Top Gun appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This wasn’t a bad presentation, but it lacked consistent strengths.
Sharpness usually worked fine. Some moderate softness interfered on occasion, mainly during interiors. Those issues remained reasonably minor, though, and the movie usually came across as pretty concise. I noticed no problems with jagged edges or shimmering, but light edge enhancement popped up during the flick.
Print flaws never became massive, but they caused some distractions. Various examples of specks, marks, debris and nicks showed up at times. These weren’t dominant, but I’ve gotten used to much cleaner Blu-rays, so their presence here was a problem.
I also got the impression some moderate use of digital noise reduction occurred here. Top Gun looked grainy on its last DVD incarnation, but this one came with much less grain. This seemed to come from DNR and not from a lower generation print. After all, both the Blu-ray and the DVD shared similar levels of print defects; I’d not be surprised to learn they came from the same basic transfer but the Blu-ray just used DNR to make the image less grainy. The movie showed a sheen that often comes with DNR; that led to some unnatural visuals.
Colors were acceptable. Mid-80s movies don’t tend to boast great color vivacity, and these were somewhat murky. Nonetheless, they appeared fine for the most part. Blacks were fairly dense and tight, and low-light shots mainly came across with good clarity. They could look a little drab but not badly so. This was a pretty mediocre presentation that could use an update.
On the other hand, I felt few qualms about the excellent audio of Top Gun. The Blu-ray included both a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack and a DTS-HD MA 6.1 mix. Both seemed terrific; I’d be hard-pressed to choose one over the other.
The movie exhibited a wide and involving soundfield. Not surprisingly, the many action sequences presented great opportunities for movement, and the audio used them well. Jets zoomed around the room convincingly, and the mix turned very active on those occasions. Ambient elements also fared well, while the almost-constant music presented good stereo imaging.
Not too many movies from the Eighties use the surrounds in a really dynamic manner, but Top Gun offered an exception. They offered a lot of action, especially during the flight sequences. The mix also made fine use of the split surround capabilities, as the jets and other elements popped up in appropriate locations in the rear. This was a terrific soundfield that worked much better than I expected given the movie’s vintage.
Audio quality also was solid. Speech sounded natural and distinctive, with no signs of edginess or problems connected to intelligibility. Music showed clean highs as well as taut, warm lows, and the pop songs were well-reproduced. Effects also appeared bright and dynamic. They suffered from very little distortion and replicated the source materials accurately. Low-end was especially impressive, as the mix used the subwoofer to great effect. Bass was tight and bold. The audio would seem solid for a movie made in 2004; that it accompanied an 18-year-old flick made the track all the more amazing.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the Collector’s Edition DVD from 2004? Audio was deeper and richer here, as the lossless sound made an already great pair of mixes better. I thought the Blu-ray also looked better, but it didn’t demonstrate the leaps in quality I’d expect from the format. Many of the DVD’s flaws still remained; the Blu-ray was better defined and more vivid, but it could – and should – have been stronger than it was.
Most of the DVD’s extras repeat here. We start with an audio commentary from director Tony Scott, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, co-writer Jack Epps Jr., Navy Captain Mike Galpin, technical advisor Pete Pettigrew, and Vice Admiral Mike McCabe. Most of the participants sit on their own for this edited piece, but Galpin, McCabe and Pettigrew are all recorded together.
We learn a lot about a variety of issues. Scott discusses his participation in the project, run-ins with the studio, his visual approach to the film and a mix of concerns that occurred along the way. Bruckheimer and Epps talk about the origins of the project and its path to the screen as well as storytelling concerns and development. The other three get into the film’s realism - or lack thereof - as well as true-life experiences and influences on the story. Those guys present the best elements of the commentary as they cut through the bull and give us a realistic view of the movie. We even hear of Pettigrew’s frustration since the filmmakers often ignored his advice. The commentary flows smoothly and offers a concise and informative examination of the flick.
The next big attraction comes from a six-part documentary called Danger Zone: The Making of Top Gun. When viewed together via the “Play All” option, it runs an amazing two hours, 27 minutes and 42 seconds. We find the usual mix of movie clips, behind the scenes elements, and interviews. We hear from Scott, Bruckheimer, Epps, McCabe, Pettigrew, Galpin, actors Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Barry Tubb, Rick Rossovich, Michael Ironside, editors Chris Lebenzon and Billy Weber, director of photography Jeffrey Kimball, F-14 aerial coordinator Lloyd Abel, special photographic effects supervisor Gary Guttierez, USFX director of photography Rick Fichter, composer Harold Faltermeyer, music editor Bob Badami, singers Terri Nunn and Kenny Loggins, and music producer Giorgio Moroder. They discuss the project’s origins and development, Scott’s involvement and casting, training, the atmosphere on the set and actor interactions, attempts at realism and dealings with real pilots, shooting the film on land and on sea, visual design and plot elements, filming the flying sequences, visual effects, music, early screenings, editing and the flick’s reception.
Wow - what a great documentary! When I look at disappointing elements, I’d say it’s too bad that not all of the prominent actors appear in interviews, and we also don’t get a lot from Cruise. However, those are minor complaints that really don’t mar a thorough and thoroughly entertaining program. We get all of the nuts and bolts elements we need, and we also find plenty of terrific anecdotes. Kilmer comes across especially well, as virtually everything he offers is provocative and amusing. The tone seems more frank than usual, and very little fluffiness affects the proceedings. Instead, we get an honest appraisal of the flick’s creation in this fast-paced and wholly involving program.
The next part of the disc presents two series of Multi-Angle Storyboards. We can check out “Flat Spin” and “Jester’s Dead”. The two scenes can be viewed with just the storyboards or with a storyboard/final shot comparison. They also come with optional commentary from Tony Scott. He discusses his use of storyboards and their influence on shooting.
Something not found on the last DVD, Best of the Best: Inside the Real Top Gun looks at the fact behind the movie’s fiction. It goes for 28 minutes, 46 seconds and includes notes from Top Gun instructors Captain David “Chip” Berke and Lt. Brian “Wood” Becker, Top Gun Department Head CDR Richard “Rhett” Butler, Top Gun SFTI students Lt.Marcos “DB” Jasso, Lt. Shawn “Friday” Hall and Captain Chad “Mo” Vaughn, Top Gun adversary student Captain Matt “Tank” Taylor, Top Gun AIC student Lt. JG Amanda “Puddles” Cronin, and Top Gun AIC instructors OSC (SW) Brian “Doc” Bassett and OSC (AW/SW) Matthew “Shakey” Trimble.
“Best” delivers a take on life at flight school for the elite. We get a mix of thoughts about the training and other aspects of the experience. “Best” can be a bit dry – fighter pilots tend to be low-key in interviews – but it offers a nice view of the institution that inspired the film.
All the remaining materials show up in the “Vintage Gallery”. We open with a behind-the-scenes featurette. The five-minute and 30-second program includes the usual assortment of movie clips, shots from the set, and sound bites. We hear from Scott, Pettigrew, Bruckheimer and producer Don Simpson. A few decent glimpses behind the scenes appear, but mostly this is a fluffy promotional piece.
Another featurette looks at Survival Training. It runs seven minutes, 30 seconds and includes remarks from Cruise, Bruckheimer, Scott, Tubb, Simpson, and actors John Stockwell, Whip Hubley and Anthony Edwards. This one’s substantially more useful than its predecessor, as it offers a number of good shots from the actors’ training. It’s not nearly as puffy and it’s quite interesting to see.
Next come six minutes and 41 seconds of Tom Cruise interviews. He chats about his casting, his interest in flying and the flights he shot for the movie, and some other experiences. His remarks don’t fill out matters terribly well, though a few decent anecdotes appear.
A second disc provides a Digital Copy of Top Gun. This allows you to slap the movie onto your computer or digital viewing gizmo.
Does the Blu-ray lose anything from the 2004 DVD? Yup, but not much – it only drops a collection of production photos.
A serious piece of Eighties cheese, Top Gun didn’t hold up well after 18 years. Granted, I wasn’t wild about it at the time, but almost 20 years later, it looked even sillier than I recalled. The Blu-ray presents excellent audio and supplements but picture quality disappoints. This is probably the best home video version of Top Gun, but it doesn’t become the “ultimate” one.
To rate this film visit the Special Collector's Edition review of TOP GUN