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Official documents prove “Top Gun: Maverick” is military propaganda

by Alan Macleod
Part 2 - A mountain of military hardware
In over 100 pages of contracts, the military agreed to allow Paramount access to a mountain of their most expensive hardware in exchange for what amounts to significant editorial control over the content and tone of the movie – an arrangement that is remarkably common in today’s environment.

“Top Gun: Maverick” was filmed at a number of military locations across the United States. This included air bases filled with the latest fighter jets and aboard two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the USS Abraham Lincoln. The production company was also allowed to borrow an F-14 Tomcat jet and to use a number of helicopters. The F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, however, is the star of the show, with actors playing pilots being put through an extensive and rigorous training program, and the production company was given permission to attach cameras all over the inside and outside of the aircraft.

In addition, the Navy agreed to “[s]upport flying scenes with Naval aircraft and Naval aviators” and “[a]llow active-duty personnel in a duty status to appear in the film.” This included pilots, ground crew and sailors aboard Navy ships. Sweetening the deal, the Navy’s Blue Angel flight demonstration squad was instructed to perform a flyover for the production company.

Paramount was also given permission to purchase military uniforms. However, the Department of Defense effectively held a veto over any actor who appeared in the movie. As the agreement states,

                    The Production Company will cast actors, extras, doubles. and stunt personnel portraying Service members who conform to individual Military Service regulations governing age, height and weight, uniform, grooming, appearance, and conduct standards. DoD reserves the right to suspend support in the event that disagreement regarding the military aspects of these portrayals cannot be resolved in negotiation between the Production Company and DoD within the 72-hour cure period. The DoD Project Officer will provide written guidance specific to each Military Service being portrayed.

This is not a mere technicality. The DoD is intensely protective of its image in the media, going so far as to threaten to completely shut down the movie “12 Strong” (2018) merely because the production company intended to portray some U.S. soldiers with beards and/or tattoos.

This is far from the most onerous condition attached to the agreement, however. Clause 8 of the document, for instance, notes that the DoD approved a draft script of “Top Gun: Maverick” and that henceforth:

                    The Production Company must obtain, in advance, DoD concurrence for any subsequent substantial changes proposed to the military depictions made to either the Picture or the sound portions of the production before it is exhibited to the public.

Not only that, but Paramount must “involve the DoD Project Officer in these changes, including those that may be made during post-production.

As a final check, clause 19 stipulates that the production company must provide to the military a final cut of the movie and allow the DoD to “confirm that the tone of the military sequences substantially conforms to the agreed script” and “[s]hould the Department of Defense determine that material in the production compromises any of the preceding concerns, the Department of Defense will alert the Production Company of the material, and the Production Company will remove the material from the production.” In other words, the Department of Defense is both co-writer and co-producer of the movie.

Should Paramount break this agreement, the terms were clear. The contract states that the military will permanently revoke the use of any images including its personnel or equipment, rendering the movie dead on arrival. Furthermore, the DoD notes that “Requests for future support…may also be denied.” To put it bluntly, anyone not producing a movie where every shot from every scene is not as the military wants it is blacklisted.

Despite effectively co-writing and co-producing the movie, the contract also demands that the extent of the military’s involvement must be downplayed. Clause 21a states that the military will be mentioned merely with the phrase “Special Thanks to the United States Department of Defense” in the end credits. No doubt the Pentagon is aware that the propaganda value of “Top Gun: Maverick” would be greatly diminished if moviegoers realized that this was an hours-long propaganda film produced by the military itself.

“Special Thanks” is a common phrase the DoD uses to hide its true role in Hollywood. Phil Strub, the Pentagon’s Hollywood liaison between 1988 and 2018, was possibly the most influential man in the entertainment industry. From the “Iron Man,, “James Bond,” “Jurassic Park” and “Transformers” franchises, to smash hits like “Apollo 13,” “Godzilla,” “Black Hawk Down” and “I Am Legend,” Strub’s resume is positively Spielbergian. Yet he is rarely credited with anything else but “special thanks,” despite the fact that documents show he wrote and rewrote movie scripts to suit the Pentagon’s agenda.


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