One of the biggest blockbuster films of the eighties, Tony Scott's Top Gun not only made Tom Cruise one of the most recognizable stars in Hollywood, it also made a nation of young boys yearn for a chance to fly a fighter jet and feel first-hand the need for speed. Now, more than two decades after the fact, we realize that the film is very much a product of its era and that time has not been at all kind to the exploits of Maverick and his pals.
Peter 'Maverick' Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is a hotshot flyboy with a penchant for breaking the rules. His bad attitude earn he and his partner, Goose (Anthony Edwards), a bad reputation but their skills in the cockpit earn them a spot in the Top Gun school in California where they're sent to for more refined training in hopes that they'll be turned into decent pilots and serve their country well.
Of course, once they get to the academy it doesn't take Maverick long to start making enemies, first and foremost a rival pilot called Iceman (Val Kilmer). Along the way, Maverick falls for a hot local lady named Charlie (Kelly McGillis) who just so happens to turn out to be his instructor. Of course, Maverick learns a few life lessons during his stint and before you know it, the man in charge of the program (Tom Skerritt) is more than a little annoyed but soon he and Iceman learn the error of their ways and learn that teamwork is better than cocky machismo - and just in time, cause it's all gonna hit the fan during the last twenty-minutes of the film where our heroes are going to have to learn how to put everything they've been taught into action and save the day.
Say what you will about Tom Cruise, but he is the right actor for the lead in this film. His grin is annoying, he's cockier than any one man has any right to be, and at times he's pretty annoying but he fits the story and the whole tone of the movie perfectly. He's the brass and obnoxious icing on a completely superficial, substance free cake! Like Cruise's performance, the film itself is really all show. Top Gun has got plenty of style and it hits all the requisite notes in terms of the setup, the love interest, the subplots and the payoff to pretty much set it on a pedestal as one of the finest formula movies ever made.
Scott's direction takes advantage of this exercise in style over substance. Not only does he pace the film well, he makes sure that the sappier moments get enough time in the film to insist we care about the characters - in fact, the script more or less rubs the audiences' noses in their plights. There's plenty of fast cutting during the action scenes to make-believe that they're faster and more intense than they really are and the sound effects and Kenny Loggins music are pumped up loud enough to make sure you can't help but pay attention. Berlin's Oscar winning contribution to the music accompanying the infamous love scene sounds sappy enough to make your eyes water and the film always looks and sounds really good, even if by this point much of what was innovative during its theatrical run has definitely become old hat.
That said, the biggest problem with Top Gun is not the campy script, the hammy acting, the unintentionally hilarious homoerotic relationships between most of the male students at the Top Gun school or the many Danger Zone jokes (fans of Archer will have trouble with this) that can be made but the dogfights themselves. While it's all well and good to have plenty of close-ups of the pilots faces, they need to be balanced out with some quality fighter plane footage and when you actually pay attention to what you see and now how it's presented to you, the movie comes up surprisingly short in that department. We don't really see the jets do anything remarkably cool, they just sort of fly very loudly in various directions until it's over with.
That said, there's no denying that the film definitely struck a chord with audiences of the day. It was a huge success and it's had a pretty massive influence not only on the movies that followed it but on pop culture in general to the point where parts of the film have worked their way into the modern catch phrase vernacular. While it has all the depth of a beer commercial, the film made scads of money and, as hokey as it is, it remains entertaining regardless of its obvious superficiality.The Blu-ray:
Top Gun arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded transfer framed at 2.39.1 widescreen in what appears to be the same version of the re-master that came out years back on a 50GB Blu-ray disc. It looks good, but it doesn't look perfect. Some scenes look fantastic and show excellent detail while others appear to demonstrate some all too liberal use of DNR to reduce grain and smooth out skin tones to the point where pores disappear and detail too. As such, the transfer is a bit soft. It's not a complete disaster, but fans of the movie have seen this transfer before and you'd think, for the thirtieth anniversary, that Paramount might have gone back to the vaults and redone the transfer given what a big catalogue title it is for the studio. Contrast is iffy and some aliasing is noticeable. Colors look good when the contrast is on, sometimes quite impressive, and the image is definitely very clean and free of any obvious print damage, but then there are occasional saturation issues that are hard to miss, resulting in the occasional orange skin tone (though some shots in the movie have always looked this way as the movie has some scenes that are meant to look ‘hot'). Blacks are pretty consistent and solid and again, there are times where it looks really nice, but consistent this image is not.Sound:
The main audio option for this disc is an English 6.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. Additionally, an English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD is included along with French 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital options. Removable subtitles are provided in English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese. That 6.1 track is pretty killer, there's a lot of impressive surround activity evident throughout the movie, the soundtrack and the ‘classic' songs used in the movie have decent depth. Dialogue stays clean and clear and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note. Bass response is powerful and strong, so when this jet engines fire up, you'll know it, but at the same time the mix is succinct enough to ensure that the lower end doesn't bury anything it shouldn't bury.Extras:
Extras start off with a commentary featuring producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Tony Scott, co-screenwriter Jack Epps, Jr. and some of the naval experts that were involved: Captain Mike Galpin, technical adviser Pete Pettigrew, and Vice Admiral Mike McCabe. These guys were all recorded separately and then edited into a well put together and very cohesive discussion and dissection of the feature that offers up a balanced amount of trivia about the shoot and technical information. There's a fair bit of emphasis on ‘getting it right' in terms of the way that the Top Gun program is depicted but of course there's also discussing about the script, the characters, the actors and their performances and a lot more. This track has been included on various older releases of the movie but if you haven't heard it before, it's very informative and well worth checking out.
From there we move on to the featurettes, starting with Danger Zone: The Making Of Top Gun, which is a two and a half hour long piece broken up into six chapters that goes into an insane amount of detail as to how this film was put together. This was also included on the older Blu-ray release but again, if you've not had the opportunity to check it out this is time well spent. This is a refreshingly honest look at the genesis of the film and it covers not only the film's remarkable success but also a lot of the problems that were encountered during the shoot. They talk about the importance of the editing in the film in terms of creating a story that actually worked, the difficulties that were encountered while working with various military factions, trouble that arose from the technical stand point of filming the jets, the effects work, the use of music, the cast, the crew. Pretty much everything you'd want to know about the making of Top Gun is covered here and it's not only interesting, it's ridiculously entertaining too.
Also on hand is a twenty-nine minute piece called Best Of The Best: Inside The Real Top Gun. This is, as it sounds, a piece that goes behind the scenes of the actual military program that inspired the feature film and it's interesting stuff. We also get a five minute ‘vintage' Behind-The-Scenes Featurette that offers some interesting footage, a seven minute Survival Training Featurette that shows what sort of training some of the cast underwent to prepare for their roles, and seven minutes of a Tom Cruise Interview showcasing some of the PR work that the leading man did to promote the film in which he talks about preparing for the part. The disc also contains two Multi-Angle Storyboard sections with optional commentary by Tony Scott. These are interesting to see and offer a glimpse into Scott's creative process.
Rounding out the extras on the disc are music videos for Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins, Take My Breath Away by Berlin, Heaven In Your Eyes by Loverboy and Top Gun Anthem by Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens. We also get a few TV spots, menus and chapter selection. Again, all of this material will look familiar to anyone who owns the older Blu-ray release, nothing in the extra features department is new or exclusive to this reissue.
Included along with the Blu-ray disc inside the slick looking steelbook packaging is a DVD version of the movie. The DVD includes the commentary, videos and TV spots but omits the other featurettes. An insert card with a code that can be redeemed for a Digital HD download of the feature is also included. Note that the 3-D version of the movie that was released to Blu-ray by Paramount in 2013 has not been included in this package.
Time has not been kind to Top Gun though as an artifact of excessive eighties cinema, it's still a fun watch. There are no new extras on this release when compared to the previous Blu-ray special edition, but the packaging is fancy and steelbook junkies might want this for their collection. As to the transfer? If you're a fan, you've seen it before… and you've heard it before too. The price on this is pretty fair, so it's easy to recommend to those who don't own it and have an affinity for eighties action/romance/drama hybrids, but if you've already got it? Don't bother, there's really nothing new here outside of the packaging. Let's split the difference and say ‘rent it.'