3D Blu-ray Review: Top Gun

Converted to 3D, this latest Blu-ray release of Top Gun isn’t just a cash grab, but a surprisingly solid presentation that uses the new technology to enhance some of the film’s most memorable aerial scenes. Fans should be excited to see this new 3D conversion from Paramount, which it’s worth noting, actually possesses a better looking presentation than any of the previous Blu-ray releases.

I was thirteen when Top Gun came blazing on to the big screen in 1986. I absolutely loved the film and saw it three or four times during its original theatrical run. Tom Cruise was buff, the planes were cool and the soundtrack rocked; in my newly minted teenage mind Top Gun had all the ingredients that made up the perfect film.

Top GunIn the intervening years, I’ve come to learn that the truly great films are are built on a good script, strong plot and fleshed out characters; none of which play a pivotal role in Top Gun. When you get right down to it, Top Gun is little more than a high flying music video, with some lukewarm love scenes to show off then twenty-four-year-old Tom Cruise’s undeniable hunky good looks. Even so, Top Gun is 111 minutes of testosterone fueled fun.

Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Cruise), and his best friend Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards), are sent to Top Gun, an elite training school for the top one percent of pilots in the navy. Maverick quickly establishes himself as one of the best fliers in the class, and a top candidate for the coveted Top Gun trophy. Not surprisingly, Maverick clashes almost immediately with his closest rival, Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer). In another predictable twist, Maverick falls in love with his beautiful, blonde instructor, Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood (Kelly McGillis)–if you haven’t already guessed; everyone in this film has a nickname. Maverick is overflowing with machismo until tragedy strikes, and for the first time ever, he questions whether he has what it takes to get back in the cockpit again. But alas, this is 1986—the Communists and their MiGs are everywhere, and someone has to stand up to them.

It’s not hard to ridicule Top Gun, more than twenty-five years after the films theatrical run. The look of the film is pure MTV, which was still a fairly new concept back then. As with several successful movies around that time—Footloose and Flashdance among them—Top Gun has the feel of a long playing music video wrapped around a loosely constructed plot and narrative.

None of the actors are required to do much. Cruise is required to act cocky at all times, sometimes oiled and wet if he needs to look particularly hunky. Though Kelly McGillis was supposedly playing a smart and tough flight instructor, she spends most of the film looking lustfully at Tom Cruise. Among the adults performing in thankless roles, the reliable Tom Skerritt and Michael Ironside come off best, although there is minor amusement value in the sight of James Tolkan playing the same strict disciplinarian that he played so often during the 1980s and getting to say things like “Your ego is writing checks that your body can’t cash.”

Still, the flying scenes are scintillating and even the most cynical viewer is likely to succumb, even if only for a few minutes at a time. There is still something magical in the idea of getting into the cockpit of one of those planes and soaring high above the clouds.

The 2D Blu-ray included with this set looks to be the same transfer as used for the 2011 transfer. As I said earlier, the 3D transfer is the best looking high definition transfer of this film to be released. Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, depth is rather impressive and space is balanced and nicely defined. Beyond that, the visual palette of Top Gun is noticeably improved with much more impressive color quality, balance and contrast. The 3D effects are sure to impress fans of the film.

Audio is provided via a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track and a DTS-HD Master 6.1 track (they’re the same mixes provided on the first Blu-ray release). Given its age, both mixes are rather immersive and have solid dynamic range. Dialogue sounds fine, but it’s not as full as you would find on more modern mixes. The jet fighters are nice and loud, but slight distortion can be heard. It should be said that sound effects do pan rather impressively across the soundfield.

English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles are available.

All the special features are on the 2D Blu-ray and were released on previous editions and are all in standard definition:

First up is an audio commentary with director Tony Scott, co-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, co-writer Jack Epps, Jr., and naval experts Capt. Mike Galpin, Rear Admiral Pete Pettigrew, and Vice Admiral Mike McCabe. Of perhaps greater importance is the six-part, 2004 documentary, Danger Zone: The Making of Top Gun, which spans some 147 minutes, and covers just about everything you’d ever want to know about the movie from pre-production through production, visual effects, music, release, and impact of the film. In addition, there are two multi-angle storyboards, “Flat Spin” and “Jester’s Dead,” which you can watch in either of several ways and with optional director commentary. Then there’s a twenty-eight-minute featurette, Best of the Best: Inside the Real Top Gun, which takes us into the real-life “Top Gun” school.

Next, is a “Vintage Gallery” of older material. These include four music videos: “Danger Zone” with Kenny Loggins; “Take My Breath Away” with Berlin; “Heaven in Your Eyes” with Loverboy; and “Top Gun Anthem” with Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens; a five-minute behind-the-scenes featurette; a seven-minute “Survival Training” featurette; seven TV spots; and a little over six minutes of Tom Cruise interviews. A Digital Copy is also included.

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