It’s nearly 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. And this newest version makes no mention of a new 4K transfer, otherwise I’m sure they’d have plastered it everywhere. 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. This Anniversary Edition doesn’t contain the 3D version, but rather has a Blu-ray along with a standard DVD. As it turns out, the 2.20:1 AVC HD transfer doesn’t look half bad. Some of the aerial shots seem to have a bit of grain associated with them, but this has been present in earlier versions. You can see every bead of sweat on their faces and I’d have to say that this is the best the movie has ever looked (as expected). For those expecting to be blown away, you probably won’t be but as far as how Top Gun looks it’s the best it ever has.
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. I have to say that I was a bit let down here, but I probably set my hopes a bit too high to begin with. There are a few options when it comes to the audio and I chose the Dolby TrueHD track right off the bat. 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. There’s a DTS Master Audio mix as well, though I preferred the TrueHD mix to the DTS MA. As I mentioned above, I was a bit let down by how this sounded. Granted, the movie is twenty years 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. I broke out Batman Begins and played a few scenes from that just to get a point of reference. Top Gun doesn’t sound bad, not by any means. The dialogue is crystal clear and the soundtrack resonates through all your speakers as expected. The surrounds are almost constantly humming along too. I just felt that it would be a bit better, though the DTS MA and TrueHD tracks do sound leaps and bounds better than those on the standard DVD.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Nearly everything was ported over from the two disc collector’s edition of this film. Nothing has been re-mastered in HD, but it’s good to have these all on one disc and you can finally ditch that old two disc DVD.
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.
Kenny Loggins—“Danger Zone”
Berlin—“Take My Breath Away”
Loverboy—“Heaven In Your Eyes”
Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens—“Top Gun Anthem”
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 Bottom Line
My wife recently read me an article of some of the more recent films that have “aged badly” and this one was on the list. While the technical merits of this still hold up, the era of the USA/Russia Cold War was gone a few years after this movie debuted. So it is obsolete? No, not really. This ports over all of the supplements from the previously-released special edition DVD, but lacks the 3D version of the title. With dual DTS HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD tracks, certainly there’s something to satisfy everyone. If you don’t already own it, this is about as definitive a version as I can imagine.