Gun: Maverick” is being produced, in part, by Tencent Pictures, a Chinese film distributor and production company. Tencent has co-financed films like “Wonder Woman,” “Kong: Skull Island,” “Venom” and the upcoming “Terminator: Dark Fate.”

China and Japan have long had a tumultuous relationship, and though bilateral ties have improved in recent months, the two wartime enemies continue to have grievances over historical and territorial issues.

As for self-governed and democratic Taiwan, Beijing calls the island one of its “core interests” and views the island nation as a renegade province that must be brought back into the fold — by force if necessary.

Paramount Pictures and Tencent Pictures did not immediately respond to request for comment by The Japan Times.

China has become one of the biggest film markets in the world, with many analysts suggesting that it could overtake the U.S. to become the top film market as early as this year.

Beijing wields an ever-growing amount of influence over how it is depicted in movies Americans make and watch and has pushed for the portrayal in films and other media of a friendlier, less menacing image of China.

In 2010, after a script was leaked for a remake of the Cold War film “Red Dawn” featuring China instead of the Soviet Union as invaders of the continental U.S., Chinese state-run media railed against attempts to “demonize” Beijing. In the end, MGM spent some $1 million digitally erasing evidence of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, frame by frame, and substituting in North Koreans and Russians in their place.

This week’s discovery prompted some on social media to point to China’s ruling Communist Party — which would have final say over any projects Tencent invests in — as possibly intervening to remove the flags.

“There’s a new Top Gun movie coming out. And Maverick is wearing the same leather jacket — only this time it’s Communist Party of China-approved, so the Japanese and Taiwanese flag patches are gone,” Mark MacKinnon, a senior international correspondent for The Globe and Mail newspaper, wrote on Twitter.

Still, while some said the missing flags were the result of an attempt to placate China or a demand by Beijing, others speculated that the move was due to changes in the storyline.

The original patch is from Maverick’s father’s Vietnam tour, according to the original film. The new patch appears to say “85-86” with the words “Indian Ocean Cruise,” which was where the dogfights in the original “Top Gun” occurred.

Still, others chalked it up to simply a misunderstanding among the filmmakers.

“The patch assortment on flight suits and jackets in the Top Gun franchise has always been a running joke (among running jokes) for those in the #NavyAir business,” Ward Carroll a former pilot of F-14 Tomcats — the same aircraft flown by Cruise’s character, wrote on Twitter. “They are random in where they are placed and commands they represent. Seek no meaning because there is none.”