Mania Review: Top Gun 3D -

Mania Grade: B

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  • Starring: Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Anthony Edwards, Val Kilmer, Tom Skerritt, Michael Ironside and Meg Ryan
  • Written by: Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr.
  • Directed by: Tony Scott
  • Studio: Paramount Pictures
  • Rating: PG
  • Run Time: 110 minutes
  • Series:

Mania Review: Top Gun 3D

Who's your wingman now?

By Rob Vaux     February 08, 2013

 “I think this is a film for women,” my wife commented quietly after our screening of Top Gun 3D, and in the ensuing conversation, it became increasingly hard to deny. For all the thundering shots of fighter planes in their jingoistic glory, for all the pretense of manly men testing themselves against their own self-doubts, for all the pumped-up 80s excess on the screen and soundtrack alike, the film seems to cater to women’s sensibilities as much or more than men’s.

Of course, that doesn’t change the stunning flight sequences, captured by director Tony Scott in an era before CGI and whose like we will never see again. Whenever Top Gun leaves the banality of its earthbound story, it takes on a whole new life as daredevil pilot Maverick (Tom Cruise) and his buddy Goose (Anthony Edwards) dazzle us with their breakneck acrobatics. Scott puts the stakes in the most obvious possible terms – repeating key plot points multiple times with trite, obvious dialogue – but following the drama isn’t the point. Top Gun’s strength lies in pure MTV spectacle, and if you’re going to take that ride, the big screen is the only place to see it. I’m guessing that, like me, a large number of people first experienced this movie on pan-and-scan VHS tapes. It’s an entirely new movie on the big screen, which becomes abundantly clear with the first shots over the opening credits.

In light of that, it’s unfortunate that the new transfer is such a spotty effort. Some shots look as crisp and sharp as you’d expect, but serious pixilation overwhelms too many others. On the IMAX screen, the grains look bigger than your average house cat. Scott’s devotion to colored air and extreme close-ups may play some part in that, but with interest in restored re-releases dropping precipitously, Paramount may simply have throttled back the budget and let us suffer through a less-than-perfect picture. At least the 3D is decent, though it can hardly improve on the already exceptional aerial shots.

Once we come back to the ground, the film falls flat on its face. Its ridiculous cardboard characters can’t stand up to even a basic litmus test of plausibility and the script’s penchant for explaining everything multiple times to catch the rubes up to speed threatens each and every onscreen relationship. Edwards salvages a great deal of it with his effervescent charm, while Cruise and Val Kilmer (playing his chief rival Iceman) display the kind of scorching chemistry normally reserved for hardcore gay porn. Poor Kelly McGillis can’t hope to compete with that, though she makes a game effort to sell us on her romance with Maverick in what we’ll generously call a subplot. It all arrives amid countless smaller, equally risible decisions (why on Earth would they give god-king of cinematic grumps Michael Ironside the nickname “Jester?”) that hopelessly mire it in empty 80s superficiality.

Which brings me back to my initial point… and Top Gun’s saving grace. For while the boys in the audience can ooh and ah to the awesome fighter planes, the girls can revel in the eye candy on the ground. Bronzed shirtless hardbodies flaunt it on the volleyball court, flash it in the showers and even engage in a lot of not-at-all-suggestive embraces as they go through their manly man paces. Contrast that with McGillis’s Charlie, who never flashes so much as a bare thigh even during her lovemaking scene. Indeed, she acts as a ready surrogate for the gals in the audience: cool under pressure, tough as nails, and refusing to give even an inch to her cocky suitor Maverick. She dictates the terms of the relationship, and earns herself a reformed bad boy with a heart of gold by the end of the flick.

That makes Top Gun an undeniably cheesy yet strangely appealing time capsule, with a little something for everyone provided we understand that it’s all bubblegum. You’ll rarely see a movie this shallow, but neither has any other carried this particular combination of commercial flash and unacknowledged subtext. Producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer amassed a fortune with bums-on-seats entertainment like this, and for better or worse, changed moviemaking as a result. Couple that with Scott’s one-of-a-kind vision (which I never appreciated until his untimely death) and suddenly we have a bizarrely fitting piece of history. Top Gun is no one’s idea of a great movie, but it is a cinematically significant movie, and it’s hard not to find something  to like… even if you secretly hate yourself for doing so.


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Dazzler 2/8/2013 4:22:16 AM

Too bad the sequel never got off the ground.  Doubt they will use Kelly M anyway since she has not aged well. 

DarthBob 2/8/2013 4:59:18 AM

Another 3D money grab; it will suck just like most other 3D conversions.  It is still an awesome movie though. I saw it in the theaters with about 20 friends and we had a great time.  The volleyball scenes are so hokey though; so many trick camera angles to make it look like they are actually playing; but that's the magic of movies.  Any two of my high school girls would humiliate them off the court.

Walker 2/8/2013 5:54:02 AM

 “I think this is a film for women,” my wife commented quietly after our screening of Top Gun 3D.

You are only noticing this now?  I though this was accepted wisdom ever since the film came out.

monkeyfoot 2/8/2013 6:45:54 AM

I've thought 2 things about this movies over the years:

I thought that Top Gun was the unofficial sequel to An Officer And A Gentlemen. We see the cocky young recruit now flying the jets he wanted so bad but still needed to learn some life lessons.

And I also thought that Maverick was my perfect idea of what the young Anakin Skywalker was like. An excellent pilot, extremely cocky and too sure of himself and treating others poorly to suit his needs. All of which made him a perfect candidate for going to the dark side.

Wyldstaar 2/8/2013 9:02:01 AM

I never made the connection between Top Gun and An Officer and a Gentleman, but now that you mention it, that makes perfect sense.  Maybe it started out as an actual sequel in the planning stages, and evolved into what it finally became after different writers got hold of it and put their own spin on the screenplay.

keithdaniel 2/8/2013 9:07:19 AM

Monkeyfoot, I think you're right on.  The Maverick character from Top Gun is what George Lucas should've modeled Anakin Skywalker after, at least somewhat instead of the Jake Loyd version.  IMO, he wasn't the right actor both in terms of his level of acting and his age; he was too young.

BTW, they are doing a sequel and I believe Tom Cruise is involved.

TheMovieGuy28 2/8/2013 9:04:09 PM

 I saw this in a movie theater in Idaho, going across the country with my grandparents and sister in our annual summer trip from California to Ohio.


I can still remember being blown away that the town was so small you had to wait until nighttime to go to the movies, b/c they didn't do full showings.


I also remember buying candy cigarettes for the first time that day. And not just the candy ones, but the ones that would puff fake smoke.

Ah, the 80' grand!

CaptAmerica04 2/9/2013 11:53:34 AM

Wait, wait, wait... Rob, how OLD are you?!  You first saw this on VHS?!?!  Christ, you make me feel old.  I remember seeing this on the big screen at the age of 11 in June of '86.  I even remember the table that the Navy recruiters had set up in front of the theater to capitalize on the film's pro-military advertisement.

I also think that using the term "jingoistic" is a bit of a stretch (and one with a clear negative conotation at that).  The term might apply to a film like Red Dawn, but considering the limited actual military action that happens in both the first and last 10 minutes of the film, I think that "jingoistic" is an exaggeration at best.

Top Gun encapsulates a LOT of what the 80s were about - pro-America, pro-military, loud noise, and big guns.  With that said, I think you are being a little hard on the plot.  The film holds up very well over time for entertainment value, and I don't think it repeats its own plot that much.

And, perhaps because you were clearly so YOUNG when you saw the film, you missed the obvious:  this was the BEST first date movie possible in the late 80s and early 90s.  It DOES hold lots of "chick-flick" moments to appease the ladies, while still holding plenty of machismo for the guys.  God knows, I watched this film on plenty of first dates in high school, and dodged a lot of Sandra Bullock and Julia Roberts crap as a result.  God bless and keep Tony Scott!!



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