Top Gun zooms from the screen on 3D Blu-ray
By Jim Bray
In yet another dip into the well of existing titles, Paramount Pictures has given us a retrofitted 3D version of its 1986 action hit "Top Gun." Is it worth it?
Well, the 3D can be kind of neat during the flying sequences – the only reason I revisit Top Gun periodically – but for the rest of it it's more a case of gilding the lily.
But some of those flying shots are very interesting, indeed. Or so it seems; I have trouble seeing 3D properly, so your "eyelage" may vary. In my case, instead of stuff coming out of the screen at me, the screen appears as a kind of window onto a 3D world behind it. So there's still definite depth and it can be pretty cool at times, but it isn't what the filmmakers intend.
If anything can make Top Gun more watchable, however, it just could be this 3D treatment.
Top Gun is hardly a masterpiece of cinema, but it definitely qualifies as a guilty pleasure for pilots and/or aviation buffs (let alone Tom Cruise fans). The action stars Cruise (this was arguably the movie that put both him and late director Tony Scott on the map) as a cocky Navy jet pilot who brings with him enough baggage to fill the overhead bins of a jumbo jet.
As I mentioned in my review of the original Top Gun Blu-ray, the film came out just a couple of years after my very short flying "career:" about 100 hours of "pilot in command" seat time in single engine, fixed wing aircraft (Cessna 150 and 172), flying for pleasure in the mountains of southeastern British Columbia. The film was so much up my alley that I dragged my wife and kids to a Calgary theater on its debut because I wanted to see and hear the F-14 Tomcats on the big screen with big sound – conditions that you couldn't reproduce at home back then.
Now you can and thanks to Blu-ray (whether 2D or 3D), it can be experienced with state of the art picture and sound.
And though the story is more than a tad soap opera-y and predictable, the flying scenes are great and are worth the price of admission on their own.
For anyone who hasn't seen the film yet, it follows hotshot pilot Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Cruise) from his duties flying from an aircraft carrier in Indian Ocean, through the U.S. Navy's famous "Top Gun" training school and back again.
Maverick definitely has what it takes in the cockpit, but he's also cocky and that's the pits as far as the Navy is concerned. But after he flips off a couple of MiGs that were buzzing them, he and his cockpit-mate "Goose" (Anthony Edwards) end up competing for the Top Gun trophy among other "best of the best" naval aviators at the school in Nevada.
Maverick's nemesis is "Iceman" (Val Kilmer), his main competition for the championship, and the instructors (including Tom Skerritt and Michael Ironside) see his potential, but can see clearly that his razor sharp edge needs to be tempered if he's to succeed.
Among all this testosterone is one dose of estrogen, thanks to Charlie (Kelly McGillis), a ground-based instructor who, surprise, surprise!, becomes Maverick's love interest. A bit more estrogen comes courtesy of the lovely Meg Ryan, the goose to Goose' gander.
The competition gives the filmmakers and filmgoers some marvelous opportunities to fly vicariously with sequences that are a blast to watch, especially if you have a really large screen and the sound to accompany it.
We do. We fired it up on our 106 inch projection screen, with audio piped through our Rotel-powered 5.1 system, and we weren't disappointed. Since the audio is from the late 1980's it isn't quite up to the snuff of a modern digital recording, but it's darn close – enough so that our pets hightailed it out of the home theater within about five minutes of the opening Paramount 100th anniversary logo. That was fine with us.
It's impossible to talk about Top Gun without mentioning the hit records and music videos it unleashed on an unsuspecting public, stuff like Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone" and Berlin's Oscar-winning "Take My Breath Away." They, and Harold Faltermeyer's synth score, work well for the movie, helping keep us in the era in which the film is set ("present day," though really the 1980's when the film was made).
Top Gun is still fun after 25 years, but it's even hokier now than then, which makes it hard to keep from squirming sometimes. But then come the flying scenes…
The new Blu-ray is a two disc edition containing both a 2D and a 3D Blu-ray, as well as access to an Ultraviolet download copy.
Both Blu-rays are presented in 1080/24p and while it isn't likely to go down in video history as one of the reference quality discs, it's pretty good. There's a bit of depth to both versions (naturally, the 3D one is better in this regard), the colors are vibrant and fine detail (including grain) is nice.
The flying scenes are the best showcase for the 3D, fortunately, and you really can see that the aircraft are closer to or farther from you (and each other), depending on the situation, and when there are multple craft on screen at a time you get the best show.
Audio comes with two lossless choices: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and DTS-HD MA 6.1. The mix delivers good imaging and oomph, considering the film's age. Channel separation is good, and this enhances the experience of the jets flying by – which of course was why I was there in the first place. The dogfights sound great!
There are no supplements on the 3D disc, but the 2D version has quite a few, though they appear to be the same as the ones from earlier Blu-ray releases.
First up is an audio commentary track, with a group of folk who appear to have been recorded separately. The group consists of director Tony Scott, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, writer Jack Epps, Jr., and some technical advisors. "Danger Zone: The Making of 'Top Gun'" is a reasonably full length, six part documentary that gives you plenty of info – perhaps more than you want unless you're the ultimate "Top Gun" nerd. Fortunately, the documentary is entertaining.
There are also Multi-Angle Storyboards with optional commentary by the late Mr. Scott, there's also a shorter, behind the scenes featurette, some TV commercials and music videos, Tom Cruise interviews, a "survival training" featurette and "Best of the Best" (which is a pretty good look at the real training facility).
If you don't own Top Gun on Blu-ray already and think you'd get off on the 3D magic, this might be the version to get. Remember, this version is retrofitted from a 2D source, though to be fair, they've done a pretty good job of it, as far as my flawed eyes can see.
Top Gun, from Paramount Home Entertainment
Copyright 2013 Jim Bray
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.