You’ve lost that lovin’ feeeeeeeeeeeelin’.
For reasons I truly can’t explain, I’m very familiar with Top Gun. And I say that despite being reasonably certain I hadn’t seen it this century, have never owned it on any format and don’t really recall watching it growing up more than once or twice. Apparently, the adventures of Pete “Maverick” Mitchell and Nick “Goose” Bradshaw left an indelible mark on my subconscious, or perhaps my parents secretly played it for me on a loop while I slept.
Either way, 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of Top Gun, a film that historians might actually consider the genesis of the bromance. To celebrate, Paramount is releasing a special Steelbook Edition on Blu-ray. So it’s time to feel the need… the need for speed.
Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is an exceptional pilot that has a problem with authority, but when his aircraft carrier’s top F-14 Tomcat team unexpectedly washes out after an encounter with Soviet MIGs, he and his RIO Goose (Anthony Edwards) are grudgingly elevated and sent to the Navy’s elite fighter weapons school — better known as Top Gun.
Led by Viper (Tom Skerritt), the lead instructor who flew with Mitchell’s father, and Jester, they’ll battle it out with other top pilot teams in a series of exercises designed to determine the literal best of the best. It’s here Maverick encounters Iceman (Val Kilmer), who immediately emerges as Mitchell’s main rival for aerial supremacy.
On the ground, Maverick becomes enamored with Charlie Blackwood (Kelly McGillis), who happens to be a civilian instructor that analyzes flight scenarios. Can Maverick balance his ambitions as a pilot with his burgeoning emotional attachment to Charlie, or will the pressure cause him to crash and burn?
Back before CGI was a thing, filmmakers had to actually get really talented pilots in the air and have them do some damn impressive flying. Having the whole thing grounded in reality really helps it hold up three decades later, and you just feel like if the film were made today the jets would have to be doing an obscene number of CGI barrels rolls and scraping wings on cockpits or something like that.
There are plenty of good actors in Top Gun, led by Cruise and Kilmer, even if the latter has a supporting part. And while the story isn’t particularly in depth there’s still enough to move things along. It strikes a good balance between bravado and emotion, though not with a lot of subtlety, and ends up delivering a well-paced and enjoyable film.
Seeing the entire thing remastered into high-definition goodness proves to be interesting, and it’s actually quite refreshing to see how much more authentic even the actors looked — Cruise basically has a unibrow and teeth that clearly got major work later on. Oh, and seeing Oceanside, where I grew up, circa the 1980s with the famous “Top Gun house” is pretty cool, too.
Has enough time passed that we can acknowledge how bad some of these soundtracks were? Look, I get there’s probably nostalgic value in Kenny Loggins belting out Danger Zone, but when it swells up for like the eighth time it’s probably overkill. Same goes for Take My Breath Away and that little instrumental ditty (AKA the Top Gun Anthem) that plays approximately 217 times.
When not airborne, the film can feel a little ponderous no matter how many locker room confrontations and semi-nude two-on-two volleyball scenes we’re treated to. It’s not poorly paced per se, it just has a little too much downtime for my liking.
THE BONUS FEATURES
While no content has been added to the film itself, the 30th Anniversary does come loaded with a large number of extras, including commentary by the late Tony Scott, who directed the film, as well as producer Jerry Bruckheimer. There’s also a “making of” featurette, a bunch of trailers/TV spots, music videos for the aforementioned songs and more. There’s nothing exceptional, but fans of the film should find at least some of it interesting.
There’s some good action in Top Gun, and even though not everything has aged all that well, there’s an undeniable element of fun that pulses through the film from start to finish. Although it’s aimed at the nostalgia crowd, you needn’t have grown up with it to enjoy it.