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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Top Gun: Special Collector's Edition
Top Gun: Special Collector's Edition
Paramount // PG-13 // December 14, 2004
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted December 7, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Cheesy, but still quite entertaining, "Top Gun" is certainly a formulaic picture, but one that's done with energy and solid performances. The film stars Tom Cruise as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, an ace F-14 pilot who's wild and "breaks all the rules", going against authority and doing things like going on a flyby past the control tower. Joined by Radar Intercept Officer Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards), the duo eventually work their way up to the Navy's elite flying school in California.

There, they find themselves pushing up against higher authority, such as another pilot (Val Kilmer) who takes an instant disliking to Maverick because his stunts are dangerous. There's also the romantic angle in an instructor at the school (Kelly McGillis), despite the fact that the relationship would probably be discouraged as inappropriate by the higher-ups.

The story on the ground in the film only is involving for so long; after a while, some of the scenes between Cruise and McGillis seem a tad dull, while some of the scenes between the pilots seem like filler between the flight sequences. McGillis and Cruise don't have much chemistry - her performance is a tad wooden, as well. While Kilmer gives a suitably icy performance as the guy going against Maverick, there reaches a point where these scenes seem a tad repetitive and don't give the story much forward momentum. The flight sequences, however, stand up really nicely today - they're superbly shot, exciting and easy to follow.

The performances are pretty good. Cruise offers a compelling performance, turning a rather cliched character into an involving one. Anthony Edwards is very good as his co-pilot, while Kilmer is wonderfully cold as the competition. I didn't care for the performance by McGillis, and some of the other supporting efforts are rather uninspired, but overall, the cast does a fine job with the material.

Overall, "Top Gun" is a solid rah-rah picture that, while seemingly a little long to me after watching it again after a few years, still generates a fine amount of excitement, thrills and memorable moments.


The DVD

VIDEO: Paramount presents "Top Gun" with a new 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen effort. I have not viewed the orignal DVD effort, but boy does this new transfer look utterly fantastic. Sharpness and detail are first-rate, as the majority of the film looked crystal clear. Some low-light scenes appear slightly softer, but the majority of the film boasted terrific definition.

The picture seemed usually free of flaws. The presentation did show some minor grain at times, but this may be an intentional element of the photography. The image appeared to be free of edge enhancement, while pixelation was limited to a couple of traces. The print appeared to be in good shape, with only some scattered minor specks and marks in a few scenes.

Colors remained bright and well-saturated throughout, with no smearing. Flesh tones also looked natural and accurate. Overall, Paramount has done a fine job here, as "Top Gun" looked great.

SOUND: Paramount presents "Top Gun" in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 6.1. The DTS presentation is DTS-ES 6.1 Discrete. Completely curious about how the DTS 6.1 effort would fare, I listened to that first, then went back to compare the Dolby Digital option. I was quite surprised at the sound quality of a film that will hit its 20th birthday in a few years. Surrouns are locked and loaded throughout the proceedings, with a lot of strong effects and solid ambience present during many scenes. Plane flyovers sound stellar and the action scenes really roar through the room. The other element that kicks into high gear is the 80's soundtrack; despite being a tad dated, it still fits the film perfectly and sounds marvelous here, filling the room. The DTS-ES 6.1 presentation really offers an enveloping experience, as the rear back surround is engaged quite well during the action scenes and to deliver the score.

Audio quality seemed terrific, as sound effects and the score both seemed punchy and dynamic, with strong clarity. Dialogue also remained crisp and clear, with no issues. Both the Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks provided a fine experience, but the DTS soundtrack offered a noticably more enveloping, dynamic, full, rich feel to the sound.

EXTRAS: The first supplement is a newly recorded commentary, with thoughts from director Tony Scott, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, co-screenwriter Jack Epps, captain Mike Galpin, technical advisor Pete Petteigrew and vice admiral Mike McCade. This is an excellent commentary that provides both the viewpoint of the filmmakers and that of the Navy, as we get to hear from officers who share their thoughts on their realities and how the movie portrays them. The track certainly starts off in interesting form, as Scott recalls how he was fired three times from the project, yet still remained on-board as director when it was all done. Scott and Bruckheimer discuss a lot of the issues regarding trying to get the movie made, as well as the production obstacles that occured (filming flight sequences long before the birth of visual effects). The naval advisors discuss what is realistic in the movie and what isn't, as well as more behind-the-scenes information on the realities of what these characters would actually go through. Overall, this is a terrific track that really breaks down the production and allows the viewer to get a great overall sense of what it took to bring it all together.

Also included on the first disc are music videos for: Berlin, "Take My Breath Away"; Kenny Loggins, "Danger Zone"; Loverboy, "Heaven In Your Eyes" and Harold Faltermeyer/Steve Stevens, "Top Gun Anthem". We're also presented with seven TV spots for the film.

The first supplement on the second disc is the newly produced "Danger Zone: Making of Top Gun", which is a nearly 90-minute piece taking a look at the production, done by famed DVD producer Charles de Lauzirika. Combining new interviews with old production footage, we hear comments throughout from producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Tony Scott, actor Tom Cruise, the film's screenwriter, techincal advisors and others. The documentary looks at many different aspects of the film, including the development of the screenplay to bring it up to something that the producers, Navy and studio could all get behind. The documentary then shows the training and preparation that the actors had to go through before the production began. We then watch as production begins and the crew tries to capture both the conversations on the ground and the dogfights in the sky. Finally, we learn more about the practical effects done, the score of the film, problems with post-production and the reaction to the picture. The documentary offers a lot of insight and entertaining stories about the production. It's a fun piece that moves along quite well. English/Spanish/French subtitles are available for the documentary.

Finally, we get multi-angle storyboards for "Flat Spin" and "Jester's Dead", with an angle for the storyboards and another for a comparison. Tony Scott offers optional commentary for the storyboards, as well. Rounding out the second disc is an image gallery.

Final Thoughts: "Top Gun" drags in places, but the flight sequences are terrific, the performances are solid and the movie is mostly exciting. Paramount's DVD presentation is fantastic: audio/video quality is solid, while the DVD presents a lot of great supplemental features. To top it off, the price is really reasonable - I've seen it listed online for $14.99. Highly recommended - both for those who own the previous release and those seeking a first-time purchase.

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