[12 September 2011]
More so than any other movie, Top Gun taught me, and many other red-blooded American male children of my generation, what it is to be a man. There are, after all, no points for second place. Perhaps even more importantly, Top Gun taught me what it is to be the man, and Tom Cruise’s Lt. Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, is certainly that.
Top Gun captured my imagination 25 years ago and fascinated me like no other film—aside, perhaps, from Red Dawn. I wanted Cruise’s hair. I became obsessed with his black Kawasaki Ninja. I attempted to co-opt and hone his snarky sense of humor. I even though that the ultimate way to pick up women at a bar was to sing Righteous Brother’s hits at them and embarrass them into inviting me for a drink. Now I’m left to wonder how many times that move has actually worked, if ever.
In my defense, I was nine years old the first time I saw Top Gun in the theater, the first of countless viewings. And I grew out of my fascination, eventually. My neighbor, however, was so engrossed in our macho fighter pilot fantasy that he eventually wound up at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. I’ve always found this fact ironic because the plot of Top Gun centers around Naval Aviators, and we grew up in a Navy town, but he wound up at the Air Force Academy.
To celebrate the quarter century mark, Top Gun is now available in a 25th Anniversary Blu-ray edition, and let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve experienced Mav’s smart-alek smirk in crystal clear HD. I swear you can see each single hair in Goose’s (Anthony Edwards) immaculate mustache, and make out very individual bead of sweat on Cruise’s man cleavage during the infamously homoerotic volleyball scene that used to drive my teenage sister and all of her friends crazy. She and her cohorts used to watch Top Gun every weekend, and invariably their adolescent screams of vague, ill defined lust would drive me out of the room. The same thing used to happen with Dirty Dancing, to the point where I’m not actually certain I’ve ever seen the entire film.
Much has been made of the underlying homosexual subtext in Top Gun. While I won’t spend much time on that angle—it has been discussed more thoroughly and in greater depth than I care to get into here—it certainly isn’t difficult to read the film that with that translation. Seriously, the main emotional thrust of the story is Maverick’s pursuit of a woman named “Charlie” (the slightly androgynous Kelly McGillis), and his best friend/life partner—essentially his wife, or at the very least, a fussy, overbearing mother—is referred to as “Mother Goose” throughout.
Top Gun’s propagandist swagger is, much like my childhood, a relic of the tail end of the Cold War. The threat of nuclear annihilation undercut my daily life as a child, and the cold reflective helmets of the MIG pilots were an embodiment of the vague, faceless terror I felt. While the American pilots crack wise, constantly chattering back and forth, the Russian flyers barely seem human, hidden behind their reflective facemasks, stoic always, even as they’re about to be blasted out of the sky by a righteous American sidewinder missile. In this way they resemble the TIE Fighter pilots from Star Wars, almost robotic.
All of this is more information about me than you really needed or wanted, but I simply intend to illustrate just how ridiculously excited I am that Top Gun is finally on Blu-ray. And Paramount has taken the opportunity to put together a sweet, top-notch package in the process, one that is definitely worthy of a 25th Anniversary special edition.
You get the obligatory digital copy, which is nice, despite the fact that I’ve never known anyone that has ever used one. But it’s the thought that counts, right? In addition to that, the disc is stacked top to bottom with bonus features. One section offers you a look at the original storyboards, from multiple angles no less. A 28-minute featurette takes you inside the real life Top Gun, which, in the intervening years, has moved from Miramar, California, to Fallon, Nevada. It’s an interesting peek into a world that most never get the opportunity to see.
When I was a kid I was actually lucky enough to go to Top Gun. Growing up in a Navy town, my parents were friends with a man who happened to be some sort of high muckety-muck in the service, and after he was relocated to Southern California, we went to visit him. Also Disneyland. Well aware of my passion for all things aviation related, he pulled a few strings, and took me behind the curtain. As a ten-year-old boy, sitting in the cockpit of a real F-14 Tomcat is a truly surreal experience, especially when you are told, in no uncertain terms, that no, you can’t take a photograph of the control panel.
There are two centerpieces on the Top Gun Blu-ray. The first is a six-part, two-and-a-half-hour-long documentary that exhaustively explores every aspect, every nuance of the film, from it’s inception as a magazine article, to the finished product that is largely responsible for making Tom Cruise the icon he became. One segment is even called “Combat Rock”, and explores the music of Top Gun, and features extensive interviews with legendary ‘80s composer Harold Faltermeyer.
The commentary track with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Tony Scott, writer Jack Epps, and a trio of military advisors, is the other jewel in this crown. To be sure there is a fair amount of overlapping information between this track and the documentary, but it is fun to listen to all of their reactions in real time, and hear their memories prompted by the movie in front of them.