Top Gun 3D
Studio: Paramount Pictures
US Rating: Rated PG
Film Length: 109 Minutes
Video: AVC MPEG-4 1080P High Definition 16X9
Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio English 6.1, English 5.1 Dolby Digital TrueHD, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese
Release Date: February 19, 2013
Review Date: February 16, 2013
“On March 3, 1969 the United States Navy established an elite school for the top one percent of its pilots. Its purpose was to teach the lost art of aerial combat and to insure that the handful of men who graduated were the best fighter pilots in the world. They succeeded. Today, the Navy calls it Fighter Weapons School. The flyers call it: TOP GUN.”
Maverick (Tom Cruise) is the king of the skies. Confident, cocky, and at times careless, he might just be the best of the best. When Maverick and his co-pilot, Goose (Anthony Edwards) are selected to attend the elite flight school to compete for the coveted title of ‘Top Gun’, the competitive environment and high-octane action lead to trouble. Maverick falls for Charlie (Kelly McGillis) – the civilian instructor, engages in a taut rivalry with another fighter pilot, Iceman, and happily flaunts authority.
Top Gun helped launch Tom Cruise’s stellar career and with good reason. Cool headed, handsome, charming, and easily likeable, Cruise – despite being shorter than the traditional leading man – had everything that the big screen and audiences alike cheerfully absorb. And there’s a seriousness about Cruise’s performance – even amongst the predictable ‘rah-rah’ and teed up fist pumping – that serves as a presage for some of his finer performances in works like Magnolia and Minority Report.
Before his long days and nights as Dr. Mark Greene on NBC’s megahit ER, Anthony Edwards sported a porn moustache to play Goose. The role, an outgoing, easy to like, all-American farm boy type, suits Edwards nicely. In the film he’s married to a very young Meg Ryan whose role as a free-spirited southern lovely is a little larger than I remembered. As Maverick’s main antagonistic rival is Iceman, played by a reportedly reluctant Val Kilmer. Kilmer doesn’t really get to say or do very much beyond expressing annoyance and irritation at Maverick’s ways but he does just fine with what he’s given. Kilmer was reported as not wanting to be in the film but appeared due to contractual obligations. If true, one can’t see that in his performance.
Top Gun, beyond all the testosterone aggression and fighter pilot shenanigans, was a love story between Cruise’s Maverick and McGillis’ Charlie. There is chemistry between them but it is slight. The heavy use of the Berlin ballad “Take my Breath Away” hammered home the love element of the story just as Kenny Loggins’ “Highway to the Danger Zone” hammered home the jet action. It’s all a little clumsy but these two songs in particular helped define the Top Gun experience.
So does it hold up today? Well, yes and no. The plot is straightforward and uncomplicated, staged for the audience to root for the cocky protagonists and filled with the kind of Americana that action films of the 80’s were layered thick with. It’s an easy film to have fun with – fighter jets, motorcycles (a sweet looking Kawasaki Ninja 900 / GPz900R), good guys against bad guys, a dash of the underdog, and enough cheese to make the entire state of Wisconsin proud. But it’s a little too straightforward and the plotting is uneven. Surprisingly, the predictable hero ending doesn’t exactly come to pass as one might have expected, but there’s celebration to be had all the same.
Top Gun moves at a brisk pace – and the aerial photography is a chief character in the film – but beyond the simplicity of the outline and the peppering of new and familiar talents, like Val Kilmer and Tom Skerrit, there really isn’t much to it. The late Tony Scott – brother of Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner) – was always a more commercially inclined director than his brother, and his movies are defined by his trademark mosaic cuts, orange sky filters, and A-B-C plotting (with the exception of Déjà vu). Top Gun represents the early stages of his style’s evolution, but this film is undoubtedly his.
The 3D conversion of this film shot 28 years ago was handled by Legend3D and with the stereo conversion overseen by the late Tony Scott. To prepare, the original negative was scanned. Shot on Super 35mm it was noted by Legend3D’s chief creative officer (in an interview with fxguide), the film was in good shape. Details of the conversion to 3D are documented at fxguide.com where it is described that a ‘depth script’ was created to outline when and how the 3D should be handled. The results of the conversion are surprisingly good. Top Gun may seem like an unusual choice to perform a stereo conversion, though watching the film with a superb sense of depth achieved in the aerial combat sequences and strong dimensionality from key character scenes filmed via long dolly shots with backlighting. Interior sequences also hold up better than expected, particularly the scene at the beginning where Maverick and Goose are called into their superior’s tight office aboard the aircraft carrier – multiple layers are noticeable in that small area from objects on the desk and the reflection in the floor to ceiling mirror.
Having reviewed the Anniversary edition in late 2011 I was on the lookout for the heavy grain structure and some of the issues noted with the smoke on the carrier deck. The grain structure is in place which can add an interesting flavor to the 3D conversion and how we interpret the grain with the new depth, and that can pull you out of the film for a moment, but just for a moment. But the image also appears more natural, sharper, cleaner, of higher faithfulness to its native source, and better looking than I have ever seen it. Solid shadow details, strong blacks, saturated colors and excellent detail. Some reports of cross-talk (ghosting) have surface, most notably by HTF’s Robert Harris (click here for his “A Few Words About…TM” on Top Gun 3D). Viewing on my Mitsubishi DLP 73 inch display, I saw just a little evidence of this (DLP displays are generally immune to ghosting) but I suspect some will notice it more from susceptible displays.
Conversion of older films have been of far better quality than I would have expected. I, Robot and the slew of Pixar films (Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, etc.) have all been generally pleasing (I, Robot the weaker of the examples I mentioned, but still entertaining in 3D). With Lionsgate jumping in on the action with a pending home release of Gerard Butler’s Gamer in 3D and Universal releasing a 3D version of Jurassic Park, the possibilities and the dangers are interesting.
The DTS-HD Master Audio English 6.1 is a beast. The rumble from the fighter jets will shake your foundations. The song-laden soundtrack – which helped propel the soundtrack sales – is terrific sounding throughout the speakers. Surround audio in particular is quite rambunctious and dialogue is issue free in the center channel. I was pleased with how the synth heavy (and not always fitting) score by Harold Faltymyer came across (Faltymyer’s score sounds like a blueprint for where Hans Zimmer would move blockbuster film scoring). I should also note that the cues as heard in the film are not well placed, with awkward transitions between scenes and between score and song. But is all sounds crisp and powerful on this Blu-ray.
Paramount has repackaged the special features from the previous HD release of the film. The production and consultant commentary is a revealing listen though probably more for the unflappable fans than those of a more casual nature. The six part documentary covers quite a bit of ground and is worth the time to enjoy – as are the four key music videos which retain the 80s feel a heck of lot more than the film itself does. Overall, a pleasing set of extras.
Blu-Ray 3D Version
Blu-Ray 2D Version
Commentary by producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Tony Scott, co-screenwriter Jack Epps, Jr. and naval experts
Danger Zone: The Making of Top Gun (six-part documentary)
Multi-Angle Storyboards with optional commentary by Tony Scott
Best of the Best: Inside the Real Top Gun
- Kenny Loggins—“Danger Zone”
- Berlin—“Take My Breath Away”
- Loverboy—“Heaven In Your Eyes”
- Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens—“Top Gun Anthem”
Survival Training Featurette
Tom Cruise Interviews
Digital Copy / Ultraviolet Copy available
Director Tony Scott was apparently fired three times during production of Top Gun. The Navy granted permission to use an aircraft carrier and mount cameras on their Jet Fighters to get some incredible aerial shots – but restricted the amount of shots the production could use of missile discharges (hampering an otherwise fine finale fight sequence against the enemy – and enemy that remains unknown at the insistence of the military.
The 3D conversion of Top Gun may very well be the last event that we’ll see for Maverick and others. Tony Scott’s passing in 2012 seems to have put an end to the possibilities of a sequel; a shame since Top Gun is a product of its time and it would be fascinating to see what a sequel would say, in retrospect years down the line, about the world of today.
Top Gun is great fun and the 3D experiment an interesting one.It was never a film that needed to be made over in 3D but it is a new way to enjoy an old classic.
Overall (Not an average)