Time flies. I was thirteen when Top Gun came blazing 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.
As I sat down to watch Top Gun again, I realized how much a person’s tastes in films can change as they grow older. Of course, since I worshiped Top Gun all those years ago, I’ve learned that truly great films 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.
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 a 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, thirty years after its initial 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 had the feel of a long playing video, wrapped around a loosely constructed narrative.
None of the actors involved with Top Gun are required to do much. Cruise is required to act cocky at all times, sometimes oiled and wet if he needed 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. Top Gun is bound to appeal to those movie fans who harbor dreams of flying. It’s also worth noting that in 2015, Top Gun was selected by the United States Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
The transfer is literally a reissue of the 2008 Blu-ray release, so much so that the disc actually reads copyright, 2008. Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the presentation is fine, if not particularly consistent. Some moderate softness is apparent occasionally, but edge enhancement is light. There are occasional instances of debris and specks of dirt, but nothing major. Moderate DNR was used, but it’s nothing severe. It’s all pretty common for Blu-ray’s circa 2008. Colors looked fine, but not as vivid as current titles. Hopefully, Top Gun will be given a full remaster sooner than later.
The Blu-ray includes both a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack and a DTS-HD MA 6.1 mix. Both are excellent, so it’s simply a question of preference. The soundfield is large, and highlights the numerous action sequences. The jets are in your face, and ambient sounds are given ample space. The surrounds are also surprisingly dynamic for an eighties sound mix.
English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese subtitles are included.
The extras are simply duplicated from the previous Blu-ray releases, 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.
Following these items 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.
If you have either of the previous Top Gun releases, the only reason to pick up this thirtieth anniversary edition is the steelbook case.
[Note: Some of this review was taken from a previous Blu-ray review of this title by the author]