The effort on the part of Hollywood’s major studios to convince us that our moviegoing experience has been incomplete without the addition of a third dimension marches on, and today brings its most curious example yet: the 3D-converted re-release of Tom Cruise’s 1986 blockbuster Top Gun. In IMAX, no less! It’s not the first older film to be transferred to 3D and brought back to theaters, but there is something different about this one. The previous efforts have been animated or family movies like The Lion King, Finding Nemo and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, part of a massively popular franchise. Then there was Titanic, the second most successful movie of all time…from the same director as the movie that displaced it while also ushering in this new age of tri-dimensional madness.
Top Gun doesn’t fit the mold. It’s not a family movie, and while it was a big hit, it was not a Titanic-sized hit. I don’t know if it will be the best test of audiences’ interest in seeing older movies re-released in 3D. Will the fans who grew up with it flock to see it again? Do people who grew up after it have any interest? Are the speeding jets enough of a draw for today’s teens and twentysomethings?
Paramount isn’t allowing much time to find out. The re-release is a special engagement, in theaters for only six days. I’m not sure what kind of business sense that makes. Even if it does well, can it do well enough in six days to justify the cost of the 3D conversion, the marketing (not that I’ve seen much, which doesn’t seem any way to help its chances) and the distribution? And if it does poorly, well…those costs could still go uncovered. Then again, if they let it play for a longer period, I doubt it would do robust business. It will be available on 3D Blu-Ray a few days after the theatrical run, but the percentage of homes with a 3D Blu-Ray player is tiny, so I can’t imagine those sales will add much to the tally.
Those of us who saw the movie in our youth may still enjoy it, but we also recognize its silliness and cheesiness. Still, whatever your feelings for Top Gun are today, and whether or not this re-release will be a hit, its legacy can’t be denied. It stands as one of the defining movies of the 1980′s. The Cold War may have been in its final years, but tensions remained high between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1986, and the movie’s portrait of American supremacy and heroism – however corny – was catnip to the masses of patriotic, Reagan-era moviegoers. It was the highest grossing film of its year, it made Tom Cruise a superstar, and spawned a hugely successful soundtrack that included Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” and Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away,” which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. (When I was in 8th or 9th grade in the early 90s, I learned “Take My Breath Away” on the piano in an effort to impress a girl who was all about Top Gun. It didn’t work.) Also, we have to acknowledge that the movie gave us such classic lines as…
and of course, the eminently quotable…
“I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.” (This is common enough that I suppose it could have originated elsewhere, but as far as I know we have Top Gun to thank for introducing it to the masses.)
In addition, the movie provided some of the earliest memorable appearances by Tim Robbins, Meg Ryan and Adrian Pasdar. And perhaps most importantly, without Top Gun there would be no Hot Shots!
When is that underrated gem getting a 3D re-release?
Prior to his shocking and untimely death last year, director Tony Scott was pursuing a sequel to the movie that would detail what happened to guys like Maverick and Iceman when the military’s fighter jet program evolved from pilots actually flying missions to kids raised on video games sitting at a simulator and controlling drones. Cruise was on board with the concept, and he and Scott were scouting locations shortly before Scott died. The project fizzled in the aftermath of his death, though producer Jerry Bruckheimer says he’s still trying to figure a way to do it. (For what it’s worth, Scott supervised the 3D conversion before he died, so this re-release bears his seal of approval.)
I haven’t even mentioned one of the most oft discussed elements of Top Gun: its undercurrent of homoeroticism. Sorry, did I say “undercurrent?” I meant front and center, unmistakable, volleyballtastic depiction of guys whose machismo ain’t foolin’ nobody. Allow Quentin Tarantino to explain, in this scene from the 1994 indie flick Sleep With Me.
This re-release should have included some George Lucasesque alterations where Maverick, Ice, Slider and the others (except for that married big stud, Goose) openly and unabashedly embraced their homosexuality instead of trying to keep it in the cockpit, so to speak. It may have been tough to get away with in 1986, but today’s audiences would embrace it without a second thought. Then again, a more open depiction would take some of the fun out of a movie that is so quintessentially 80′s.
So if you take this opportunity to revisit Top Gun, enjoy its campy closetedness, its bitchin’ dialogue, its rockin’ soundtrack, its performance by Tom Cruise early in his prime, and of course its extra dimension of high-fivin’, Russkie-fightin’, jet-flyin’ action. America, fuck yeah!