Top Gun - 3DOverview -
Devil-may-care navy pilot Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is sent to Miramar Naval Air Station for advanced training. Here he vies with Tom Kasansky (Val Kilmer) for the coveted "Top Gun" award. When not so occupied, Mitchell carries on a romance with civilian consultant Charlotte Blackwood (Kelly McGillis). Shaken up by the death of a friend, Mitchell loses the Top Gun honor to Kasansky. Worried that he may have lost his nerve, Mitchell is given a chance to redeem himself during a tense international crisis involving a crippled US vessel and a flock of predatory enemy planes. The story wasn't new in 1986, but Top Gun scored with audiences on the strength of its visuals, especially the vertigo-inducing aerial sequences. The film made more money than any other film in 1986 and even spawned a 1989 takeoff, Hot Shots. An Academy Award went to the Giogio Moroder-Tom Whitlock song "Take My Breath Away." ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
When it comes to double-dips, I typically skip reviewing the movie portion to save time, but considering the fact that our first 'Top Gun' review was for 2 Stars, and the second was for 3 Stars, I thought it would be funny if the third one was for 4 Stars (FWIW, it's my honest opinion). Who knows, maybe when Paramount releases the 4K Blu-ray 30th Anniversary Edition in 2016, that reviewer will adorn it with a full 5 Stars?
I wanted to share my two pennies as well because, as we all tragically know, this is not only the first Tony Scott 3-D Blu-ray, but possibly the last Tony Scott Blu-ray. Ever . While 'Top Gun' isn't my all-time favorite Scott movie , hearing last August that he had taken his own life was crushing. Tony Scott had entertained me since I was a little boy who had no idea someone called a "director" made movies. Years later, a moment I'm sure many of you have felt, I made the connection: wait, all these awesome movies are "by" the same one guy ? Impossible!
So it is with a regretful hat tipped, and a pint raised, that I begin our look back at 1986's box office king with a goodbye to a man who helped inspire my personal love for cinema.
As we all know by now, 'Top Gun' tells the story of Peter Mitchell (Tom Cruise, cementing his stardom) and his quest to be number one at an elite Navy fighter pilot school called, what else, Top Gun. But Mitchell, call sign Maverick, is a bit of a troublemaker, constantly pushing the rules, riding the edge of what's safe, and finding love in inappropriate places (like admirals' daughters and civilian instructors). He might be the best pilot in the group, but his recklessness threatens to undermine greatness. Only when facing a great personal loss that makes him lose his confidence, can Maverick rebuild himself, face his demons, and become the Top Gun hero he always wanted to be.
It's easy to look at 'Top Gun' and see only elements that scream '80s film. There's the synthesizer score, the platinum-selling Kenny Loggins soundtrack, the rah-rah American spirit, and a beach volleyball montage. I get it. I'm not saying it's a perfect movie, but despite being a product of its time, I would argue that 'Top Gun' is damn fine cinema.
The key to 'Top Gun' is that it completely lacks cynicism. Think about it. A mighty country with the world's most powerful armed forces is between wars (and the draft was long gone). Gas is cheap again. Terrorism is limited to "far away". Suburbia keeps expanding. America still makes STUFF. And a new generation of directors is pumping out escapist fantasies in the new blockbuster era. I don't mean to imply that everything's perfect for everyone, or that today sucks, but it's a pretty good time and entertainment reflects a general, cultural mindset.
'Top Gun' is a perfect example of such escapist, action melodrama. And, if we wanted to write an essay, we could probably argue that Maverick represents America at the time . Brash, bold, dangerous, the best of the best. Maverick and America can do anything, but only if he and we can get our shit together. And like many little boys out there watching 'Top Gun' on VHS (and TV), who wouldn't want to be the best fighter pilot of all time? Hell yeah I did.
That's why 'Top Gun' is awesome. Tom Cruise, for all his shenanigans in the last few years, is The Man here . But he's not perfect. Nope. Maverick has to grow, has to learn which rules to follow and which to smash. Most of all, he needs to realize there are more important things than his own selfish bullshit. And you know what? When Maverick figures that out, tragically a little too late, when he puts his talent together with drive and hard work, when he pushes back against fear, he saves the motherfucking day. It doesn't always happen like that in the real world, of course, but it's a pretty awesome lesson.
Oh, and let's not forget the all star cast. Val Kilmer as the doucher/rival Ice Man. Anthony Edwards before 'E.R.' Meg Ryan in one of her first roles. Tom Skerritt before he moved to 'Picket Fences'. Michael Ironsides from 'V' and 'Total Recall'. Hell, there's even a Tim Robbins cameo as Merlin.
And finally, Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson collaborating with Tony Scott. Bruckheimer remains the blockbuster king , a veritable mini-studio in TV and features, but this was the start of his action era. This man, through giving Tony Scott and Michael Bay chances, was a driving force behind '80s and '90s action cinema . Then there's Mr. Scott himself, who grabs hold of his audience, straps them into an F-14, and launches off an aircraft carrier, slowing only to make us care for the characters. Every modern action movie is, even in a small way, a direct decedent of 'Top Gun'. Sure, there have been a lot of bad knockoffs, and one could argue whether or not these changes -- shaky cam, machine gun editing, lack of geographical awareness -- have actually made movies better. But the change, the evolution, remains regardless.
So, dear Readers, I'll end with this. You're welcome to hate on 'Top Gun'. You're welcome to think it's silly and shallow. Hell, you're welcome to not even care because it's only a movie. But I, for one, love this movie. It's fun, action-packed, filled with great actors delivering solid performances from a perfectly structured screenplay, and made a lasting impact on American culture  and the language of cinema. But, sadly, it's also a reminder that one of Hollywood's most interesting voices will sing no more.
 Barring another restoration, boxed set, or conversion.
 Get a better idea of that here, where I ranked my favorite Scott Bros. films, though today I would find a place for 'Unstoppable'.
 A later light bulb moment would reveal that movies are made by hundreds of talented people in an orchestrated collaboration, not just the one or two big names. But learning about movies is a mysterious process, so give me a break.
 It's important to note this may not have been a worldwide view of America; it certainly isn't now. But put on some acid wash jeans or neon t-shirts, grab your Walkman, and go with it.
 No joke, want to learn how to be cool and get a girl; watch Cary Grant in everything and Cruise circa 'Top Gun'.
 Feel free to argue whether or not he deserves this title, or the relatively quality of his various pictures over the decades, but his film and television business is a billion dollar enterprise. Box office revenues don't equate quality, but the man has earned my respect for sure.
 Among others, of course.
 Including, but not limited to, console and arcade video games, the pop-rock soundtrack, loads of other merchandise, and literal growth in the number of young people volunteering to be members of our armed services.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
For the film's third trip to Blu-ray, Paramount Home Entertainment presents 'Top Gun 3D' as a 2-Disc "Limited 3D Edition" with new cover art and a matching lenticular slipcover. Inside, you will find one Blu-ray 3D housing the film only, as well as a second disc with the 2D version of the film and the Special Features. This second Blu-ray appears to be the exact same disc as the 2008 and 25th Anniversary releases (it still says "Special Collector's Edition" at the copyright marking says 2008). Previous reviews have stated this BD-50 is Region A locked, but there are no markings on these discs or packaging to say whether or not that is still the case. Also inside is a redemption code for both an UltraViolet streaming copy (presumably HD, but currently unavailable before the film's official release) as well as an iTunes-compatible downloadable Digital Copy. This code expires on 2/19/2015. Neither disc has forced trailers. The Blu-ray 3D's Main Menu is in 3D.
A freshly restored and converted 'Top Gun 3D' soars onto Blu-ray with an MPEG-4 MVC encode framed (for the most part) in the film's original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Overall, it looks pretty damned sweet, though I have some reservations about the whole experience and one huge grievance with the release overall, but we'll get there in a minute.
'Dial M For Murder' is the oldest stereoscopic film I've seen to date (and only theatrically), but 'Top Gun 3D' is the "oldest conversion," so when I plunked down on the couch, I had no freakin' idea what to expect. Regular ole 'Top Gun' on Blu-ray looks okay, but is definitely showing its age in terms of source material, and when compared to the flawless blockbusters produced today. The movie's opening moments on the aircraft carrier, more so than later scenes, are gritty and grainy and dark. Then there's Mr. Scott's cutting style, which, upon the film's release, was singled out for its MTV-inspired quick and geography-free editing. The best 3D is carefully monitored to not wear out viewers and requires longer moments to help the brain buy the effect (heck, even Michael Bay slowed things down for the format).
Also, as an experiment, we could probably argue about 'Top Gun 3D' all day. Is it a cash grab? Yes. Was it absolutely necessary to see THIS ONE FLICK in three dimensions? Arguably no. So is it a soulless, cinematic disaster? Far from it.
Let's first talk about what's working. In a pure image quality sense, this may be the best 'Top Gun' has ever looked on home video. I tend to toss that specific compliment out when a Blu-ray isn't perfect as a reminder to how MUCH better the transfer looks over DVD and VHS. But we've had an "okay" Blu-ray for the last few years. So how is it better? Well, for starters, the whole movie appears (either before or during the conversion process) to have been either restored or re-mastered. Other than a couple specs of dirt, the source material and encode are nearly flawless. No damage (there has been minor scratching) or macroblocking. And yet, detail is more-or-less the same and color reproduction is resplendent with vivid primary colors like reds and blue. Black levels are deep with no crush. Even better still, the film grain remains despite all the digital wizardry on hand; 'Top Gun 3D' looks like, well, 'Top Gun' minted from fresh source materials.
High praise, for sure, but you have to give the digital artists credit. They cleaned this old dog up real nice.
Further, the 3D experience has a number of high points. The movie opens with the new 100th Anniversary Paramount Logo which, to no one's surprise, looks perfect. Seeing this first, I was immediately worried. How could a nearly-30 year old film compare to a CGI creation in terms of depths, color, resolution, clarity and all those things that make Pixar and Dreamworks CGI animated movies stunning HD demo material?
Then something fun happened. The opening titles, including the long paragraph about the history of the Top Gun program, popped right off the screen. I smiled. Those looked good. I liked the effect. And then my mouth dropped. Remember those terrible dark and grainy shots of fighter jets slowly preparing for take off? All the steam and sweat and exhaust? They still look like I remember, the grit and grain are still there, but wow, the flat, chunky images have been replaced with believable depth. Nothing suffered from that cardboard layer effect.
In fact, smoke on the carrier sequences, as well as the interior of Viper's office, is perhaps the best use of 3D in the movie. There's also a terrific bit where, during the film's climax, a wing-mounted camera flies through the contrail just-formed by the Mig in front of us. These moments appear filmed-in-3D.
The dog fighting sequences, and most of the individual shots, are done really well. Jet noses poke out from time to time, the smaller jets, sometimes leave the screen, but for the most part, we experience depth rather than pop-out. Another strength to this conversion is, much like the smoke, the characters themselves rarely feel like cardboard cutouts. I would say "never" because none of our main characters ever appear that way, but whenever an intentionally-out-of-focus extra crosses in the foreground -- think the bar scenes -- they look flat and tend to disrupt the shot / stereo effect.
Looking at the video review so far, it seems I've done nothing but heap butt-kissing praise onto this conversion. I merely intend to give credit where it is due. There's a lot of beautiful work in here, and it's crazy to think the movie still looks like itself, only deeper.
But there are problems too. I mentioned detail earlier. There's a lot of nice texture and film grain here, making the movie feel, visually, much like what we know, but after watching the 3D edition, I jumped back and forth between versions a number of times to spot-check color and detail. Colors matched perfectly and, while the 3D movie definitely looks in better shape than the two dimensional version (more on this below), the 2D image carries more detail and texture in perfectly focused close ups. So it seems some, albeit minor, detail has been scrubbed away, which will enflame our purists.
Next, 'Top Gun' boasts an overtly aggressive 3D experience, with the titles and planes, and other objects constantly punching out of the screen, which made it more exhausting to my eyes in two hours than watching all of 'Titanic 3D'. Further, while l adore 'The Dark Knight' Blu-ray for its IMAX-replicating aspect ratio shifts, I was taken a little off guard when the sides of this frame began cropping in and out. Presumably this inch or two (on my 65-inch display) of "pillar boxing" was done to ensure the sides of the frame matched the depth of the location, but it's definitely jarring the first time through. Look for these shots in hallways, cockpits, and in ocean environments.
We should also talk about pacing and editing. In the least shocking news ever, 'Top Gun 3D' looks best during longer, static shots. Bar rooms, character moments, wing-mounted cameras -- any time the filmmakers gave us a chance to breathe and soak in the newly-added depth. But one must assume that Paramount converted this particular film with the intention of enhancing the dog fighting set-pieces (or perhaps in hopes of making 'Top Gun 2' in 3D). Ultimately, individual shots work great, but as a whole, the faster the cutting, even in non-action scenes like the elevator rendez-vous, the more I felt pushed out of the movie. I can definitely keep up, Mr. Scott's rapid-fire style was only beginning by this point, but it's tiring and may actually seems to undercut the stereoscopic experience.
Finally, there are more than a few moments where planes or people, who appear deeper, connect with the frame's edge and spoil the illusion, but there are only a couple outwardly BAD shots (for my eyes). These both included mirror reflections, and the added depth of the distance behind the mirror feels wonky. Ghosting, for those with prone displays, is minor (on some titles and some of the smaller jet shot).
As you can probably see, 'Top Gun 3D' is definitely a mixed bag. From my point of view, there were more impressive moments than failures, but as an overall experience, the 3D doesn't enhance the action. It's cool. It looks good. It makes for some gorgeous, some less so, high definition. But serve story or improve the film, it does not.
Which brings me to my final gripe about the video. 'Top Gun' in 2008 earned 4 Stars for PQ when reviewed on Blu-ray and HD-DVD. In 2011, another reviewer knocked it down to 3 Stars because of its aging transfer, and what I call the "raised bar effect" of seeing three more years of exciting Blu-ray releases. I used to defend the first PQ rating, thinking some (here and elsewhere) were a little harsh on an aging film.
And yet, after seeing the re-mastered 'Top Gun - 3D', I see what we're missing now. I see the potential for improvement. The real problem, the glaring mistake, with this Blu-ray release is that, despite a PR statement stating the 2D movie was a re-master, it appears to be nothing more than another copy of the same BD that's been available for years now. Why on Earth wouldn't Paramount, at the very least, provide a master that doesn't have the same old dust, dirt, minor-scratching, and in some shots, little hints of macro-blocking (see the smoke)? I don't want to be hyperbolic and call it a disaster, but how can the arguably best-looking version of 'Top Gun' only be available in 3D? Can you imagine if James Cameron had released the 2012 version of 'Titanic 3D' along with a copy of the old DVD-era HD master? Maybe I'm mistaken, of course, but if I'm correct, what a shame.
Much like 2008 and 2011, 'Top Gun 3D' offers two lossless versions of its aggressive sound mix in the form of a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and 6.1 DTS-HD MA tracks. Lossless is lossless as they say, so I rarely choose between audio formats, but since I have a 7.1 setup, I always pick the 6.1 track for that extra channel, which is what I'm reviewing here.
As previous reviewers have stated, it's surprising that a 1986 stereo mix sounds this bombastic. Sure, it doesn't have the dynamic range of a modern track, and it's never really what one would call refined or subtle, but it fits this actioner perfectly. Dialog is always clear and there's a surprising amount of immersive ambiance in all of the non-jet sequences (though sometimes you can hear jets taking off nearby). LFE levels are pretty solid, especially roaring engines, but explosions aren't quiet as deep or gut-punchy as something produced in the modern surround era.
The best part about this mix is, of course, the jets. The screaming, whooshing, swooping jets bomb all around the soundscape -- side-to-side, front-to-back, swirling all around you. Despite its age and limitations, when you've had a bad day and want to crank your surround sound up to 11, 'Top Gun' has always been a go-to disc.
As far as I could tell, there were no changes, or noticeable differences, between the 3D and 2D presentations.
All of the special features can be found on the 2D Blu-ray marked Special Collector's Edition. This is the same package from 2008 and 2011. Here is what my colleague, M. Enois Duarte, said in 2011:
- Audio Commentary — Pieced together from separate recordings comes a group commentary with director Tony Scott, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, screenwriter Jack Epps, Jr., and technical advisors Captain Mike Galpin, Pete Pettigrew and Vice Admiral Mike McCabe. The conversation can be a bit annoying at times because voices seem to awkwardly interrupt one another, but it's fairly informative and for the most part interesting. The filmmakers are, of course, focused on the production and shooting, providing good anecdotes about the things that happened on set, working with the cast and the overall plot. Advisors, obviously, emphasize and talk about the technical details and accuracies — or inaccuracies — seen throughout the movie, giving fans some fascinating tidbits about reality versus fiction. In the end, it's a good alternative to the over-two-hours doc that follows.
- "Danger Zone: The Making of Top Gun" (SD, 148 min) — Broken in six parts, this exhaustive documentary covers pretty much every aspect of the production, whether you want to know it or not. Actually, it's a surprisingly entertaining, comprehensive look at the movie's making, from its meager beginnings as a script that was passed around for a while to the musical score, song selections and audience reaction. There's little in the way of criticism and delving too far into any problems experienced during filming, but interviews with cast and crew mildly touch on some troubles and are more focused on celebrating the movie as a memorable success. With tons of BTS footage throughout, the doc is a good watch for both admirers and non-fans alike.
- Multi-Angle Storyboards (SD, 7min) — With optional commentary by director Tony Scott, two scenes are showcased with the multi-angle option where viewers can compare storyboards and the actual shots.
- Vintage Gallery (SD) — Inside this cheesy tab is a small collection of videos made during the original production of 'Top Gun' or shortly after. Kicking things off are four music videos that fans can rock out to, depending on the viewer's mood ("Danger Zone" by Kenny Loggins, "Take my Breadth Away" by Berlin, "Heaven in Your Eyes" by Loverboy and "Top Gun Anthem" by Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens). Followed by seven TV commercials and an interview with a young Tom Cruise (7 min). Finally, two EPKs called "Behind-the-Scenes" (6 min) and "Survival Training" (8 min).
Barring more double-dips, re-masters, boxed sets, and 3D Conversions, the main reason I signed up for 'Top Gun 3D' is because I adore Tony Scott and this represents one of the last times to review, if not something new, something of his we've never seen (sort of). I have no idea whether he was involved with this process, other than he intended to make a sequel, but after watching this movie, it breaks my cinema-heart to know there will never been another new Tony Scott film. And despite my questions about the overall experience here, now more than ever I wonder what Tony Scott in native stereo would have been like? Insane, over the top, seizure-inducing, brilliant? Who knows, but man I loved his work.
As for 'Top Gun 3D', let's break it down. The movie remains a classic. Fun. Action-packed. Great characters. Solid structure. You name it. Is it a product of its time, of a different era? Definitely. But there are a ton of movies I loved as a kid I would never consider watching again-and-again, but, for me and countless others, 'Top Gun' endures. I love its complete lack of cynicism.
As a Blu-ray, it's a much harder call. Most will be happy with the disc they have, given half of this release IS that very same disc. Aside from the new UltraViolet copy, the only reason to consider this Blu is the 3D (no shit, Palmer), which is very well done, despite a few flaws. But I'm not sure the overall experience is enhanced, except that the movie now looks sometimes better in 3D than the aging 2D transfer (though the aging transfer does best the new version in places). Finally, the audio is terrific and loud and everything this movie needs it to be, and the Special Features remain surprisingly in-depth.
In a perfect world, I would suggest renting 'Top Gun - 3D' before buying to see if you like it. But I don't know any place that rents 3D, other than a few streaming platforms, which isn't exactly full Blu-ray quality. In that case, my best advice is that this new edition is mainly for those who love-love-LOVE 'Top Gun' and/or Blu-ray 3D. It's definitely an interesting experiment, one that's much better than anticipated, but it'll take some more time and viewings for me to decide if this is The Version to watch.
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