As we’ve seen this year with a certain superhero film, it’s entirely possible a movie can get shelved after production completion. As we’ve also seen with the original Fantastic Four film by Roger Corman, movies can get shelved even when completely finished due to rights issues. It is not known, however, if a finished movie has ever been shelved due to fear of embarrassment in the wake of another movie. Enter 2022’s Born to Fly.
Born to Fly is a Chinese production that tells the story of a “country’s most daring and promising young fighter pilot takes part in a top-secret testing program for the military’s most advanced fighter jets.” That’s the logline, according to The Hollywood Reporter, and more importantly, that’s China’s answer to this year’s biggest movie, Top Gun: Maverick. Born to Fly was supposed to open in September before the Chinese National Day holiday. However, this summer, Tom Cruise’s sequel to the 1986 Tony Scott blockbuster premiered and smashed box office records. Just before the premiere, Born to Fly was delayed “in order to present better production effects.”
Ironically, Top Gun: Maverick had not been given permission to release in China, citing the film demonstrating the prowess of the United States’ military power. However, the talk in the Bejing film scene is that the producers pulled the movie in an attempt to avoid ridicule of the inferior stunts and special effects when compared to those in Top Gun: Maverick. Being shunned by China did not hurt Maverick at the box office one bit. The Tom Cruise vehicle secured a hefty take with a worldwide total of $1.5 billion. Cruise even recently released a video personally thanking fans for making the movie a success…while skydiving, no less.
And while Maverick worked closely with the US Navy, Born to Fly would also work with the Chinese Air Force, except the movie would take liberties with the accuracy and portrayal of the jets and the program. The Chinese Air Force was said to have been critical of the movie’s representation. In addition, the film’s timing would be an interesting one as it would’ve been released on the eve of the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, where their current leader makes history with an unprecedented third term.