- Jun 13, 2002
Top Gun Special Collector's Edition (Blu-Ray)
Studio: Paramount Home Video
Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD; Spanish, French 5.1 Dolby Digital; English DTS-MA 6.1 Surround
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; English SDH+
Time: 109 minutes
Disc Format: 1 SS/DL Blu-Ray
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date: 1986
Blu-Ray Release Date: July 29, 2008
Note: portions of this review were utilized in my HD-DVD review in 2007.
I hadn’t seen Tony Scott’s Top Gun in quite a few years, and as I watched it for this review, I was struck by some things I never noticed in it before:
1. There’s a lot of synthesizer.
2. There’s just the smallest hint of homoeroticism, especially between Iceman (Val Kilmer) and Slider (Rick Rossovich).
3. Take My Breath Away really isn’t that good a song.
4. Kelly McGillis is not as hot as I remember her.
I’m going to go with the notion that most of HTF’s readership has seen Top Gun at least once, and probably more than that, and we’re all quite familiar with the plot. For those who have not, it goes something like this: Tom Cruise plays Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, and he is known for his hot shot flying skills that often reflects poorly on him and his partner, Goose (Anthony Edwards). The boys are sent to Top Gun school near San Diego to get specialized training to become the best of the best. While there, they meet other hot shot pilots and the competition begins. To complicate matters, Maverick is chasing the skirt of Charlie (Kelly McGillis), who turns out to be one of his instructors. Much male bravado and testosterone flies right along with the fighter jets.
I still enjoyed this picture quite a bit for its sheer visceral pleasure of watching our 2-D hero try and emote and capture our imagination and sympathy. Cruise comes off as charming and still eager almost as if he knows this is the picture that will propel him to much greater heights. The picture now seems really dated due to the soundtrack by Harold Faltermeyer, where you are reminded this is the time for romance, this is the time for tension, etc. As I was watching and the synth’s popped up, I tried to re-imagine the picture with some other form of soundtrack, and it goes down much better. The relationships between the pilots also suggest the slightest bit of homoeroticism, especially with Val Kilmer’s Ice. There is a scene when we are first introduced to him and Slider that, due to the positioning of the actors, it seems like there was more to their story. In this semi-enlightened 21st century, relationships like this are quite common, but to nudge this topic in 1986 we may be reminded, not so subtly now, not to ask or tell.
Beyond those points, I still find Top Gun to be top notch entertainment in finest Bruckheimer/ Simpson fashion. The picture clips along from scene to scene with just the right amounts of angst, fun and love. Scott and his cinematographer, Jeffrey L. Kimball, shoot the best damn commercial for the Navy you’ll ever see, and I know at least one friend of mine joined up after high school because of the movie. I don’t think Top Gun was revolutionary to the genre, as TV’s Miami Vice had a head start on making a TV show into a music video at the same time, but it was a great way to copy that look for the big screen.
Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.
Top Gun is encoded in the MPEG-4 AVC codec at 1080p with a 2.20:1 aspect ratio. I was initially nervous about this transfer since in the opening scenes where there are shots of the jets being prepped on the carrier, there was a bad case of macro blocking and video noise in the smoke and steam. When I reviewed the HD-DVD, I thought it may have been a scaling problem with the projector scaling to 1080p. My Toshiba XA2 had the firmware that doesn’t play nice outputting 1080p/24 with a lip sync error on MPEG4-AVC encodes. I believe the problem with these opening shots is just an issue with this transfer itself and not a fault of the equipment. This macro blocking and noise was present in all of the scenes on the flight deck, specifically where there is a lot of smoke and steam. Once you get past that, this turns out to be a nice looking transfer, with crisp lines and good detail. The pilots sweat like crazy in this movie, and you can see each bead of sweat trickle down their faces. Fine background detail comes though quite well, and I found myself ignoring some of the foreground details to see what the set decorator had put on the set. Edge enhancement is noticed in some scenes. Flesh tones are accurate, and there is excellent separation of colors without any bleeding. This is especially evident in the close ups of McGillis and her very red lipstick. Black levels are good and deep overall, but I noticed crushing in some scenes where shadow detail became mushy. As with the HD-DVD, I was really hoping for a new HD transfer for this edition, but it appears to be an up-convert of the previous SD-DVD edition.
The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and the 6.1 DTS-MA soundtracks were attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI.
The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is very well balanced between all the channels, encompassing the viewer in the soundstage. Fidelity is excellent producing a clean and clear presentation that is free from any distortion. Bass effects come alive in the action scenes, obviously, but they do not overshadow the rest of the soundtrack. I loved the rumble on the flight decks, which gave my room a slight shake. One famous scene in this movie is when Maverick does his fly-by’s of the towers. When he does this it sets off what sounds like a sonic boom that my subs had fun with, providing a good enough impact to make me spill my drink as well! Surrounds are very active when they pop up, again, during the actions scenes, but they are not too lively otherwise. The surrounds add a great sense of spaciousness to the soundstage, as jets roar from right to left and front to back. Voices are natural sounding but ADR is noticed in a couple scenes. In SD material, I tend to favor DTS soundtracks because they give more depth, richness and cohesiveness to a soundtrack. I am hearing the same type of things in these Dolby TrueHD tracks but with the enhancements a lossless codec provides.
The Blu-Ray adds a DTS-MA 6.1 track that is virtually identical except for the LFE’s. The bass on the Dolby True-HD seemed slightly deeper, but it winds up being dominant over the rest of the soundtrack. The DTS-MA retains suitably deep bass but it integrates it better with the higher frequencies. The DTS-MA was also slightly louder.
Bonus Material: the Blu-Ray ports over almost all of the extras from the 2004 SD-DVD version (except for the production photos and a set of storyboard comparisons), none of which were on the HD-DVD.
Commentary by Jerry Bruckheimer, Tony Scott, Jack Epps, Jr. and Naval Experts: a very busy commentary where most of the stories you hear in Danger Zone are introduced. Seeing as that one is two and a half hours, you can take your pick between it and this.
Danger Zone: The Making of Top Gun (2:27 in SD): this material is broken up into six parts which can be watched separately or together. Charles DeLauzirika (who later did the exceptional Blade Runner release last year) produced this piece that covers just about every aspect you could think of relating to this movie. The film makers, cast and technical advisors share equal amounts of time to explain how the movie was made. This is an excellent doc that goes into way more depth than a film like this deserves!
Multi-angle Storyboards with Optional Commentary by Tony Scott: two different pieces, the first is Flat Spin (4:02) and the second is Jester’s Dead (2:53). Scott comments on the scene with the finished film on the top and the storyboard on the bottom. There was another set of storyboards with Scott commentary on the SD release that didn’t make it over to this disc.
Best of the Best: Inside the Real Top Gun (28:46): the Navy guys take center stage here as they go into great detail about how the real Top Gun operates, from the ground command to the air maneuvers. This piece takes us through the nine week training these pilots go through. This is a very interesting and enjoyable doc and it was a Best Buy bonus disc when the SD-DVD was released in 2004
Vintage Gallery features music videos (16:58) by Kenny Loggins (Danger Zone), Berlin (Take My Breath Away), Loverboy (Heaven in Your Eyes) and Harold Faltermeyer (Top Gun Anthem). Next is seven TV spots (3:46) in fairly good quality. The Behind the Scenes Featurette (5:30) is the basic EPK stuff, as is the Tom Cruise Featurette (6:42) and the Survival Training Featurette (7:30). Much of what was covered in the Danger Zone doc is rehashed here. All of the docs in this section were vintage and done around the time of the films release.
A somewhat dated romp through the male machismo of fighter pilots still entertains today, twenty two years later. Paramount finally makes up for its poor HD-DVD release with most of the extras from the SD-DVD set, as well as giving us a great DTS-MA soundtrack.