Page 1 of 3
The 80s action classic gets a 3D high-def bump - would Goose approve....?
Paramount / 109 Minutes / 1986 / Rated PG / Street Date: February 19, 2013
Most are familiar with Top Gun’s plot and Tom Cruise’s high profile career. Cruise may have achieved true celebrity status after his 1983 hit film, Risky Business, but Top Gun was unequivocally the film that catapulted him to superstar status; it seems to remain his signature film. Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Cruise) is a hotshot fighter pilot selected to be trained with the best of the best at the elite Top Gun school at Miramar Naval Air Station in California. Mitchell struggles to move beyond a tragic accident and a past complicated by the death under questionable circumstances of his celebrated pilot father; he longs to carve a niche for himself. Cocky competition and the spark of a romance with a beautiful instructor keeps him on the edge, but when he receives a call to duty, a potential dogfight over the Indian Ocean, is Mitchell up to the challenge? Is he really the best of the best?
Rock stars in the sky. Star Wars on Earth. That’s what the filmmakers were thinking when they made this film. For those who may not know, at the time the film was made the Top Gun school did indeed exist at Miramar in California (it has since been moved to another Naval Air Station by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission). And while the film embellishes the drama, much of the film’s technical prowess is based on authentic Top Gun instructors’ expert advice. This enhancement helps give the film’s brazen plot a believable foundation. Much of the location shooting and the flying scenes are authentic (with the exception of poor continuity of the orientation of Tomcats’ adjustable swept wings); the actors were even filmed in aircraft during the action sequences.
But Hollywood didn’t want to make a documentary about the Top Gun school. After reviewing a Bruce Weber photography book, composed mostly black and white shots of half-dressed athletic men, director Tony Scott decided to incorporate that sexy style with his actors. And film producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer wanted a sexy woman lead. But flesh alone won’t support a plot. We need to feel that Mitchell is appealing, has outstanding talent, truly struggles to want to be the best, and earns his achievements. This is accomplished. Cruise delivers a fine performance, portraying Mitchell’s journey of loss, anger, and triumph. It’s difficult to imagine anyone else in the role.
Breezy pacing, solid acting, a pulsing memorable score, and high-octane aerial photography help Top Gun achieve its “rock and roll jets in the sky” status with aplomb, but one disappointment remains. Tom Cruise and Rebecca DeMornay had a palpable chemistry in Risky Business. Kelly McGillis and Harrison Ford had terrific chemistry in Witness. Cruise and McGillis both look great and were cast well by type, but their onscreen chemistry never worked for me. Other than that, the film is a blast and any other faults it may have are trivial.
The question here, though, is whether Top Gun merits a 3D upgrade. The film was originally scheduled to have a theatrical re-release in the format, but that was ultimately scrapped, and while the advent of a new way of watching an old favorite like this one is intriguing, the results are uncompelling. Every once in a while, we'll get a fun new spatial presence that adds a visual thrill to a dogfight or training sequence, but Top Gun was just fine in 2D, thank you very much.