Top Gun: Special Collector's Edition Studio: Paramount Year: 1986 Rated: PG Length: 109 Minutes Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 Audio: English DTS 6.1, Dolby Digital 5.1; English and French 2.0 Subtitles: English, Spanish, French Closed Captioned Special Features: Commentary, 6 part documentary, featurettes, storyboards, music videos, TV spots, galleries S.R.P.: $19.99 USD Release Date: December 14, 2004 With Flashdance and Beverly Hills Cop already under their belt before Top Gun, the producing team of Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer was becoming a force to be reckoned with by the late 1980’s. Well known for action-oriented films that appealed to a young male audience, the Simpson / Bruckheimer formula was just what Hollywood was looking for - a producing team that was a money making machine. Paramount was the studio that reaped the rewards of the first few major collaborations, having the dynamic duo in an exclusive contract that would hold until the 90’s. Tony Scott would find his second feature film in Top Gun, and it would be his first film produced in America. His prior film, The Hunger, while backed by MGM, was produced in England. Top Gun is typical of a Simpson / Bruckheimer film - short on story and long on action. The film has a love story that isn’t particularly interesting, and corny dialog throughout. But those facts made little difference in the positive reception of the film. With fast action, amazing aerial photography and fantastic flying, the film satisfied the need for speed that young males thirsted for. Top Gun stars Tom Cruise as Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a naval aviator with something to prove. He and his RIO (Radar Intercept Officer), “Goose” (Anthony Edwards) are chosen by their commander to go to Top Gun for elite flight training. There, they compete against the best of the best in aerial dogfights. We see the competitive relationships of the pilots on the ground, tactical instruction and review... but the heart of the film is in the air. There isn’t much more to say about the plot... you just have to strap yourself in and enjoy the ride. The film was groundbreaking in its use of fighter plane mounted cameras, and in the cooperation it received from the military. Made in the days before CGI, it was crucial to go out and get the real thing. Model shots were used as well - but for the film to be real, they needed to shoot actual jets. This is where the film excels, and allows you to forget about the love interest that isn’t, and that corny dialog. This film is, literally, quite the ride. The Transfer Top Gun: Special Collector’s Edition comes to you anamorphically enhanced. The aspect ratio, as far as I can tell (Paramount never includes this statistic on the packaging) is 2.40:1. The print used for the transfer is in pristine condition. A rare speck of dust is visible, but that’s all. The image has good detail overall, with brightly lit scenes generally appearing very sharp. Dimmer scenes occasionally exhibit a hint of softness. There is no evident edge enhancement. Grain is variable, as on the original elements. The opening footage on the aircraft carrier exhibits heavy grain by design. Most other scenes have much finer grain, or nearly none at all. It all seems to be as I remember the theatrical exhibition. Contrast is excellent, providing a bright picture that maintains deep and accurate blacks. Whites are good, with only an instance or two of a very mild loss of detail in the highlights (lots of white uniforms in sunlight). Detail in the shadows is good. The colors are true and accurate, and well saturated. Unfortunately, I don’t have the original release to compare, but with the new anamorphic transfer and a DTS audio track, I’m sure that this release is a clear winner. And speaking of DTS... It is a rare thing for Paramount to include a DTS track on their releases, having only provided one on a handful of titles over the years. Top Gun is a title that screams for high quality surround, and is an excellent choice of titles to release with DTS. This DTS track delivers the goods. Excellent frequency response, powerful low frequency effects, strong and appropriate use of surrounds, and excellent use of music combine for an engaging listening experience. I had to restrain my subwoofer, quite literally, while playing this disc. It walked itself across the hardwood floor on a couple of occasions with the roar of jet engines passing through its coils. The bass is well rendered, tight and true... and strong. The music is wonderfully represented... the ultimate 80’s movie soundtrack sounds excellent, with outstanding frequency response, good channel separation and tight, solid bass. The surrounds really get a workout in this film, and the DTS track delivers excellent directionality here. This really is an enveloping and engaging DTS track. My only complaint - and it is quite a minor one, is that dialog sometimes seems a bit on the bright side. It’s a minor quibble that applies to both the DTS and Dolby Digital tracks. As for the Dolby Digital track... It was very difficult to perform an A/B comparison of the two tracks, because the DTS track was mixed considerably hotter than the Dolby track. Louder audio can trick you into perceiving a more engaging aural experience, whether or not there are any real differences in the audio. Doing my best to adjust for this discrepancy, I did find that the Dolby Digital track had a little less accuracy in the directionality of sounds, weaker surrounds overall, and a bit less power from the subwoofer. While it is still a quality presentation, owners of DTS equipment will want to select the DTS track for their listening pleasure. Special Features Wow. I wasn’t prepared for the time required to review this content. The special features add up to well over three hours of video, and that time doesn’t include galleries or commentary. There is one glaring omission to get out of the way first, then I’ll get on with the special features. There is no theatrical trailer. There are several TV spots, but no theatrical trailer. I don’t understand it, especially with the inclusion of the TV spots, but the theatrical trailer just isn’t there. ... and now, back to the review of what is there... On Disc One: Commentary by Jerry Bruckheimer, Tony Scott, and Naval Experts and Technical Advisors These commentaries were recorded separately, and some (like Bruckheimer’s) don’t appear to be scene specific - in fact, much of Bruckheimer’s “commentary” is lifted from the documentary on disc two. Bruckheimer talks about pitching the project, casting, and working with Scott. Scott, very soft spoken, gives interesting information on his role and how he approached the film - and included the fact that he was fired from the production three times. The real scene-specific part of the commentary comes from the technical advisors - and this is the meat of the commentary during the aerial combat sequences. The commentary track is well edited together from separate recordings, and the participants really have a lot of interesting things to say. Though I usually prefer a commentary that is more scene-specific than this, I rather enjoyed listening to this one. Vintage Gallery The Vintage Gallery has fullscreen format music videos: Kenny Loggins “Danger Zone Berlin “Take My Breath Away Loverboy “Heaven in Your Eyes” Faltermeyer and Stevens “Top Gun Anthem” This music is so connected to the film, it’s nice to have these videos included. Though the video quality is nowhere near the quality of the feature, it is acceptable. Expect a considerably softer picture, and less oomph in the sound department as well... these are Dolby Digital 2.0 mixes. There is a “Play All” feature for the videos. Also in the Vintage Gallery are seven TV spots that promoted the film, also with a “Play All” feature. On Disc Two: “Danger Zone: The Making of Top Gun” - A six part documentary. This is an exhaustive documentary that covers every aspect of the film, from pitch to release. Included are comments on studio politics, writing, casting, shooting, getting cooperation from the military, technical advising, editing, testing, special effects, music, release, and more. Interviews with the following are included: Director Tony Scott, Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Writer Jack Epps, Actors Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Michael Ironside, Rick Rossovich, Barry Tubb, Technical Advisor Peter “Viper” Pettigrew, Director of Photography Jeffrey Kimball, Photographic Effects Supervisor Gary Gutierrez, Composer Harold Faltermeyer, Musicians Kenny Loggins, Terri Nunn, Editors Chris Lebenzon and Billy Weber, and others too numerous to mention. This is really an interesting, all new documentary, broken down into logical chunks so that, if you only have an interest in certain aspect of production, you can watch only the parts that interest you. The six parts are: From the Ground Up - Pre-Production Playing with the Boys - Production: Land and Sea The Need for Speed - Production: Air Back to Basics - Visual Effects Combat Rock - The Music of Top Gun Afterburn - Release and Impact While participation by Tom Cruise seems a bit limited, the sheer number of participants helps offset that fact. There is a “Play All” feature, which allows for seamless playback as one documentary that lasts for almost two and a half hours. If “Making Of” documentaries interest you, be sure to set aside some time - you’ll need more time than for the movie itself. The documentary is anamorphically enhanced and is displayed at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Multi-Angle Storyboards: Flat Spin Jester’s Dead Both of these are viewable as storyboards only or storyboard and screen comparison, as well as options to play with or without commentary by Tony Scott. Vintage Gallery A second Vintage Gallery on Disc Two includes: Behind the Scenes Featurette (most notable for participation by the late Don Simpson) Survival Training Featurette Tom Cruise Interviews Production Photography. As the name implies, these are all period pieces, produced around the time of the shooting or release of the film. Each featurette is under ten minutes in length, and they are not anamorphically enhanced. Final Thoughts A good popcorn flick, an exhaustive documentary, a commentary, music videos, featurettes, TV Spots, and Multi-Angle Storyboards - combined with sharp menu design - add up to an impressive outing for the signature Simpson / Bruckheimer film of the 80’s. If you like this film, picking this DVD up is a no-brainer... it’s a slick package. Highly Recommended.