Box Office ‘Devotion,’ Co-Starring Glenn Powell, Could Get A Boost From ‘Top Gun: Maverick’


As we watch Top Gun: Maverick pass $600 million domestic, we’ve seen a lot of talk, not unreasonable mind you, that the Covid-caused delay has caused, if not damage and harm, at least inconvenience to various young cast members who were expecting to get a bump in profile and stature from the film back in June of 2020. The film was delayed so long that poor Miles Teller went through an entire “He’s a star, he’s tarnished, he’s redeemed!” press cycle just in time for his next Joseph Kosinski-directed collaboration, Spiderhead, to premiere on Netflix a month after Top Gun 2. Danny Ramirez co-starred as (possibly) “new Falcon” to Anthony Mackie’s (eventual) Captain America in Disney+’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Glen Powell was crowned an overnight future star despite working steadily since Spy Kids 3-D in 2003.


Powell’s Hangman was the clear breakout in terms of the cocksure firebrand character (complete with the film’s climactic Han Solo hero moment) and the actor’s charisma (also visible in Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some and Set It Up, which remains one of Netflix’s best rom coms). Sony may have lucked out in having Powell’s next movie, which isn’t entirely 180 degrees from Top Gun: Maverick, no less. They moved Devotion from mid-October to November 23, choosing to open the true-life wartime friendship between Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner over Thanksgiving weekend. It stars Jonathan Majors (another “having a moment” performer following The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Da 5 Bloods, Lovecraft County, The Harder They Fall and a significant baddie role in Marvel’s Loki and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania). Simply put, will the J.D. Dillard-directed Korean War drama get a boost from Top Gun: Maverick?

I’d usually say, “Ha, no.” Even Tom Cruise has struggled to soar to infinity and beyond in a decade’s worth of “not a Mission: Impossible sequel” flicks like (the mostly very good) Edge of Tomorrow, Oblivion, Jack Reacher, Knight and Day and (the not so good) The Mummy. Movie stardom is now a particular thing whereby (save for exceptions like Leonardo DiCaprio and Sandra Bullock) actors and actresses are usually only butts-in-seats draws when playing marquee characters that are variations on their onscreen/offscreen persona. For example, Tom Hardy playing a weirdo Eddie Brock is bankable in Venom, and Tom Holland playing Nathan Drake as “Peter Parker with guns” in Uncharted moved the needle. Uncharted was a film that overperformed ($146 million domestic/$400 million worldwide) pre-Covid expectations partially because it opened on the heels of Spider-Man: No Way Home ridiculously overperforming. It was this year’s Man in the Iron Mask.

So, with the caveat being that I’m not expecting a monumental theatrical result, will Devotion get a bump from opening on the heels of Top Gun: Maverick? Will this patriotic fighter pilot action drama, co-starring the breakout actor from this summer’s top-grossing movie in a role not entirely unlike his marquee character, benefit from its abovementioned associations? I realize that in pre-Covid times the answer would probably be “absolutely not.” But we’ve seen enough releases that played differently (Free Guy, Dune, and yeah, Top Gun: Maverick) that the “new normal” may have some new wrinkles beyond just “things are worse than ever.” Regardless, J.D. Dillard’s Slight was a terrific little supernatural superhero-ish thriller, and Sweetheart is a great “Kiersey Clemons versus a monster” thriller. I’m happy that his next step isn’t a towering franchise offering but a mid-budget, old-school studio programmer. He deserved his Insomnia before getting a Batman Begins.

Will the older, irregular moviegoers who saw the trailer for Elvis and showed up do likewise for Devotion? Anthony Hemingway’s Red Tails opened with $18.7 million in January 2012 and grossed $50 million worldwide on a $58 million budget. Fox was just distributing it. The film, starring Nate Parker, David Oyelowo, Elijah Kelly, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard, was produced by Lucasfilm. I’m guessing George Lucas, who had talked about making a film about Tuskegee Airmen for years, still paid the mortgage that month. Red Tails is no masterpiece, but Hemingway deserved another turn at bat for his strong action scenes. It was weird seeing critics carp about a film feeling like a 1950’s release when the Academy was about to give Best Picture to The Artist, which resembled a 1920’s theatrical. By today’s standards, $50 million for Devotion would be a success. Either way, I’m sure it’ll fly high on Netflix.


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