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Top Gun: An IMAX 3D Experience (1986, 2013)

| February 10, 2013 | 0 Comments

It is easy to be cynical about Top Gun, especially if you weren’t around 27 years ago.  Here in one noisy little package is 80s popcorn entertainment in its purest form, a $350,000,000 hit that made a megastar out of Tom Cruise.  If you were there then it might be a little easier to forgive Paramount Pictures for wanting to re-release this silly action flick even if they are only using it as an excuse to re-fit it for the IMAX 3D process and charge extra for the tickets.  It’s great to see it on the big screen again . . . the 3D is another matter.  We’ll get to that in a moment.

There is a lot that comes as a surprise in revisiting Top Gun, first and foremost is the reminder that movies of this era were shot on film.  In today’s digital world, it is a bit shocking to be pulled back into the grainy world of celluloid, but that only adds to the nostalgia.  Another is pure stunt work, a nearly-dead art that has been abandoned in this age of computer animation.  Top Gun was applauded for its aircraft stunt work which is still impressive.  The editors did a beautiful job of creating a visual orientation that is easy to follow.  It still holds up.

It is also great to see the young faces of actors that we now instantaneously recognize.  Anthony Edwards (who still had hair!) was at a point in his career between avenging nerds and his trip to the E.R.  Val Kilmer, long before Batman, had a hairstyle that made him a foot taller.  Meg Ryan has a small role and is actually billed 14th in the credits.  Then there’s young and beautiful Kelly McGillis with blonde, perfect hair and a shock of red lipstick.  Just off playing the love interest in Witness she played no less the love interest here.  She has a mooney romance with Tom Cruise that is still tinged with sexual energy and appropriatly backed by Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” (which took home the Oscar that year). Their love affair works, although if you know McGillis’ personal life it makes the famous bar serenade somewhat awkward.  Plus, over in the corners of the movie are old reliables, Tom Skerritt, Michael Ironside and James Tolkan.  No 80s film could be without them. Nor could it be without Kenny Loggins and Harold Faltermeyer who created a soundtrack that we still love and recognize today.

And of course, Tom Cruise, who by this time had made his name in the hit Risky Business, but here would become a full-fledged movie star, taking off into a wonderful film career which included a balance of sobering dramas (Born on the Fourth of July, Eyes Wide Shut, Magnolia) with flywheel entertainment (Days of Thunder, Mission: Impossible), all before his career crash-landed on Oprah’s couch.  Now just past 50, as he attempts to regain his former glory, Top Gun is a reminder of why he became a star in the first place.  He’s a nice guy, not smug or hateful.  He was impossibly good looking and sported a 500 megawatt smile that is somewhat jarring on a big screen.  In Top Gun, it isn’t his performance but his presence that works.  He has the same kind of haunted loner spirit that Steve McQueen had.

Describing the plot is unnecessary, you’re not here for the plot, you’re here for the experience.  You get cookie-cutter characters, dazzling stunt work and kind of summer movie nonsense that, in a way, we are still getting.  The difference here is that we can pull back and enjoy it as a product of our own teenage years.  There is nostalgia galore here.  The movie, even after nearly 30 years, is still just plain fun.

What is not so much fun is the new 3D process.  Unlike the re-fitted animated films like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, live action pictures just don’t transfer as well.  Nothing really pops off the screen as you might expect and your bulky 3D glasses (which look like ski goggles) only serve to clear up the blur.  Often, you can see the 3D blur even with the glasses on. The question is, why do this?  Why not just trust that audiences will enjoy the immersive experience of seeing the movie on the oversized IMAX screen and leave it at that, much like the recent release of Raiders of the Lost ArkTop Gun is great escapist nostalgia that didn’t need modern technology to be entertaining.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2013) View IMDB Filed in: Action