Monday nights in Winter are usually pretty uneventful for me. I dig into my coursework or required reading for a few hours before shutting my brain down for the night and watching The Bachelor. (I’ve got no shame. Everybody needs a bit of mindless entertainment sometimes!)
This Monday, however, was much more exciting: my sister, my father and I attended a 10 pm screening of the theatrical re-release of Top Gun in IMAX 3D. Top Gun is my dad’s favorite movie. He’s seen it about a million times already, but it’s impossible to pass up a chance to see one of your favorite movies on the big screen again, so we headed out for viewing number 1,000,001.
Top Gun (dir. Tony Scott) follows students at the Navy’s top flight school who are competing for the top spot in the class. Vying for that spot is Maverick (Tom Cruise), a risk-taking dare devil known for pulling stunts and breaking the rules — but also being one of the best flyers around. When he arrives at the school, he finds himself facing a tough rival named Iceman (Val Kilmer) and a big crush on one of his instructors, nicknamed Charlie (Kelly McGillis).
Re-releases are often criticized as a simple money grab, preying on the audience’s sense of nostalgia. (Though our showing was pretty empty, the 7 pm showings at the same theater have been quite popular. I’m pretty sure just about every guy who was high school or college-aged in the mid-80s was excited about this re-release.) As an avid viewer of films that came out before I was born, I enjoy them because they offer me a chance to see the film in a way I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Take this film, for instance: Top Gun was originally released in 1986. I was born in 1991. Unless I was somehow able to make it to the theater at negative five years of age, I wouldn’t have ever been able to see this on the big screen.
We arrived at the theater early and it was pretty deserted. Apparently Monday night isn’t the hoppin’ time for late-night showings. The parking lots were dark and there were no eager fans waiting in line at for the IMAX auditorium to open up. We began to think we’d have the entire showing to ourselves. A couple of people straggled in as the “First Look” program was playing, but there couldn’t have been more than ten or twelve of us total by the time the film began. There would be no Berlin sing-alongs or collective cackling at the film’s cornier lines at this showing (unfortunately).
Despite the lack of interactivity from the audience, Top Gun was still a ton of fun to watch in the theater.
The 3D effects on the re-release are very tastefully done, remaining subtle throughout the entire film. The 3D is most apparent during the big, action-packed flight scenes, but even then it isn’t over the top. Objects don’t fly at the faces of audience members, but everything looks more lifelike. In some moments the audience does feel as though they’re up in the air with the pilots. The aerial scenes are very nicely done with or without the 3D effects, but they certainly add an extra punch to the film’s excitement factor.
In comparison, one of the 3D previews had bright, shiny objects like swords propelling toward the audience. I had to look away from the screen because the extreme brightness of the effects was hurting my eyes! Some will argue that there’s no point in making a film 3D if you don’t make the most of the effects and amplify them, but my eyes can’t handle it. (The preview of the upcoming Jurassic Park re-release looks like a happy medium, using pronounced effects but not going over-the-top.)
New effects aside, Top Gun is a film that holds up well upon multiple viewings, but the big screen reveals more of the film’s corniness than the small screen does. I actually considered making a “Classics of the Corn” post about the film rather than talking about my theater experience. The ridiculous amount of sweat expelled by everyone in the film is even more apparent because it’s being seen on such a large screen. (My favorite explanation of this comes from the IMDb boards: “It’s supposed to tell you that the men of Top Gun are hoooooooooottt!”) The extreme speakers of the theater makes the repetition of Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” instrumentals just about every time Cruise and McGillis look at each other even more comical.
For me, this made the film even more fun to watch than it usually is. A night at the theater is always a good night, but a night at the theater with a slice of ’80s cheese is even better.