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?

Maybe.

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.

 

juliegorges

Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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14 Responses

  1. Cat says:

    Haven’t seen Maverick or JP, but Downton has an interesting take on the aging cycle (won’t comment more and spoil it for anybody). Keeping it 100, I am not returning to my cineplex given the current covid surge; streaming new films at home instead. That in itself says something about boomer cinematic preferences -:D.

    • juliegorges says:

      Understand your reluctance to returning to theaters. I am slowly braving my way back in, but not brave enough to watch these movies when they first come out and the theater is packed. I’m still being cautious since I’m around my 90-year-old Dad and Scott’s 83-year-old father lives with us. Waited at least a week after the movies were released, went to a theater with large seats spaced far apart, and masked up. I felt comfortable with these precautions but, like you, still stream most movies at home. Sad to say, COVID is still around. BTW, you are making me super curious to see Downton now!

  2. Barry Silverstein says:

    Great observations, Julie. I agree with you 100 percent about Top Gun: Maverick, which I just saw as well. This sequel was more fun than the original Top Gun — and nice to see that Tom Cruise and Jennifer Connelly can age gracefully!

  3. Hi Julie, I haven’t seen either Top Gun or Jurassic Park, but I loved Downton Abbey. The only other movie I have been to see was The Lost City with Sandra Bullock, Daniel Radcliffe and Channing Tatum. While I did enjoy this movie, I found the love interest between Sandra and Channing with a fifteen year age gap, (he being younger) didn’t quite work for me. I found the storyline too predictable and way too similar to Romancing the Stone. Having said that, at 57 years, Sandra Bullock is still a great leading lady. Yes, I agree with you, it’s wonderful to see these longer term actors still thriving.

    • juliegorges says:

      Hi Sandra, I finally watched Downton Abbey after writing this blog, and also loved it. Thanks for the warning about The Lost City – I’ll skip it, although I am a big fan of Sandra Bullock as well. She does look great for 57 years old!

  4. Hi Julie, great post. We still have gift cards that are at least two years old. We hope to get back to the movies soon.
    I like to hear the movies are not portraying older people as you described. If anything, I’m seeing the opposite.
    I’ve heard people rave about the “Top Gun: Maverick” movie. Maybe when things calm down, we’ll try and catch that one. I’ll keep you posted.
    Have a great weekend, Julie! 🙂

  5. Rebecca Lyndsey says:

    I loved the new Top Gun movie. I do admit though, I didn’t remember the first one, not sure if I watched it at all. Lol I watched it on tv later after watching the new one.
    I haven’t seen the other two. I wasn’t a big fan of the last Jurassic Park movie so I wasn’t much Interested in the new one.

  6. Julie says:

    I like how older characters are getting a bit more air time than they used to. I’ve enjoyed the Sex and the City reboot series recently with characters now in their 50s and not shy about it. I don’t want ‘old’ characters to look decrepit but sometimes I do want them to look a little bit more realistic than what is presented on screen – it is a lot to live up to!

  7. Haven’t seen any of the summer blockbusters. I’ve been wanting to, especially Jurassic World, but after two years of avoiding crowded places, I’m mostly waiting for movies to be available to rent on Amazon. Jordan Peele’s Nope might be the summer movie to get me into theaters. Your post reminded me of John Wick, Keanu Reeves is in his 50s. I didn’t see the new Matrix movie but it was nice to see him and Carrie Anne Moss reprise their roles.

    • juliegorges says:

      Nice that we have streaming options these days! For the most part, that is still how I watch most movies. Didn’t think about Keanu Reeves, but he’s still a cutie in his 50’s!

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