It’s impossible to fathom that it’s been over thirty years since audiences were first introduced to Top Gun. Yes, the film that literally epitomizes the Cold War as much as anything else out there, Top Gun gave us the action whereas Dr. Strangelove gave us the humor. More importantly, Top Gun gave us Tom Cruise, which was a good thing until he started hopping on sofas on national television. Cruise wasn’t a household name but had a few credits to his name before he made the breakthrough to Hollywood mega star. Additionally, the film was one of the first and most successful for producers Jerry Bruckheimer and the late Don Simpson (Bruckheimer has since produced several dozen action/adventure movies that have grossed billions all over the planet). The film also put director Tony Scott on the map as well, the brother of director Ridley hasn’t always been so critically-acclaimed but his movies have a little more firepower nonetheless (pardon the pun).
The plot of Top Gun could literally be summed up in a few words: “Russians bad, Americans good.” There’s more to it than that, of course, but from above that seems to summarize what the movie is about. Ok, I’ll do deeper. Cocky young Lt. Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise) has been selected as a candidate for Top Gun – an elite school where the Navy trains their pilots for combat. The school is comprised of the best of the best and there’s little room for egos. Among the candidates are “Iceman” (Val Kilmer), “Goose” (Anthony Edwards) and “Slider” (Rick Rossovich). Naturally students need teachers and they’re led by “Viper” (Tom Skerritt) and “Jester” (Michael Ironside). Naturally with all of these men, we need a woman (a muse if you will) and we get that in Charlie (Kelly McGillis), the instructor who has a fling with Pete. Suffice it to say that the movie has enough action to satisfy all of the men and enough romance to satisfy all of the women and no doubt why it was so successful at the box office.
Top Gun is a modern classic, there’s no doubt about it. It was the right movie at the right time and produced a true superstar out of Tom Cruise. In addition to a great movie was an even better soundtrack that had a few of 1986’s better songs. Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” is prevalent throughout and the more romantic “Take My Breath Away” provided the emotion for the love scenes. Love it or hate it, Top Gun is probably a movie that everyone should see. It has some of the best action sequences that I’ve ever seen and even twenty years later, those are still tough to beat. The movie is a bit dated, but for fans of the action/adventure/romance genre this is probably a Top 10 movie. A good supporting cast certainly doesn’t hurt and if you look real close, you’ll catch a few glimpses of future Academy Award Winner Tim Robbins.
Video: How does it look?
The movie hasn’t really ever looked bad in any format that I’ve seen. I’ve owned this in just about every incarnation from VHS (it was one of the first VHS movies to be priced to own), Laserdisc and standard DVD. This isn’t its first appearance on Blu-ray, nor its second as it was released in 3D a few years back. Putting aside the history of this movie on the home format behind us, we’re finally treated to a 4K version of one of the most iconic movies of all-time. Yes folks, the wait is over – we have Top Gun on 4K.
Looking at the image, I was immediately impressed at how warm the colors are. Granted, the azure sky in a lot of the aerial shots has a certain mystique, but several of the shots seem to lack that “cold” look that’s plagued, well, every other release. Aside from the warmer colors, the detail has (obviously) been improved. Backgrounds seem a bit more in focus, close-up shots reveal more detail and texture. I’d forgotten how in most of the scenes, the men have a thin layer of sweat on their faces. The HDR adds a bit more fuel to the fire with some more color range, giving way for a broader spectrum. This is, far and away (Cruise pun intended), the best this has ever looked.
I was going to do some screen shots that compared this to the previously-released Blu-ray, but someone has already done that. Please take a moment to check out this review at High Def Disc News.
Audio: How does it sound?
Lauded for some of the best sound in the era of LaserDisc and early Dolby Digital (yes, Dolby Digital) I was expecting big things from this soundtrack as it’s long been regarded as one of the better-sounding out there. This is the first time we’ve been treated to a Dolby Atmos track and I’m sure purists will bemoan the fact that the previously-released TrueHD mixes weren’t ported over. I’m always in favor of what sounds (and/or looks) the best, so I don’t see the need to complain.
That said, there are several sequences in which all of your speakers will be humming away with missles whizzing by, airplanes whooshing from one side of the screen to the next (yes, “whooshing” is a word…I think) and, of course, planes blowing up. Granted, the movie is three and a half decades old and we’ve come a long way in terms of how movies sound but with that said the movie just seems to lack the punch that the modern movies do. The dialogue is crystal clear and the soundtrack resonates through all your speakers as expected. The surrounds are almost constantly humming along too. There aren’t many films that will make you appreciate all the money you put into your home theater system, Top Gun is one of them.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The two-disc set ports over the supplements from the previously-released disc and even adds a few new supplements. Paramount isn’t usually known for adding things to their new catalog releases, but these are certainly most welcome.
Disc One (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)
Audio Commentary – A running combined commentary with director Tony Scott, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and some naval experts that served as technical advisors. Both Scott and Bruckheimer are good but the advisors steal the show with their comparison of what is possible and what is not possible combined with the overall enjoyment of the film without gushing all over it. Overall, a very good combined commentary.
The Legacy of Top Gun – A new featurette features Cruise along with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Joseph Kosinski. The group looks at the long-lasting impact of the film as well as some of the things that have made it stand the test of time.
On Your Six – Thirty Years of Top Gun – A five-part feature that gives us a look at some of the themes of the film.
Looking Back – As the name suggests, Cruise and Bruckheimer look back at the original as well as Cruise’s passion for aviation.
America’s Best – We get a look at how the U.S. Navy was involved in the production as well as casting for some of the film’s stars.
Into The Danger Zone – The iconic score of the film is explored as well as some details about the shoot.
Going Ballistic – Having never been on an aircraft carrier, I have to live vicariously as Cruise and Bruckheimer regale us with some anecdotes from the shoot.
Narrow Targets and the Future – A look at the impact of the film upon its release and how the movie’s enduring appeal has changed filmmaking.
Disc Two (Blu-ray)
All of the supplements from the previously-released Blu-ray are present along with the new feature, The Legacy of Top Gun added.
Danger Zone: The Making of Top Gun – This covers six aspects of the film in extensive length. From The Ground Up covers the preparation in pre-production of getting the project off the ground, Playing With the Boys showed how the wheels got in motion in terms of filming and casting, The Need For Speed covers the aerial filming to achieve the visual look of the film from the high skies, Back to Basics shows a more technical sense as to how the visual effects of the film were accomplished and Combat Rock covers the music area which the film dominated in and wonderfully so. The results of all that are documented in the final part Afterburn with reactions from most players. Despite the lack of a few hoped for cast members and their two cents, all together this is a fabulous piece of work put together nicely by Charles De Lauzirika getting some great insight documented. Even though some of the info is repeated from the commentary, it’s the flow of the documentary that doesn’t ponder redundancy but keep the piece moving very nicely and all players give great information into the making of this film.
Multi-Angle Storyboards with optional commentary by Tony Scott – Two scenes can be viewed with some multi-angle storyboards on how the scenes were visualized before and after.
Best of the Best: Inside the Real Top Gun – This 30 minute documentary is essentially what the title states. It’s a look at the guys who do this for real and gives us a mere sampling of what to expect and how the “real deal” differs from the film.
TV Spots – Seven are included.
Behind-the-Scenes Featurette – A mostly promotional piece (before they became so commonplace) with some interviews with the late Don Simpson as well as Tom Cruise and a few others. Running a shade over five minutes, there’s really nothing of substance here.
Survival Training Featurette – We once again are treated to the same slew of actors, though we get a sense as to their physical regiments and how they really got into shape for their roles. Good lord they all look so young!
Tom Cruise Interviews – While not nearly as annoying as his newer interviews (where he’s bordering on hysterical because he’s so upbeat), we get a few minutes of sound bites about the film.
The Legacy of Top Gun – See above.
Kenny Loggins—“Danger Zone”
Berlin—“Take My Breath Away”
Loverboy—“Heaven In Your Eyes”
Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens—“Top Gun Anthem”
The Bottom Line
Odds are that if you’re a film lover, then you’ve seen this countless times. Paramount’s 4K offering ups the ante with an improved picture and sound as well as a slew of new supplements that compliment an already robust set. Simply put, there’s no reason not to have this as part of your collection.