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“Top Gun: Maverick” shows Hollywood’s bleak future

By Jon Sherfey

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV. 

Moviegoers over the past month flocked to see “Top Gun: Maverick.” It’s been praised as a breath of fresh air compared to the dominant Marvel movies and already has the highest initial gross for any non-comic book movie since 2019. Critics loved the film, and over half of the audience was over 35, a demographic slow to return to theaters after COVID.  But what about “Top Gun” is so different from the Marvel films many despise, and is this really a good trend for cinema? 

The film’s success shows the yearn for a non-superhero film, yet Marvel films and “Top Gun: Maverick” share a lot in common. They’re both big blockbusters, sure, but “Maverick” also says a lot about what audiences are looking for. What they’re looking for is nostalgia, and loads of it. 

While you don’t need to see the first film to enjoy the sequel, “Maverick” is a rebooted franchise with nods to the past film much like the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is similar to how Marvel films frequently reference other movies in the “Marvel Cinematic Universe.” 

Audiences already have a soft spot for the characters, so they’re transported back to childhood when they see them referenced again. These films increasingly rely heavily on fan service and references to past movies. This was seen most noticeably in the latest Marvel smash “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” where much of the film’s runtime was devoted to reminding audiences of films they saw when they were younger. 

While “Top Gun” is a nice change of pace from the usual blockbuster fare, it’s still disappointing we have to settle for yet another familiar franchise. “Top Gun” isn’t alone in this. When the biggest films coming out this year are “Jurassic World: Dominion,” “Avatar 2,” and the recently announced “Predator” prequel, “Prey,” the silver screen may be in trouble.   

Is Hollywood no longer capable of creating new ideas? While there are still big movies coming up like “ELVIS,” it doesn’t fill the same void of an action-packed romp. This is not to say “Top Gun” is a bad movie, but it is certainly not the answer to tired audiences. It’s great news that a non-superhero film can fill seats again, but it sends the wrong message to the type of films audiences want to see.  

Studios are taking notice of this. They’re making sure all the little piggies get their slop and will create fewer original films to do so. Just look at Netflix. They recently announced they would no longer spend money on “expensive vanity projects” like 2019’s award-winning “The Irishman.”

If Hollywood refuses to make new movies, there will be no choice but to settle for whichever reboot seems the timeliest. 

While films such as Scorsese’s “The Irishman” and Cuarón’s “Roma” were critically acclaimed and it sad to see them go, it’s true they don’t fill the same void as action movies like “Top Gun: Maverick” or “Avatar 2.” However, this does show overall changes studios are making. Their avoidance towards new ideas may be beneficial in the short term, but it’ll hurt the art and attendance in the long run. 

The reception to a “new” IP like “Top Gun: Maverick,” even though it is a sequel to an 80’s classic, shows the importance of new ideas in a world of similar superhero schlock. But there are only so many things to reboot and only a matter of time before the audience demands new ideas. When that time comes, will it be too late? 

The pandemic kept people inside, which was catastrophic to movie theaters. Over 600 theaters have shut down and not reopened since the pandemic. The theaters that are open play only the biggest franchises. In Times Square, AMC played “Dr. Strange: The Multiverse of Madness” 60 times in a single day

It is no wonder theater attendance is low. One can either stay at home and watch a near endless number of options or go to the theater and see only one movie. 

Amidst the mass closings of movie theaters, it’s understandable movie theaters wish to keep their doors open by playing the most popular and profitable movie at the time. But this lack of new and compelling options creates a new pandemic for movie theaters; one where they’ll eventually drive audiences out of the theater. 

“Top Gun: Maverick” was marked a big success by all. Studios made money, older fans came in droves to the theaters, and those tired of Marvel movies got a new type of blockbuster to enjoy. Unfortunately, “Maverick” is just another tired reboot and continues the trend of movie studios harkening back to past ideas.  

As movie theaters close left and right, it is important they make money. But if the only way they can make money is to give the people Marvel movie after Marvel movie or reboot after reboot, then it’s a sad future for films artistically and likely a sad future for theaters financially. 

Hopefully this interest in Marvel movies and reboots will last, if only for the sake of the movie theaters remaining open. If it doesn’t, however, Hollywood will need something fresh. If they can release both, American audiences of all ages will continue going to the movies, in healthier numbers than pre-pandemic. 

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Jon Sherfey

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