Paramount // 1986 // 109 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Nicholas Sylvain (Retired) // June 23rd, 1999
Now that's what I call a target rich environment!
One of the 1980s premier macho action flicks gets a typically poor treatment from Paramount.
There's a reason that this movie keeps showing up on cable -- it is simply one of the classic films of the 1980s. I can attest to that fact, having been in high school when it was released. Combining high velocity action and a top-notch soundtrack, Top Gun was a nearly two hour Navy recruiting poster. Nobody is going to mistake this for Shakespeare, but who cares?
Fortunately for reviewers of this genre, we don't have to devote a lot of print to detailing the subtle twists and ingenious turns of the plot. Top Gun's plot is about as subtle as a two-by-four across the shins. We join up with our hero, Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise) and his pal Goose as they use their multi-million dollar F-14 Tomcat fighters to play an updated game of jet fighter "tag" with some undetermined bad guys in their MiGs.
While "Maverick" takes his daily brush with death in stride, his wingman suddenly freaks out, remembers that he's not the hero of the movie, and turns in his wings. This causes much cigar-chewing by his boss, because somehow despite Maverick's horrible disciplinary record, he is being sent off to the elite Navy school for fighter pilots, Top Gun. Once there, we find our hero not only gets to compete with an even more arrogant pilot, Iceman (Val Kilmer), but he gets to play an even better game of "tag" with a gorgeous blond instructor, Charlie (Kelly McGillis). Plus, he gets yelled at by yet another set of bosses, "Viper" (Tom Skerritt) and "Jester" (Michael Ironside).
(By the way, if you're worried about getting your wife or girlfriend to wade through all the macho machismo, tell them to wait for the volleyball scene, set to "Playing With The Boys." At least here they get to admire various male, ah, forms.)
After a lot of mock fighter combat, loud music, and the requisite sex scene (note: remember this is a PG movie), Maverick is faced with an emotional crisis after Goose is killed in an accident. He mopes, he drinks, his friends and superiors talk to him, he quits. Yeah, right. Of course, he recovers his nerve and graduates with his Top Gun class, but everybody doubts that he's still got "the edge." Called to emergency duty against the unspecified enemy we met at the beginning of the movie, Maverick saves the day against overwhelming odds, overcomes his grief, and even gets the girl, again. Fini!
This is a movie where you HAVE to suspend disbelief if you want to enjoy the movie. Don't worry, just put the brain in neutral and enjoy the ride! Just as plot is not a strong suit of this movie, neither is the acting. It's not bad, but there's not exactly a lot of places in the script for an actor to really excel. They do their jobs capably enough to give us the performances we would expect and don't distract us from the overall high-energy ride, which is all that I could ask.
The video transfer is a significant weakness of this disc. As with Patriot Games, I bet Paramount just pulled the laserdisc masters off a shelf and slapped them onto the DVD disc. Particularly in lower-light scenes at the beginning of the movie, I saw notable graininess and noise, as well as dirt flecks and miscellaneous spots. I also noticed occasional very grainy shots in the middle of otherwise acceptable scenes (most notably the aforementioned volleyball scene). However, the color saturation is excellent, and the picture is generally sharp. The aerial photography is stunning, and the great expanses of sky and cloud formations (which can cause problems for MPEG-2 compression) are handled reasonably well.
Fortunately, the audio is of a higher quality. While not quite the show-off soundtrack that it used to be, it still holds its own and will keep your ears entertained and your rafters shaking from the rumblings of jet engines. Perhaps my expectations were spoiled by some of the modern 5.1 mixes, but it seemed to me that the audio lacked a certain punch when it was needed (as when the enemy MiGs blow up).
One small quirk with this disc is that Paramount chose to put both widescreen and pan and scan versions on a single sided, dual layer disc, rather than the more typical double sided, single layer disc. I prefer this presentation, but I am curious as to why Paramount went that route. (Note: I did not review the pan and scan version. If I wanted to see cropped video, I wouldn't have a DVD player and a 50" RPTV.)
No Extras. Not even a lousy trailer. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Naught. Bugger all!
You think it's a coincidence I got this disc in the infamous 3 for $1 deal from 800.com? Wake up, Paramount, it's nearly the turn of the century and this is NOT VHS! Give us quality (ANAMORPHIC!) video transfers and at least some extras on your discs, and we will stop calling them featureless pieces of crap.
At least Top Gun is in the preferred Amaray keep case.
Enjoy the ride, and try not to let Paramount's cheap-ass approach to DVD interfere with your enjoyment.
As an entertaining, high energy thrill ride, the movie is acquitted. Paramount is guilty of foisting another non-anamorphic featureless piece of crap on the general public. This court wishes it could place Paramount in receivership and install a court-appointed special master to ensure an end to their reign of terror.
Review content copyright © 1999 Nicholas Sylvain; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 1986
MPAA Rating: Rated PG