Top Gun has arrived on Blu-ray and although the movie is somewhat dated and shallow, the quality visuals and audio gives me a need, a need for speed.
Not much needs to be said about Top Gun the movie. It is an iconic, genre-defining action film that cemented Tom Cruise's place as a movie star and gave us many pop culture references and quotes. Tom Cruise plays Pete “Maverick” Mitchell and is a talented but reckless Navy pilot who, along with his co-pilot Goose (Anthony Edwards), is chosen to attend the Top Gun flight school. Top Gun is the academy formed to bring the US Navy pilots back up to an elite status after they were embarrassed at the start of the Vietnam war.
Maverick has a large chip on his shoulder due to his father's questionable actions as a pilot and he wants nothing else but to be the best of the best. The movie follows his training at Top Gun as well as his relationship with civilian instructor Charlie (Kelly McGillis). Of course during the film Maverick experiences loss, a crisis of confidence, and, of course, redemption. The movie is all about fighter jock glory, attitude, and adrenaline and it is a great ride.
Watching Tom Cruise in this film reminds you why he is the star he is (or was, as some people would say). His cocky, yet charming, demeanor, the crooked smile, the pensive grimaces and easy way he fills the screen is a key part of the charm of this film. At its heart Top Gun is a shallow, formulaic film (did it invent the formula?), but it is a good ride and fun to watch. The flying scenes in particular hold up incredibly well and could have been made in this decade instead of 22 years ago.
I did have a couple of issues with the film I had never noticed (since I haven't seen it in over 15 years). First, Kelly McGillis isn't nearly as hot as I remember her being and second the music is really, really bad. I remember thinking of McGillis' character and remembering legs that go on for years and a face that made your heart race. I guess times change. The music especially suffers from sounding dated. There is a lot of synthesizer work and the iconic songs ("Danger Zone" and "Take My Breath Away") are just not quality songs. The '80s were a funny time and it made us a little crazy, I suppose.
Top Gun's foray into the high definition Blu-ray format does provide us with its best transfer to date, but it is not without issues. Many of the scenes give us a very detailed look at people's faces, uniforms, instrumentation, and the transfer displays these images quite well. Black levels are okay if a little washed out, but this is not a night scene movie so it is hardly an issue. I never noticed before how much the actors were sweating in the cockpits; if the transfer has done anything it's to really show the details like every bead of sweat and individual details with great clarity.
The color levels, however, are not as good; the entire print seems hazy and a little washed out. The flying scenes in particular, while amazingly filmed, lack any visual pop that could have made them timeless. The color levels are inconsistent as well; at times they are vibrant, like when Kelly McGillis has a closeup wearing her bright red lipstick, other times the colors seem to bleed and blend and you can't discern many differences.
Paramount has included two lossless audio options, a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track and a DTS-HD MA 6.1 mix on top of the standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. I screened the Blu-ray using the DTS-HD Master Audio mix and was VERY impressed with the audio in this film. From the very starting sequences you can hear the thrum of the jets, the low bass rumble of the engine wash, and the chatter between pilots is crisp and well balanced. The bass in particular is very impressive with deep, effective use of my subwoofer especially during high speed passes.
The surround mix is very effective with rears being utilized well, if not very often. Voice and background noise is at the right level; nothing gets lost in the mix, you can hear every 'huah' and catchphrase with digital clarity. The aerial action scenes, and thankfully there are many of them, use the surround effects heavily. You have jets zooming over your head, bullets and missiles flying all around, and chatter seeming to come from all around you. I found the mix was very even, it is a great soundtrack and paramount should be commended for the care they took with it.
This Blu-ray comes packed with a great deal of extras presented in 480p, which is generally their only downfall. They are by and large great supplements that will add more insight into this classic film.
Commentary by Jerry Bruckheimer, Tony Scott, Jack Epps, Jr. and Naval Experts: An entertaining commentary even though all the parties are separated when giving the commentary. Most of what they touch on is expanded upon in the next supplement but it is still a good listen. My favorite part was near the beginning when Tony Scott explains he was fired three times while filming the first scenes as he wanted to make it more artistic (slo-mo carrier shots).
Danger Zone: The Making of Top Gun (2:27 in 480p): A great documentary that explores all aspects of creating this film, incredible to see this on a film like this. Generally a documentary of this depth is reserved for award-winning films and their like. Well worth watching for all the insight into the production of this iconic film.
Multi-angle Storyboards with Optional Commentary by Tony Scott: Two scenes are examined – Flat Spin (4:02) and Jester’s Dead (2:53). Tony Scott compares the Storyboard to the finished scenes showing both on screen.
Best of the Best: Inside the Real Top Gun (28:46): A really interesting documentary presented by the real Navy examining the real Top Gun school and the nine week training program they use.
Vintage Gallery (16:58) Focusing on the music videos from the movie by Kenny Loggins ("Danger Zone"), Berlin ("Take My Breath Away"), Loverboy ("Heaven in Your Eyes"), and Harold Faltermeyer ("Top Gun Anthem"). There are also seven TV spots (3:46) in this section.
Behind the Scenes Featurette (5:30), Survival Training Featurette (7:30) and a Tom Cruise Featurette (6:42) are all standard fluff filler taking a glossed over Entertainment Tonight-style look at the film. You are better off skipping these and watching the Danger Zone documentary instead.
The Final Word
Top Gun is a movie that launched a star, made millions of people want to become pilots, and gave us a need for speed. It has received a great upgrade in visual and audio quality over the previous DVD releases that elevates this release into a quality product. The extras are of a quality nature and add value to a great looking film. I know people sometimes sneer at the thought of watching Top Gun again, but trust me, once you fire it up you watch till the end and remember the fun you had watching this when it was first released.