What the New Summer Blockbusters Say About Aging
What do the current summer blockbusters say about aging? Is Hollywood finally changing its attitude about getting older?
After watching Top Gun: Maverick featuring Tom Cruise who turns 60 next month and Jurassic World: Dominion featuring the return of the original characters, Sam Neill, 74, Laura Dern, 55, and Jeff Goldblum, 65, I feel encouraged.
What Top Gun: Maverick Says About Aging
First of all, can I just say, going to the theater again after a couple of years is lovely. I didn’t realize how much I missed the big screen, but for movies like Top Gun: Maverick, it’s a must. This movie has received rave reviews and I agree with the critics and audiences. I loved it.
Okay, second of all, Cruise is giving aging a good rap. Truly impressive, at 59, he looks fabulous for his age and his physical ability is mind-blowing. In interviews, Cruise has credited an active, healthy lifestyle and regular exercise that includes aerobic exercise and weight training for his youthful looks and the strength that allows him to do many of his own dangerous stunts.
In fact, in an interview for Men’s Health, Cruise was asked what he does to stay young, and he replied, “Sea kayaking, caving…fencing, treadmill, weights…rock climbing, hiking…jogging…I do so many different activities.”
While I realize Cruise has the money and opportunity to help him stay in shape, I’m definitely inspired to get moving.
Cruise’s obvious enthusiasm for making movies probably keeps him thriving as well. Something to be said for doing what you love as you get older. Maybe that’s why so many boomers are looking for an encore career that allows them to pursue their passions.
There was some controversy over why actress Kelly McGillis, 64, wasn’t asked to reprieve her role as Cruise’s love interest. Although stating that she is happy in her life and has shifted her focus away from acting, McGillis questioned why she was never approached about the film.
She had a theory. McGillis bluntly told Entertainment Tonight, in an interview: “I’m old and I’m fat I look age-appropriate for what my age is, and that is not what that whole scene is about,” she said. “But… I’d much rather feel absolutely secure in my skin and who and what I am at my age as opposed to placing a value on all that other stuff.”
Sad to say, she probably has a point. But I’m glad she has a healthy attitude about aging and a sense of self-worth.
I was relieved to see that McGillis wasn’t replaced with a 20-something actress, as we’ve seen so often in the past. Jennifer Connelly, 51, plays Cruise’s new love interest. A fitness freak, like Cruise, she is thin and beautiful, but at least I could see a few crow’s feet.
I’m so happy Val Kilmer, 62, reprised his role of Tom “Iceman,” despite his battle with throat cancer. “It was like no time had passed at all,” Kilmer shared with Entertainment Weekly “We blew a lot of takes laughing so much,” he continued. “It was really fun … special.”
Kilmer knocked it out of the park with the touching scene when Iceman and Maverick finally reunite. Proof that joy can still be found even when facing intense challenges as we age.
What Jurassic World: Dominion Says About Aging
Although I was looking forward to seeing Jurassic World: Dominion, the movie was downright disappointing. I wasn’t startled enough to jump out of my seat once. Many scenes were repetitive of prior movies and the film lacked plot and humor.
What I did like, however, was that the three original characters, now in their 50s, 60s, and 70s were shown to be strong enough to fight off dinosaurs – as well as monster locusts. They still garnished respect from other characters despite their age. And Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) weren’t seen as too old to spark some chemistry and romance.
I haven’t seen Downtown Abbey: A New Era yet. But I’m a fan of the series and at some point will be checking out this latest movie about the Crawley family. Once again, I love the way this franchise allows older characters to be highlighted including the hilarious Maggie Smith.
So, back to my original question. What do the new summer blockbusters say about aging?
I wrote about ageism in movies in 2017, after Humana invited me to watch and participate online in a panel discussion they sponsored discussing the way older people have often been represented in insulting and humiliating ways in movies. The panel pointed out that the elderly have been depicted as cranky, depressed, slow-witted, lonely, whiny, rude, horny, gassy, and foul-mouthed in the past.
While that’s true, I still felt encouraged by some of the progress I saw five years ago. Many of the Oscar nominated actors that year were over 50 and didn’t fit into the degrading stereotypes often seen in past films. And I’m still seeing improvement.
The summer blockbusters I’ve seen so far makes me think Hollywood is finally understanding that older characters can carry a movie. That our generation has changed the way people look at aging. That people aged 50-plus are strong, interesting, inspiring, entertaining, and engaging – and have a lot to offer.
Do you agree or disagree? What summer blockbusters have you seen so far? What’s your favorite? Which movies did you find disappointing? Please share in the comments below.