Top Gun (HD DVD)

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

It’s nearly impossible to fathom that it’s been over twenty years since audiences were first introduced to “Top Gun”. Yes, the film that literally epitomizes the Cold War as much as anything else out there, “Top Gun” gave us the action whereas “Dr. Strangelove” gave us the humor. More importantly, “Top Gun” gave us Tom Cruise, which was a good thing until he started hopping on sofas on national television. Cruise wasn’t a household name but had a few credits to his name before he made the breakthrough to Hollywood mega star. Additionally, the film was one of the first and most successful for producers Jerry Bruckheimer and the late Don Simpson (Bruckheimer has since produced several dozen action/adventure movies that have grossed billions all over the planet). The film also put director Tony Scott on the map as well, the brother of director Ridley hasn’t always been so critically-acclaimed but his movies have a little more firepower nonetheless (pardon the pun).

The plot of “Top Gun” could literally be summed up in a few words: “Russians bad, Americans good.” There’s more to it than that, of course, but from above that seems to summarize what the movie is about. Ok, I’ll do deeper. Cocky young Lt. Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise) has been selected as a candidate for Top Gun – an elite school where the Navy trains their pilots for combat. The school is comprised of the best of the best and there’s little room for egos. Among the candidates are “Iceman” (Val Kilmer), “Goose” (Anthony Edwards) and “Slider” (Rick Rossovich). Naturally students need teachers and they’re led by “Viper” (Tom Skerritt) and “Jester” (Michael Ironside). Naturally with all of these men, we need a woman (a muse if you will) and we get that in Charlie (Kelly McGillis), the instructor who has a fling with Pete. Suffice it to say that the movie has enough action to satisfy all of the men and enough romance to satisfy all of the women and no doubt why it was so successful at the box office.

“Top Gun” is a modern classic, there’s no doubt about it. It was the right movie at the right time and produced a true superstar out of Tom Cruise. In addition to a great movie was an even better soundtrack that had a few of 1986’s better songs. Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” is prevalent throughout and the more romantic “Take My Breath Away” provided the emotion for the love scenes. Love it or hate it, “Top Gun” is probably a movie that everyone should see. It has some of the best action sequences that I’ve ever seen and even twenty years later, those are still tough to beat. The movie is a bit dated, but for fans of the action/adventure/romance genre this is probably a Top 10 movie. A good supporting cast certainly doesn’t hurt and if you look real close, you’ll catch a few glimpses of future Academy Award Winner Tim Robbins.

Video: How does it look?

“Top Gun” hasn’t really ever looked bad in any format that I’ve seen. I’ve owned this in just about every incarnation from VHS (it was one of the first VHS movies to be priced to own), Laserdisc and standard DVD. With its appearance on HD DVD I had high hopes, but had to keep telling myself that the film is now over twenty years old. As it turns out, the 2.20:1 VC-1 HD transfer doesn’t look half bad. It doesn’t have that 3-D effect like some of the newer movies out there, but the edge enhancement that plagued the earlier DVD version is gone and the movie has a level of sharpness that I haven’t seen in prior incarnations. Some of the aerial shots seem to have a bit of grain associated with them, but this has been present in earlier versions. You can see every bead of sweat on their faces and I’d have to say that this is the best the movie has ever looked (as expected). For those expecting to be blown away, you probably won’t be but as far as how “Top Gun” looks – it’s the best it ever has.

Audio: How does it sound?

I was expecting big things from this soundtrack as it’s long been regarded as one of the better-sounding tracks out there. I have to say that I was a bit let down here, but I probably set my hopes a bit too high to begin with. There are a few options when it comes to the audio and I chose the Dolby TrueHD track right off the bat. There are several sequences in which all of your speakers will be humming away with missles whizzing by, airplanes whooshing from one side of the screen to the next (yes, “whooshing” is a word…I think) and, of course, planes blowing up. There’s a DTS-ES mix as well, though I preferred the TrueHD mix to the DTS. As I mentioned above, I was a bit let down by how this sounded. Granted, the movie is twenty years old and we’ve come a long way in terms of how movies sound but with that said the movie just seems to lack the punch that the modern movies do. I broke out “Batman Begins” and played a few scenes from that just to get a point of reference. “Top Gun” doesn’t sound bad, not by any means. The dialogue is crystal clear and the soundtrack resonates through all your speakers as expected. The surrounds are almost constantly humming along too. I just felt that it would be a bit better, though the DTS-ES and TrueHD tracks do sound leaps and bounds better than those on the standard DVD.

Supplements: What are the extras?

If you’re expecting all of the supplements to be ported over from the previous standard DVD special edition – you’ll be disappointed. There are absolutely no extras here, not even a trailer. I don’t understand why, but evidently Paramount is banking on the popularity of the film to sell the discs.

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