They’ve Already Messed with Tom Cruise’s Jacket in the New Top Gun Movie

By Matthew McMullan
Jul 22 2019 |
An F-14D Tomcat lifts from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) in the Mediterranean Sea in 2006. | Getty Images

It appears the details matter to China’s film censors.

A new Top Gun movie is coming out!

Word is it will be called Top Gun: Back in the Habit. No, that’s not right … it’ll be called Top Gun: The Quickening

No! Wrong! It will be called Top Gun: Maverick, in reference to the call sign of the first movie’s pilot protagonist, played by Tom Cruise. Cruise is like 100 years old now but whatever, he’s got decades of Hollywood money to keep him running at peak efficiency. And so Cruise is back for the sequel, the trailer for which he revealed at Comic-Con in San Diego last week.

Looks like Maverick is still flyin’, still has trouble with authority … and still the best:

Looks pretty good! Right? Yes, it does.

But! God created nerds to pick over movie trailers – particularly trailers for upcoming movies that are sequels to movies that are 30-year-old, beloved pop-culture touchstones … movies like Top Gun. Paramount Pictures put up the Top Gun: Maverick trailer on YouTube four days ago, and it has already been watched more than 19 million times.

And in their immediate frame-by-frame analysis of the trailer, the nerds found something: Maverick’s bomber jacket looks different. In the ’86 film, the jacket has a big patch referring to a tour of duty (a tour either completed by Maverick or his fighter pilot dad … I’m not sure, I’m not that much of a Top Gun fan) with four different flags on it: looks like you’ve got a U.S. flag, a United Nations flag, and then those of Japan and Taiwan.

In the sequel’s trailer, that big patch on the bomber jacket has changed: The Japanese and Taiwanese flags have been replaced with random symbols that carry their same color schemes. This would indicate that the filmmakers wanted it to look not too different, but different nonetheless.  

That’s weird! Why would they make such a specific change?

The answer is China, censorship and politics. The Hollywood Reporter writes:

“Of course, probably the biggest change to unfold in the global movie business since Top Gun was released in 1986 is the rise of China from a theatrical backwater to the world's second-largest film market. Thus, Twitter has lit up with speculation that Paramount Pictures tweaked Maverick's iconic jacket in reflexive pandering to Beijing.”

So, the speculation is: This little change was made to appease the Chinese government, which considers Taiwan a renegade Chinese province and has a tense relationship with Tokyo. The Chinese government commands entry to a huge market of movie-goers and regularly censors western movies before they’re released there; it has edited some (like scenes of Freddie Mercury being in fact gay in the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody) entirely blocked others (arguably the best movie of all time, Mad Max: Fury Road) and historically hasn’t responded well to theatric criticism (Brad Pitt was reportedly banned from China for nearly 20 years after starring in the Dalai Lama-friendly Seven Years in Tibet).


Yeah, man. Dang is right. So what can we make of this discovery?

Well, first things first: Good eye, nerds! Good job and good catch. Shout out to the nerds.

Second: It’s anyone’s guess what this edit means for the plot line in the sequel, but it’s a safe bet that the Chinese military will not be presented as an antagonist. Okay. 

And lastly: It shows that China has a significant amount of soft influence, and Chinese industries have a lot of money at their command. Top Gun: Maverick was financed in part by the film division of Tencent, an enormous Chinese internet firm. Was the bomber jacket patch swapped because Tencent is paying for the movie's production? Probably not. Did the producers want to make sure the movie didn't irk the Chinese government's film censors, and pre-emptively made the change?

Who knows! But money talks. It talks in Mandarin, just like it does in English.

Anyway, I will see this new movie. The sequel’s trailer doesn’t have any scenes of shirtless, ripped dudes playing volleyball, but it does suggest that there will be a scene of macho dudes playing football. Will Val Kilmer be in this one too? Kelly McGillis? A Tom Skerritt cameo? The reincarnation of Goose? We’ll find out next summer.