That times have changed is nothing new. If we stick to the cinematographic medium, the remodeled consumption habits as a result of the pandemic, in addition to leaning drastically towards streaming, have turned the fight for a piece of the pie at the box office traditional in a fierce struggle from which fewer and fewer titles manage to come out not alive, but with their heads held high.
If we look at recent data, for a feature film to break the billion-thousand-thousand box office has become an anomaly. Since ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ burst the international box office – currently it already amounts to 1,901 million dollars -, there has not been a single product of the great franchises that has become a “billionaire”, as Americans would say.
Without going any further, the long-awaited ‘The Batman’ is currently in the 770 million dollars, films like ‘Morbius’ have translated into tremendous hits unable to even reach 200 million —it has added 163, to be exact— and even the Marvel Universe has been left at the gates of 1,000 million with a ‘Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness’ who has landed on Disney + with 950 million of dollars harvested in rooms.
But, in this scenario, the amazing aerial combats of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ have broken with the dynamic, elevating the film of Joseph Kosinski as the great billionaire singularity of 2022. But, what factors have influenced so that the latest Tom Cruise has stopped the superhero wheel and has already deposited 1,024 million dollars in the coffers of Paramount? I will try to shed some light on it.
Consensus and expectations
Perhaps the first and, arguably, main differentiator that has managed to elevate ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ above its competitors has been, plain and simple, the tremendous expectations placed on a project that has been made to beg. And by this I don’t just mean its belated sequel nature fueled by 36 years of accumulated popular outcry.
In addition to its split with Tony Scott’s classic and the numerous attempts to greenlight production over the last few decades, we should note that the original release date of the feature film dates back to 2019. Since then, its release has been postponed countless times, increasing the desire for the respectable that ended up going to theaters en masse after its full reopening this 2022.
But as big studios and industry drift might suggest it, the keys to success aren’t limited to dance dates and inspired marketing teams. Product quality continues to be essential to make a difference —not necessarily to succeed, sadly—, and the case of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ leaves no room to question that we are facing a great achievement in cinematographic terms.
Careful characters, a perfectly measured use and understanding of nostalgia, a really exciting script and some spectacular, organic and avant-garde action sequences of the Mecca of cinema have ended up translating into what I am not afraid to describe as “the perfect blockbuster”. A cocktail of ingredients that have worked the miracle of making the public and the critics coincide with practically no discussion.
A simple glance at the percentages on RottenTomatoes—which are only meant as a guideline and should never be taken as mathematical—allows us to see an impenetrable 96% and 99% score in critics and public respectively. Two percentages that have little to do with the 16% and 71% of ‘Morbius’ or the 74% and 85% of ‘Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness’.
What practical effects has this consensus had? On the part of critics, generally divided, 96 positive reviews per 100 can be read by the potential public as a sign of confidence; which, probably, has ended up attracting undecided people to their main cinemas. As far as the respectable is concerned, that 99% points to a word of mouth effect more effective than any millionaire investment in advertising; and it is that few things inspire more confidence than a recommendation from an acquaintance who, in addition, is trustworthy.
The event factor
Closing the circle we run into what I consider another determining factor to understand the blockbuster of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’, and that is its status as “event film”. Since details about its production began to emerge, in which the practical was opted for as opposed to the digital, and in which the vast majority of shots are shot in real flight maneuvers carried out by the actors themselves, we all knew that we were before a title that had to be seen on the big screen.
Shot in large format to be screened in IMAX —which I can confirm offers a priceless experience—, nurtured with great stars like Tom Cruise and Miles Teller, with “real” dogfights… great claims that, ultimately, have been enriched by the distribution model of the film, which has opted for the cinematographic experience from the first moment drastically rejecting its streaming debut.
To date, it remains unknown when ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ will arrive in our homes, which encourages its immediate consumption in part due to the promises of a show that is not designed to be seen on a television and, in part, because of that damn FOMO what does it do to us fear being left out of a conversation to which we do not know very well when we will be able to join if we decide to wait for VOD.
As I say, there are many conjectures that we can make about what has made this bombshell have conquered the public -and their wallets- from half the world but I would risk saying that, at the last minute, what has made Maverick have flown higher that has never been genius and technical, formal and dramatic values of a milestone of modern action cinema.