Featured Blu-ray review: Top Gun: 25th Anniversary Edition
August 26th, 2011
This is the fourth time I've reviewed a home market release for Top Gun, which I believe is a personal record. Hopefully it will be the last for a long time. (The only way there will be another release any time soon is if they decide to give the movie a 3-D upgrade. I'm not ruling out that possibility.) So is this latest version worth picking up?
The film starts with a bit of text explaining Fighters Weapons School, a.k.a. Top Gun, then proceeds to a carrier in the Indian Ocean where we are introduced to Maverick and Goose, two of the best pilots in the Navy. At least that's what they think. They are actually number two on their carrier, but an encounter with a pair of MiG 28s leaves the number one pilot, Cougar shaken so badly that he gives up his wings. Now these two are sent to Ton Gun, despite the reservations of Stinger, who is worried about Maverick's recklessness.
Once there, Maverick encounters Iceman, who is his main rival when it comes to being the best. Charlotte Blackwood, who is one of his teachers / love interest. And Commander Mike "Viper" Metcalf, the veteran pilot who helps train the next generations. It appears that Maverick and Goose will be awarded Top Gun as the best fighter pilot in the Navy, but that's when an accident results in Goose's death and that shakes Maverick's confidence to his core.
So that's a more detailed, and more balanced, plot synopsis that I've given in the past. Granted, in the past mostly all I've said about the plot was, 'It's loud and silly.' I do stand by that sentiment. This is an exceedingly silly movie. It is an empty shell of a movie without a heart, but with plenty of machismo. There are some good aspects to the movie, but they are very isolated. The dogfighting scenes are easily the best part of the film and are arguably the only part that stand up to this day. Even here there are problems, as the quick cuts and limited camera angles get repetitive. (A lot of what we see are just closeups of actors in their cockpit yelling at each other. "He's on my six!") There are some good one-liners that are quotable, but a lot of the dialogue just made me roll my eyes. (The overacting didn't help.) The overall plot is slim, predictable, and full of clichés. It has an over-reliance on pop music that makes it feel like a music video rather than a movie. I will admit to liking some of the songs in the movie, mostly the classic songs that were featured ("(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay", "Great Balls of Fire", "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'") while a lot of the music that was recorded for the movie feels dated now. ("Danger Zone" and "Heaven in Your Eyes" are very dated, while I never liked "Playing with the Boys" or "Take My Breath Away".)
This is a movie that I loved when I was 12 years old and it first came out. However, time has not been its friend. It is still remembered by a lot of people, and it has had a lasting impact on the way movies are made. That said, Hot Shots!, a parody of Top Gun, has more dramatic heft than this movie has.
This is not the first time this film has been released on the home market. It it not even the first time it has been released on Blu-ray. So are there new extras to make the upgrade worth it? No. The extras here are the same as the previous Blu-ray, which you can see detailed here. At least there are a ton of extras, some of which have solid replay value.
The video is inconsistent at times, which is not surprising for a film that's 25 years old. Some scenes have amazing clarity, while others are distractingly grainy. Contrast will occasionally become an issue, but colors are great and the blacks are deep, so the film does have that going for it. The audio is better than the video with the surround sound speakers getting a workout, and it's not just the soundtrack coming from the side and rear speakers, as there are plenty of directional effects. Your subwoofer will also earn its keep.
The 25th Anniversary Edition does come with a digital copy, which may or may not be a selling point. It's certainly not worth paying $15 for a double-dip. That said, it doesn't take a deep analysis of the Blu-ray sales number to realize a lot of people who didn't own a Blu-ray player when the 2008 Blu-ray went out of print have since upgraded their home theater systems to High Definition. This release is clearly aimed at them.
Opinions on Top Gun are split with many people calling it the quintessential 1980s action film. Others have marveled at how poorly the film has aged. I'm in the latter group. If you are in the former group and do not yet own the film on Blu-ray, then the 25th Anniversary Edition is worth picking up, but if you haven't seen it in more than a decade, give it a rental first.
Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge
Filed under: Video Review, Top Gun