Updated: Feb 14
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
(1) Tom Cruise as Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who attends the Navy’s elite Top Gun school at Miramar Naval Air Station, San Diego. (2) Maverick and his radar guy Lieutenant Junior Grade Nick “Goose” Bradshaw return to the flight deck of the USS Enterprise after an aerial dogfight with Soviet MiG-28s.
(Click an image to scroll the larger versions)
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 1986; PG for profanity; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, Apple TV, FandangoNOW, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube - Digital 4K will more likely launch on street date
Best extra: Five-part documentary, “On Your Six: Thirty Years of Top Gun”
GROWING UP, Tom Cruise moved around a lot. When he packed his things he always included two pictures, he says in the new documentary featured on Paramount’s 4K disc. One was a P-51 Mustang, the other a Spitfire – both World War II aerial warriors for the U.S. and the British. He also says as a kid he wanted to be an actor, “To make movies – I love movies – and to be an aviator.”
His attraction to airplanes wasn’t to engage in combat. He loved the beauty of the aircraft, with “The hope to fly them someday …When I see birds, they are so graceful. To have that kind of freedom… and to see the world from a different perspective.”
The idea for “Top Gun” launched when producer Jerry Bruckheimer saw the cover of the May 1983 California Magazine showcasing two Navy jets, one flying upside down over the other. “This is really cool, and it could be a great movie,” he says in one of the extras. The article by Ehub Yonay focused on the U.S. Navy’s Top Gun school at the former Miramar Naval Air Station, San Diego, and included a series of aerial photographs by Lt. Commander Charles Heatley. Bruckheimer threw the magazine on his partner Don Simpson’s desk. Simpson was the former head of Paramount; they had previously done Paramount’s mega-grossing “Flashdance” and “Beverly Hills Cop.” They quickly optioned screenwriting rights.
(1) The Navy F-14 Tomcat is a supersonic, twin-engine fighter. (2&3) Maverick and Goose encounter two Soviet MiG-28s while on a mission over the Indian Ocean. (4) U.S. Navy Captain Mike Galpin plays a Soviet pilot during “Top Gun.” (5) F-14's chasing a MiG-28.
Initially, Paramount was lukewarm and considered selling the option. Then top management changed and new president Ned Tanen asked Simpson-Bruckheimer about the film’s cost. They estimated around $14 million. Tanen said, “Go make it.”
From the get-go, they targeted Cruise for the lead – especially after his breakthrough performance in “Risky Business.” They first offered the role in 1983, but the young actor was in London filming “Legend” with Ridley Scott. By the end of ’84, Ridley mentioned to Cruise that he should meet his brother, Tony, who was going to helm an upcoming film, “Top Gun.”
Cruise flew to L.A. to meet Simpson-Bruckheimer and Tony Scott. “[Tony] was so alive and passionate about making this movie,” says Cruise, who considered him a new generation filmmaker. “He had an unbelievable eye. He had all of these books laid out, setting up a motif of what he wanted the film to look like. Inspiring images.” One of the books by photographer Bruce Weber, was full of good-looking men, all so all-American,” Bruckheimer says. Scott told the group, “These are the men that I’m gonna populate this film with,” he recalls.
On the flight back to New York, Cruise told his agent, “Listen, here’s the deal. I’m gonna make this movie. But don’t tell anyone that yet…cause here’s what I want.” For the first time in his career, he wanted to control his destiny. Cruise required full involvement in all script meetings, “I wanted to learn from working with Simpson-Bruckheimer, and really understand the studio system from the inside out,” he says. Plus he demanded Paramount agree he “must fly in the F-14” and “keep some of that footage” in the final edit. “I wanted to give the audience that experience that I want as an audience.”
Top Gun School - Miramar Naval Air Station
(1&2) Commander Mike “Viper” Metcalf played by Tom Skerritt, asks the young pilots who will be the Top Gun? Maverick responds, “I will.” (3) Maverick, Goose, and the rest of the guys sing a rendition of The Righteous Brothers’ classic, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.” (4&5) Astrophysicist-civilian and Top Gun instructor Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood, gives the pilots some data about the Soviet MiG-28 at a hanger at Miramar Naval Air Station.
“I wanted the film to be a celebration of flight, and the things that I love about flying that I would kind of fantasize about.” – Tom Cruise
Cruise, 57, has performed most of the stunts in his movies – especially the “Mission: Impossible” franchise from cars to motorcycles. He became a helicopter pilot for “M:I – Fallout” (2018), accruing more than 2,000 flying hours in the helicopter to handle the stunt.
He first got his pilot’s license in 1994, and has been one of Hollywood’s biggest flying enthusiasts. Today, he owns a number of private jets, and it was rumored that he and his former wife, Katie Holmes, used one to pick up groceries. Also, he performed all of his own flying stunts for “American Made” (2017), in which Cruise played TWA pilot Barry Seal, recruited by the CIA to provide reconnaissance on the communist threat in Central America during the 1980s.
For the sequel “Top Gun: Maverick,” originally set to release June 2020, Cruise did some of his piloting and experienced 7-and-a-half to 8 G-force captured on six IMAX cameras mounted inside the cockpit. Its debut has been pushed up to December 23 because of the COVID-19 quarantine.
The producers and Cruise knew without the U.S. Navy’s involvement “Top Gun” wouldn’t get off the ground. “We needed the hardware,” Bruckheimer says. The Navy turned down the first script, concerned about the profanity, and love interest between Maverick and astrophysicist-civilian TOP GUN instructor Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood, played by Kelly McGillis. That sort of fraternization is prohibited by the Navy rules of conduct. Enlisting an advisor, a meeting with Secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration, John Lehman, was set up. Lehman said, “This is really gonna be good for us.” Bruckheimer recalls “Top Gun” became a huge recruitment video for Navy, creating a major uptick in future pilots for them and the Air Force. The sale of Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses jumped 40 percent.
(1) Top Gun training involved dogfights over the desert region east of San Diego. (2) Maverick all smiles after he thinks he won the first dogfight session with Top Gun instructors. (3) Control tower coffee break - watch out! (4) Maverick and Goose are called to Commander Metcalf’s office after making a kill below the desired flight ceiling. (5&6) Time to break away from the volleyball game for an important dinner date.
The production was broken into three sections: The Carrier sequence – captured over four days; The Ground story filmed over five weeks, including the volleyball scene – which Paramount wanted to cut; and the Air story – mostly without the actors, only Tony Scott, the Navy, and cinematographers.
Cruise considers the aerial footage in “Top Gun” the best ever in movies, but all involved hope it will be dethroned once “Top Gun: Maverick” finally premiers.
Cruise suggested Anthony Edwards to play Goose, his radar guy, after meeting him during a day of paintball with friends. “His warmth and charm – he had that spirit,” Cruise says. He ended up going to Miramar for simulator training into the dunk tank, the hyperbolic chamber, and the ejector seat, which Cruise marked in his pilot logbook and still treasures. He also, remembers seeing Meg Ryan’s screen test to play Goose’s wife Carole. “She was just a light bulb…that smile and glow.”
“Top Gun” received mixed reviews from critics, but audiences loved it. It finished as the No. 1 grossing movie for 1986, just ahead of another Paramount film, “Crocodile Dundee,” and “The Karate Kid Part II.”
“Gentleman, this school is about combat. There are no points for second place.” – Top Gun instructor Viper, actor Tom Skerritt
(1) “I feel the need -- the need for speed.” (2) Maverick joins Goose for a verse of Jerry Lee Lewis' rock 'n' roll classic “Great Balls of Fire.” (3) Maverick continues his relationship with Charlie.
The 4K disc includes a commentary with Bruckheimer, Tony Scott, and co-screenwriter Jack Epps Jr. with Naval experts who recall their own versions of “Cougar,” a pilot who turns in his wings. “I had an individual in my command do just that. Come back with his second cut pass and came into my office. And, we sent him home, off the ship that afternoon. It's not uncommon,” said Retired Rear Admiral Pete “Viper” Pettigrew, technical advisor on the film.
The disc also includes a new short featurette “The Legacy of Top Gun.” The Blu-ray includes the two hour, 30-minute making-of documentary carried over from years past.
The 4K remastering from the 35mm camera negative – Super 35 format – is one of Paramount’s best upgrades to date, up to the quality of “Gladiator.” Natural film grain is completely intact, with no sign of digital noise reduction (DNR) which popped up slightly in the 4K versions of “Forrest Gump” and “Braveheart.” Overall sharpness is excellent, even though much of the photography from Scott and cinematographer Jeffrey L. Kimball (“Mission: Impossible II,” “Star Trek: Nemesis”) was captured with a long lens, limiting the super widescreen cinematic feel of endless clarity usually found on wide shots.
Still, Scott’s trademark color filtering and warm palette are striking in the HDR10 and Dolby Vision toning, giving the 4K an extra boost of onscreen pop, with its expansive contrast levels from highlights to deep shadows. The enclosed Blu-ray was also sourced from the new 4K master.
Both the 4K and the Blu-ray include an eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which lightly adds effects and music to height speakers. The overall soundstage is wide and full from front to back, and floor to ceiling, with Harold Faltermeyer’s pulsating electronic score, and the roar of jet engines.
Bruckheimer had singer/songwriter Kenny Loggins compose two new songs to match the on-screen action: “Danger Zone” and “Playing with the Boys.” There’s also the love song from Berlin, “Take My Breath Away.” No one would forget the crowd-pleaser when Maverick, Goose and the rest of guys sing The Righteous Brothers’ classic, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.”
Paramount has done themselves proud, also releasing on 4K Ultra HD “Days of Thunder” (1990) with Cruise and Scott reunited for a salute to NASCAR, and Spielberg’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’ sci-fi classic “War of the Worlds” (2005), in which Cruise plays longshoreman Ray Ferrier, who tries to protect his kids after alien monsters arrive on Earth.
They only thing missing from the new releases is Cruise’s performance as Washington, D.C. detective John Anderton in Spielberg’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s classic “Minority Report” (2002). Perhaps it will arrive once “Maverick” becomes available for home viewing sometime in 2021.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
(1) Lt. Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer) wins the Top Gun prize. (2) Maverick and other pilots prepare to confront Soviet aircraft over the Indian Ocean. (3) Commander Tom “Stinger” Jordan (James Tolkan) oversees the U.S. Navy's response to the Soviet threat. (4) Maverick and other pilots celebrate their performance against the MiG-28s.