Why Top Gun 2 Made $1 Billion In 2022 (When Marvel & DC Couldn’t)

Top Gun: Maverick has recently crossed the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office, becoming the first film of 2022 to do so and beating both Marvel and DC in that respect. The film is the long-awaited sequel to 1986’s Top Gun and sees Tom Cruise return to the cockpit as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. With no other film crossing this milestone so far in 2022, it is worth exploring how it managed to achieve such a feat.

As mentioned, neither Marvel nor DC have managed to have a film cross this milestone as of yet in 2022. Spider-Man: No Way Home is the most recent superhero movie to cross $1 billion worldwide, largely due to Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, though that film was released in December 2021. In 2022 thus far, Marvel Studios have released Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness which came close to $1 billion yet has failed to cross the threshold thus far. Meanwhile, Sony released Morbius, another property based on a Marvel character, which bombed at the box office following two separate releases.

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Related: Will Any 2022 Movie Make A Billion Dollars? Which Are The Contenders

DC also released The Batman so far in 2022, another film that failed to reach Maverick’s milestone. Given how superhero movies, be it from Marvel or DC, have often reigned supreme in the end-of-year totals for the worldwide box office in the last two decades, it comes as a surprise that Top Gun: Maverick, Tom Cruise’s first billion-dollar movie, is currently holding off two of the main tentpole films from the superhero cinema behemoths. However, the reasons as to why this is the case make sense, with a lot of different factors being in Top Gun: Maverick’s favor, and others going against Marvel’s and DC’s releases in 2022 thus far.


How Top Gun: Maverick Made Over $1 Billion At The Box Office


Tom Cruise as Maverick in Top Gun 2 giving a thumbs up while inside a fighter jet cockpit

There are a lot of reasons that can be factored into why Top Gun: Maverick has made over $1 billion at the box office. The first of these reasons, surprisingly, could be the many delays the film has faced since the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, Top Gun: Maverick was scheduled for release in 2019, but was pushed back to 2020 following the need to reshoot several action scenes. After the pandemic hit, Top Gun: Maverick was then delayed a further four times before settling on May 2022. Due to this, hype slowly built up around the film, with Cruise adding to that by refusing to let the film be moved to streaming platforms, arguing it deserved to be seen on the big screen. This hype, combined with 2022 being the first true year in which cinemas opened completely worldwide after the pandemic, likely contributed to many seeing the film in theaters and adding to the box office.


Top Gun: Maverick also performed so well at the box office thanks to its glowing critical reviews and fantastic word-of-mouth. Upon the film’s release, the vast majority of critics gave the film a highly positive review, with plenty of critics stating the sequel’s superiority over its predecessor. Since then, Top Gun: Maverick’s Rotten Tomatoes score has a 96% critic rating with a total of 423 reviews, revealing only 15 were negative reviews. This outstanding critical reception meant that word-of-mouth from the film reached many moviegoers across the world, who felt the same. It’s a notion reinforced by the 99% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. The film receiving massively positive reviews likely led to many who weren’t interested in seeing the film changing their mind, on top of the many fans of the original film.


Top Gun: Maverick is still yet to receive a streaming service release date at the time of writing. Since the pandemic, many studios have opted to give their movies a limited theatrical run before releasing the films on streaming services. With Top Gun: Maverick, this isn’t the case, largely due to Tom Cruise himself pushing for the film to be seen in theaters. This means that regular audiences haven’t had the option to simply wait a month or so to see the film from home, and have had to spend money in theaters to watch it.

Related: It’s Not Just Top Gun 2, Paramount Is Winning The 2022 Box Office


All of this, combined with Top Gun: Maverick simply being an exceptionally well-made yet easily consumable action film, are the reasons why it has performed so well. Crossing $1 billion at the box office is no small feat, and Top Gun: Maverick achieved it with relative ease. It is worth exploring, on the other hand, why both Marvel and DC have failed to do so in 2022 up to this point.

Why Doctor Strange 2 Couldn’t Break The $1 Billion Barrier


Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange 2 Multiverse of Madness

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was released in May 2022, a few weeks before Top Gun: Maverick. Doctor Strange 2’s box office gross sits at just over $950 million, meaning it fell just shy of the $1 billion milestone. As $1 billion is such a huge amount, it might seem to be an overreaction to say Doctor Strange 2 should have crossed it. However, given the massive pull of the MCU and the huge box office receipts of most superhero movies in recent years, it wasn’t that unreasonable to expect that Doctor Strange 2 would break the $1 billion barrier, with a few reasons contributing to why it didn’t.


Part of the issue could be the sheer size of the MCU of late. Since the beginning of 2021, there have been 11 total MCU properties released across theaters and Disney+. To put this into context, Phase 3 of the MCU featured 11 projects in total, dating back to 2016 with Captain America: Civil War. Marvel Studios going from 11 projects in five years to 11 in 18 months is a considerable increase. With Marvel releasing more projects than ever, there is a greater reliance on outside projects informing others. For example, the events of WandaVision and Spider-Man: No Way Home factor into the events of Doctor Strange 2, meaning audiences needed to watch other Marvel TV shows and movies to fully understand it. Given the sheer volume of releases since WandaVision and the beginning of Phase 4, it is entirely possible many regular audience members who aren’t die-hard MCU fans have failed to keep up and didn’t see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness as a result.

With Sam Raimi at the helm, Doctor Strange 2 was also arguably darker in many ways than previous MCU movies as Marvel Studios’ first legitimate theatrical foray into the more supernatural and spooky parts of its universe. Horror was threaded throughout the movie, from Scarlet Witch’s freaky emergence from a gong to Zombie Doctor Strange to the souls of the damned. There were also more than a few legitimate jump scares and scary moments. Even the scene that included most of Doctor Strange 2‘s many cameos turned into one of horror thanks to the Scarlet Witch. It’s entirely possible, even likely, that, unlike their flocking to previous Marvel movies, parents opted out of bringing their kids to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.


Related: Why Doctor Strange 2’s Box Office Is So Huge Despite Mixed Reviews

One other reason as to why the film didn’t cross $1 billion is something that conversely worked in Top Gun: Maverick’s favor. Since the release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Marvel Studios has opted for the strategy of announcing a release date for their feature films on Disney+ due to the after-effects of the COVID pandemic (except for Spider-Man: No Way Home due to that being a Sony property). Since the release of Black Widow in July 2021, which premiered in theaters and on Disney+ simultaneously, every MCU theatrical release has begun streaming on Disney+ around a month and a half after their theatrical releases, including Shang-ChiEternals, and Doctor Strange 2. Potential moviegoers who don’t yet feel comfortable going back to theaters simply waited to see the movie at home. Granted, $950 million is nothing to scoff at – it’s a legitimate success, by any metric – but the potential for $1 billion was certainly there, and it missed.


Why The Batman Couldn’t Break The $1 Billion Barrier


Robert Pattinson in The Batman

The Batman was released in March 2022 and was the first major tentpole superhero film of the year. The Batman has a worldwide gross of around $770 million, with both Doctor Strange 2 and Top Gun: Maverick outperforming it. The multiple reasons for it not cracking the $1 billion mark at the box office are similar to Doctor Strange 2’s.

The first, and arguably biggest reason, why The Batman didn’t make $1 billion can potentially be attributed directly to the overuse of the character of Batman. Batman has appeared in the greatest number of comic book movies, having appeared in 14 different theatrically released movies, and this is without counting his many animated movies. From the original 1966 Batman to Tim Burton’s and Joel Schumacher’s quadrilogy, Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, and the current DC properties, the Batman is a staple of superhero cinema, being portrayed by many different actors; only Spider-Man comes close in terms of big-screen appearances. In recent years, though, DC’s treatment of the character has led to some disinterest in further appearances, though The Batman seemed to have reignited the excitement. Given how Robert Pattinson in The Batman is the third actor to portray the character in the last 10 years, not counting the appearance of young Bruce Wayne in Joker, it remains the case that more casual audience members are simply tired of Batman. The divisive reaction to the DCEU has also turned audiences away from DC movies, thinking they’ll be more of the same.


Similar to Doctor Strange 2‘s surprisingly scary horror vibe, The Batman‘s dark and ponderous tone was one that rendered it not the easiest watch for a young audience. While it’s no doubt a triumphant and technically fantastic piece of filmmaking, Matt Reeves’ very slow-paced and distinctive vision is not necessarily one that works for everyone. This is arguably especially true in an era where audiences are turning away from bleak and brooding and simply looking for more upbeat escapism after years of a global pandemic.

Related: The Batman Makes Box Office & Streaming Comparisons Entirely Pointless

Lastly, as with Marvel’s strategy with their feature films of late, The Batman was released on Warner Bros. streaming service HBO Max a mere month after its theatrical release. Combined with the aforementioned Batman fatigue and Covid hesitancy, audiences were more than fine waiting a month to see it at home. While this is good news for HBO Max, it unquestionably cut into The Batman‘s bottom line at the box office.

Will Other Marvel Or DC Movies Make $1 Billion In 2022?


DC Ben Affleck as Batman and Marvel Spider-Man

This begs the question, then, whether any other Marvel or DC releases coming in the latter half of 2022 will reach $1 billion at the worldwide box office. The remaining movies to come from Marvel Studios are Thor: Love and Thunder and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and Black Adam and Shazam: Fury of the Gods from DC.

Out of these four properties, it is the two Marvel Studios releases that have the best chance of making $1 billion. Thor: Love and Thunder is a sequel to Thor: Ragnarok and has received much praise from early reactions. Ragnarok made over $800 million at the worldwide box office, meaning the positive reception to its sequel could push it past the $1 billion mark. However, the biggest chance of a Marvel movie crossing $1 billion is Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The first Black Panther film crushed the box office, earning over $1.3 billion. If the sequel is of the same quality, it will likely perform equally as well. On the other hand, both DC properties this year are tied to Shazam!, a film that only received around $360 million worldwide. It’s less likely that its spinoff or sequel will outperform the original film to the extent needed to cross $1 billion, though Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s involvement in Black Adam as the titular character will undoubtedly give that movie a big boost. Whether DC’s two movies blow up or are joined by any 2022 Marvel Studios properties, they still won’t have beaten Top Gun: Maverick to the $1 billion club this year.


Next: Which Upcoming 2022 Movies Can Take Top Gun 2’s Box Office Crown?

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