Top Gun appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This DVD provided an erratic image.
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, and only a little light edge enhancement popped up during the flick.
Print flaws never became massive, but they caused some distractions. Grain was the most prominent issue, as much of the movie looked grainier than I’d expect. In addition, various examples of specks, marks, debris and nicks showed up at times. These stayed acceptably modest, however, as the grain was the biggest nuisance. Many of those shots came from the actual aircraft photography, but the grain wasn’t limited to that form of footage; plenty of other images showed it as well.
Many Eighties movies exhibited murky colors, but that rarely became a problem here. Indeed, the hues offered possibly the strongest aspect of the transfer. A few shots were a little muddy - such as those with red lighting - but the tones usually seemed bright and dynamic. 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. I flip-flopped between a “B” and a “B-“ for this inconsistent image. In the end, I felt enough of it looked good enough to merit the higher mark.
On the other hand, I felt few qualms about the excellent audio of Top Gun. The DVD included both a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and a DTS 6.1 mix. While both were good, I preferred the DTS version. I’ll discuss it and then detail why I thought it worked better than the Dolby edition.
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.
When I compared the DTS version with the Dolby one, I found that the latter worked fine but just seemed a little less impressive. The DTS offered a smoother, more well-rounded soundfield, as it meshed its elements better. The DTS track also showed greater response and vivacity. It simply packed a stronger punch. There was nothing wrong with the Dolby version, and if I’d heard it on its own, it would have really impressed me. Only in comparison with the stunning DTS track did the Dolby one come up slightly short.
How did the picture and sound of this 2008 “I Love the 80s Edition” compare to those of the 2-DVD special edition from 2004? Both are literally identical, as this version simply replicates DVD One from the prior release. In fact, it still reads “Disc 1” on it! Paramount just took the old DVD and slapped it into a new case.
Obviously that means it replicates the extras from DVD One of the prior package. 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 sat on their own for this edited piece, but Galpin, McCabe and Pettigrew were 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.
DVD One also includes seven TV spots plus four music videos. We see clops for Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone”, Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away”, Loverboy’s “Heaven In Your Eyes”, and the “Top Gun Anthem” by Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens. These are unintentionally entertaining. There’s not much funnier than watching Loggins - arguably the wimpiest man on the planet - try to look tough as he lip-synchs “Zone”. Terri Nunn’s two-tone hairstyle makes “Breath” laughable, while the other two earn snickers simply due to their inherent goofiness. How did Loverboy ever sell more than five records? Y’know, I grew up in the Eighties and hold some of the era’s music near and dear to my heart, but boy did the decade produce a lot of crap.
We lose all the extras from Disc Two of the 2004 release, of course, which is especially sad since the old set included a really good documentary. The “80s Edition” does throw in a Bonus CD with four hits from the era. We find INXS’s “Need You Tonight”, a-ha’s “Take On Me”, Echo and the Bunnymen’s “Lips Like Sugar” and Erasure’s “Chains of Love”. I have no clue how they chose these songs and why we get a mere four. I suppose the disc is a decent extra if you want the DVD anyway, but I can’t imagine it’ll be a decision-maker for any fans on the fence about this disc.
A serious piece of Eighties cheese, Top Gun didn’t hold up well after 22 years. Granted, I wasn’t wild about it at the time, but two decades down the road, it looked even sillier than I recalled. The DVD presents erratic but generally good picture along with excellent audio and a few extras.
Obviously any fans who already own the 2004 two-disc SE have no reason to buy this one since it simply repackages the earlier set’s first DVD. Top Gun buffs who don’t have the 2004 release should skip this one and get that package instead. Not only does it include an extra disc of supplements, but also it retails for less money! The 2004 SE lists for $12.98, whereas this “80s Edition” goes for $14.99. It makes no sense to spend more money for fewer features, so skip this pointless reissue.
To rate this film visit the Special Collector's Edition review of TOP GUN