Top Gun has been released several times on home video. Before this outstanding 4K release, Paramount released it on Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, part of a Blu-ray collection of Tom Cruise films, and then a steelbook edition for the film’s 30th anniversary. The 3D edition was fun, and while the different Blu-ray editions did not vary all that much in quality, this new 4K UHD edition is wonderful.
The Production: 3.5/5
“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 ensure 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 king of the skies; confident, cocky, and careless at times. He might just be the best of the best. When Maverick and his co-pilot, Goose (Anthony Edwards) are chosen to attend the elite flight school and compete for the coveted title of ‘Top Gun’, the competitive environment and high-octane action inevitably leads to trouble. Maverick falls for Charlie (Kelly McGillis), civilian instructor, engages in a taut rivalry with another fighter pilot, Iceman, and happily flaunts authority at almost every opportunity.
Top Gun helped launch the stellar career of Tom Cruise, and with good reason. Cool headed, handsome, assured, and likable, Cruise–despite being shorter than the traditional leading man–had everything 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 finest performances through his career in works like Magnolia and Minority Report.
Before his long days and nights as Dr. Mark Greene on NBC’s mega hit television series, ER, Anthony Edwards sported a porn moustache to play Goose. The role, an outgoing, easy to like, all-American farm boy type, suited Edwards very well. 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. 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 to have only 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 looking back, 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 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, and a healthy dash of the underdog. But it’s a little too straightforward and the plotting 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, absorbing 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.
3D Rating: NA
Oh, my goodness!
Paramount’s latest entry in their 4K UHD catalogue releases is quite the revelation. Top Gun has never looked this incredible for our home viewing enjoyment. Delicious and consistent film grain where it’s supposed to be, a brilliant amount of detail and clarity, flesh tones warm and natural, and none of the overly obtrusive digital tinkering that Paramount’s recent and controversial ‘Paramount Present’ Blu-ray line up has seen.
Shots inside the cockpit during the aerial sequences are perhaps the best, with rich details like marks and scuffs on helmets. The colors are pop even more nicely thanks to the Dolby Vision. Director Tony Scott and cinematographer Jeffrey L. Kimball’s use of color grading is quite pleasing, and the use of silhouetting showcases strong black levels. Whites are particularly crisp, with naval uniforms showing off just how brilliant they look in 4K.
A spectacular release.
Paramount brings Top Gun on UHD home with a Dolby Atmos (which will play as Dolby TrueHD 7.1 for those not Atmos equipped) and it is impressive. Thunderous bass, excellent surround separation (listen as the jets fly by and around), and dialogue issue free in the center channel.
Harold Faltermeyer’s synth-based score come across crisp and clear and will make fans of the music yearn for the day when a terrific label like La La-land Records can release a complete score for our listening pleasure (the way they’ve given us Faltermeyer’s Beverly Hills Cop 1 and 2 and Fletch and Fletch Lives).
As I have always found in this film, the cues heard in the film aren’t always well placed, with some awkward transitions between scenes and between score and song. But is all sounds crisp and powerful on this release.
Special Features: 3.5/5
The special features are all here, and included is a new retrospective featuring produce Bruckheimer, star Tom Cruise, and some of the cast for the upcoming sequel, Top Gun: Maverick. While not deep, their appreciation for the original Top Gun is fun.
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 good set of extras.
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
Blu-ray version of the film (featuring Dolby Atmos and the newly remastered film)
Paramount – this is how you do it. I can’t imagine Top Gun looking any better than this with a faithful treatment of the original film-look and all the pomp and circumstance that a well-thought out 4K release of a catalogue title should offer. It looks and sounds impressive. Clearly this is the version to own for fans of the film and fans of terrific looking catalogue films.
The aerial footage seems more impressive to my eyes in this version compared to all the previous releases I’ve owned (and I’ve owned them all). The image is striking, and an example of what Paramount can produce when it does it right.
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