It was the summer of 1986 and the Air Force was experiencing their highest recruitment turnover ever. This sign-up influx was spurred on by the release of Top Gun, a film that not only broke box office records and won an Oscar for Best Original Song, it also glorified aviation in a way that no other film had. From the opening moments of the film, Top Gun put you in the cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat and frequently throughout it you were thrown back into the seat with Maverick and Goose, all the while seeing what their personal lives were like in the interim. While it was the very definition of “summer blockbuster”, it was also the definition of another word: “vapid.”
Hot-shot pilot Maverick (Tom Cruise) and his wingman Goose (Anthony Edwards) are drafted into the Top Gun program, the Navy’s prestigious school for the best-of-the-best when it comes to fighter pilots. Upon arriving they find that their peers are so welcoming of Maverick’s dangerous air tactics and one pilot especially, Iceman (Val Kilmer), makes it known that he doesn’t approve of Maverick’s flying style. After being reprimanded on their first test, Maverick and Goose must prove to themselves and to the Top Gun program that they truly are the best of the best.
I’ve seen Top Gun before (I know, I know…shocking), but it’d been several years (like about…twelve) since I really laid eyes upon the film. I knew I enjoyed it and I’d always meant to watch it again after all these years, but never got the opportunity. This Blu-ray release gave me that chance and…wow. What the hell. How this film made so much money I’ll never know. It’s completely ludicrous, poorly acted, poorly scripted and all-around absolutely void of any real content. Of course I know why people wanted to see it in the first place—the fighter pilot sequences were bad ass, but the rest of the film was just…well…ass.
As put off by the films stupidity as I was, I still really enjoyed watching it. I don’t know if people who saw this in theaters in 1986 found it as poorly done as I did, as there were elements of the film that just didn’t work at all for me. The relationship between Cruise’s character and Kelly McGillis’s was so forced and…absolutely unbelievable. If there was supposed to be chemistry between them, then what romance there was squandered on the men of the film as some of the homoerotic undertones were just out in full force here. I guess there are those that enjoyed watching a bunch of sweaty, ripped men play volleyball…but it was so desperately out of place in the film. We never see Iceman and Maverick face off in any other area in the film and the one place they do, they’re glistening in the sun, shirtless, with their wingmen flexing in the background.
Although I’ll slam this show to no end…I’ll be damned if I didn’t enjoy watching it. The excessive cursing for a PG movie is always entertaining to me and the incessant use of the same four songs over and over again in the movie had me laughing each time “Take My Breath Away” came on over the speakers again. Another element that had me holding my sides with laughter was the love scene between Maverick and Charolette, which had waaaay too much tongue. It was all silhouette and shadow, so you constantly saw tongue lapping going on. It was perhaps the most hilarious “serious” moment of a film I’ve ever seen, which, alone, makes this one of my favorite movies now. I don’t care how absurd and absolute crap it is, it is just incredibly hilarious to watch.
The movie is truly just a bunch of jet sequences strung together with a plot populated by characters you really don’t care about. There is some sorrow for when Goose dies, but Maverick’s spiral into depression was unbelievable and his subsequent come back after disserting a dogfight in the end of the film by finding inspiration in Goose “talking” to him (I actually awaited a “Use the force, Maverick.” I fully expected it.), it really had no impact on my feelings towards Maverick’s relationship with Goose. While they were the most believable think about the film (and that was only because they were together from the start), their eventual separation just didn’t move me much. Maybe I was too busy laughing at everything else.
So while I usually hate on 80s action movies, Top Gun is the purest, straight-up form of a 80s popcorn blockbuster that there could ever possibly be. The drama played straight and coming off as super cheese instead is a trademark that this film exceeds at. It truly is one of the worst “best” films in existence, and the films insistence on playing it straight when it could be camping it up is what makes it one of the top 80s flicks around. Recommended.
Top Gun arrives on Blu-ray chock full of extras carried over from a recent two-disc special edition for the film. While the disc itself is coated in the usual Paramount grey wash disc art and there is only an insert for updating your player, the technical presentation of the film is quite impressive. The menus are simple and easy to navigate and the pop-up functions are nicely done. The presentation of the film in terms of a packaging and menu standpoint is quite nice.
What isn’t so nice is the video transfer. Once again a victim of too much DNR, the characters can come off as too waxy and with little detail. Shots can range wildly, especially one late in the film with Viper (Tom Skerritt) where, at first, you see plenty of facial detail then he leans his head back and it all just washes away. There are a few nice looking shots in the film, but for the most part the level of detail presented here is nothing what it should be on the Blu-ray format.
So how is the audio, if the video was a disappointment? Well the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is impressive, but it’s the 6.1 DTS HD Master Audio track that is the true star of the film. Each time a jet is on screen, the whole room booms and comes alive. I actually became concerned for the windows in my room as jets blazed across the screen and Migs exploded. It was an absolutely jaw-dropping track that is one to show off the surround sound system as the jets go flying in-between speakers and blasting their way out of the front channels and subwoofer. Absolutely spectacular.
The extras included here are cloned from the previous two-disc edition and they’re all quite impressive. First up is a commentary by Jerry Bruckheimer, Tony Scott, Jack Epps, Jr., & Naval Experts is stitched together from a few different recording sessions but a lot of cool information is given here, although if you step into the “Danger Zone” featurette, you’ll find a lot of overlap. Still, the commentary is a nice piece that keeps the viewer well informed about the world of Top Gun and how it came to be and just how accurate the technology represented in the film actually is.
Moving onto the rest of the extras we get bombarded with “Danger Zone: The Making of Top Gun” (2:27:42). Yes, you read that runtime right—it’s nearly two and a half hours long, which is longer than the movie itself. It’s incredibly in-depth and features a ton of cast and crew interviews (Cruise included) about their work on the film and covers everything from pre-production to critical and fan reception. There’s a lot of ego to be thrown around here, but I guess it’s somewhat deserved—it launched Cruise’s film career and made millions for Paramount, both domestically and internationally.
Next up is “Multi-Angle Storyboards with Optional Commentary by Director Tony Scott”, of which there are two to choose from, and “Best of the Best: Inside the Real Top Gun” (28:46), a fascinating look into the real Top Gun academy. These extras pale in comparison to the giant making of for the film, but they’re both worth checking out, especially since the making-of actually gets you more pumped for the film more than the film itself does. Ah the magic of documentaries.
The rest of the extras are housed under a “Vintage Gallery.” First up are four music videos (“Danger Zone”, “Take My Breath Away”, “Heaven in Your Eyes”, “Top Gun Anthem”), then seven TV Spots and a Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (5:30), which his your usual PR fluff. “Survival Training Featurette” (7:30) and “Tom Cruise Interviews” (6:42) are some more old video reels with footage of the training for the film as well as Cruise’s comments on the film and his character.
Overall this is an impressive release, but whether you upgrade to this edition really weighs on whether or not you want your room to boom and shake. The video is mediocre but the audio is fantastic, as are the extras (which are, of course, available on the cheaper two-disc DVD edition). Rent It before plunking down the cash and see if you’re blown away by the massive amount of air being pushed around your room if you already own the previous edition; if you’re a newcomer, however, this release comes Highly Recommended.
Top Gun is now available on Blu-ray.