Top Gun Explained

Top Gun
Director:Tony Scott
Producer:Don Simpson
Jerry Bruckheimer
Starring:Tom Cruise
Kelly McGillis
Val Kilmer
Anthony Edwards
Tom Skerritt
Michael Ironside
Meg Ryan
Rick Rossovich
Whip Hubley
James Tolkan
Music:Harold Faltermeyer
Cinematography:Jeffrey L. Kimball
Editing:Chris Lebenzon
Billy Weber
Distributor:Paramount Pictures
Runtime:110 minutes
Language:English
Budget:$15,000,000[1]
Gross:$353,816,701[2]

Top Gun is a 1986 American action drama film directed by Tony Scott, and produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, in association with the Paramount Pictures company. The screenplay was written by Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr., and was inspired by the article "Top Guns" written by Ehud Yonay for California magazine.

The film stars Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, and Tom Skerritt. Cruise plays Lieutenant Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, a young Naval aviator aboard the aircraft carrier . He and his Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Edwards) are given the chance to train at the Navy's Fighter Weapons School. The film depicts Maverick's progress through the training, his romance with a female instructor (McGillis), his overcoming a crisis of confidence following a fatal training accident, and the killing of several enemy pilots of unlisted nationality in a dogfight.

Top Gun is slated for re-release in 3D in theaters in 2012.[3]

Plot

United States Naval Aviator LT Pete "Maverick" Mitchell flies the F-14A Tomcat off, with Radar Intercept Officer ("RIO") LTJG Nick "Goose" Bradshaw. At the start of the film, with wingman "Cougar" (John Stockwell) and his radar intercept officer "Merlin" (Tim Robbins), they intercept MiG-28s over the Indian Ocean. During the engagement, one of the MiGs manages to get missile lock on Cougar. While Maverick realizes that the MiG "(would) have fired by now", if he really meant to fight, and drives off the MiGs, Cougar is too shaken afterward to land, despite being low on fuel. Maverick defies orders and shepherds Cougar back to the carrier, despite also being low on fuel. After they land, Cougar retires ("turns in his wings"), mentioning his newborn child whom he has never seen. Although disapproving of Maverick's reckless flying and repeated violation of rules, the Enterprises CAG "Stinger" (James Tolkan) sends him and Goose - now his top crew - to attend the Top Gun school at NAS Miramar.

Maverick flies recklessly partially because of his father, Duke Mitchell, a Naval Aviator with VF-51 aboard the during the Vietnam War. The elder Mitchell died November 5, 1965 when his F-4 Phantom II was shot down, and the official story, which Maverick refuses to believe, is that Duke made a mistake. Goose is cautious and devoted to his wife, Carole (Meg Ryan), and child. The two officers are nonetheless close friends and effective partners. At a bar the day before the Top Gun program starts, Maverick, assisted by Goose, unsuccessfully approaches a woman by singing "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'". He learns the next day that she is Charlotte "Charlie" Blackwood (Kelly McGillis), an astrophysicist and civilian Top Gun instructor.

Maverick's reckless flying both annoys and impresses LCDR Rick "Jester" Heatherly (Michael Ironside) and other instructors. He defeats Jester in combat, but violates two rules of engagement in the process. He continues to pursue Charlie and becomes a rival to top student LT Tom "Iceman" Kasansky (Val Kilmer) - who considers Maverick's methods "dangerous". Although outwardly critical of Maverick's tactics, Charlie eventually admits that she admires his flying but was critical because she was afraid for her credibility, and they begin a romantic relationship.

During one flight, Maverick breaks off from his wingman "Hollywood" to go one-on-one with chief instructor CDR Mike "Viper" Metcalf (Tom Skerritt), described as "the (finest) fighter pilot... in the world". Although Maverick matches the older pilot move for move, Viper lasts long enough for Jester - who has defeated Hollywood off-screen - to maneuver around and "shoot" Maverick down, demonstrating the value of teamwork over individual ability.

Near the end of the program, Maverick and Iceman both chase Jester, the latter attempting to gain a missile lock on the target. Under intense pressure from Maverick, Iceman breaks off. Maverick's F-14 flies through the jet wash of Iceman's aircraft and suffers a flameout of both engines, entering a flat spin from which he cannot recover, forcing him and Goose to eject. Goose ejects directly into the jettisoned aircraft canopy and breaks his neck, dying instantly.

Although the board of inquiry clears Maverick of responsibility, he feels guilty for Goose's death, losing his aggressiveness when flying. Charlie and others attempt to console him, but Maverick considers leaving the Navy. Unsure of his future, he seeks Viper's advice. Viper reveals that he served with Maverick's father in VF-51, and discloses classified details, explaining how Duke stayed in the fight after his F-4 was hit and saved three planes before he died.During the graduation party, Iceman, Hollywood, and Maverick are ordered to immediately report to Enterprise to deal with a "crisis situation", providing air support for the rescue of a stricken communications ship, the SS Layton, that has drifted into hostile waters. Maverick and Merlin are assigned to one of two F-14s as back-up for those flown by Iceman and Hollywood, despite Iceman's reservations over Maverick's state of mind. In the subsequent hostile engagement with six MiGs, Hollywood is shot down but manages to eject; Maverick is sortied alone due to catapult failure and nearly retreats after encountering circumstances similar to those that caused Goose's death. Upon finally rejoining Iceman, they shoot down four MiGs and force the others to flee, and return triumphantly to Enterprise. Offered any assignment he chooses, Maverick decides to return to Top Gun as an instructor (which Stinger jokingly expresses horror at the thought of).

Sitting alone in a restaurant in downtown San Diego, Maverick hears "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" playing on the jukebox and recalls meeting Charlie. She enters the bar and the two reunite.

Cast

Production

Background

The primary inspiration for the film was the article "Top Guns", by Ehud Yonay, in the May 1983 issue of California magazine, which also featured aerial photography by then-Lieutenant Commander Charles "Heater" Heatley.[4] The article detailed the TOPGUN fighter pilots at the Miramar Naval Air Station, located in San Diego, self-nicknamed as "Fightertown USA". Numerous screenwriters allegedly turned down the project.[4] Bruckheimer and Simpson went on to hire Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr., to write the first draft. The research methods, by Epps, included an attendance at several declassified Top Gun classes at Miramar and gaining experience by being flown in an F-14. The first draft failed to impress Bruckheimer and Simpson, and is considered to be very different from the final product in numerous ways.[5]

The producers wanted the assistance of the United States Navy in production of the film. The U.S. Navy was influential in relation to script approval, which saw changes being made. The opening dogfight was moved to international waters as opposed to Cuba, the language was toned down, and a scene that involved a crash on the deck of an aircraft carrier was also scrapped.[6] Maverick's love interest was also changed from a female enlisted member of the Navy to a civilian contractor with the Navy, due to the U.S. Department of Defense's prohibition of fraternization between officers and enlisted personnel.[4] The "Charlie" character also replaced an aerobics instructor from an early draft as a love interest for Maverick. Rear Admiral Pete "Viper" Pettigrew, a former Navy aviator, Vietnam War veteran, and TOPGUN instructor served as a technical advisor on the film, and also made a cameo appearance in the film as a colleague of Charlie's.

The former Top Gun instructor pilot and Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham claimed to have been the inspiration for Pete Mitchell, although the film's producers have denied that the character was based on any specific Naval aviator.[7]

Filming

The Navy made available several aircraft from F-14 fighter squadron VF-51 Screaming Eagles (which Tom Skerritt mentions in the scene at his home) for the film. Paramount paid as much as $7,800 per hour for fuel and other operating costs whenever aircraft were flown outside of their normal duties. Shots of the aircraft carrier sequences were filmed aboard the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), showing aircraft from F-14 squadrons VF-114 Aardvarks and VF-213 Black Lions.[8] The majority of the shots were of normal aircraft operations and the film crew had to make use of the shots they could, save for the occasional flyby which the film crew would request. During filming, the director Tony Scott wanted to shoot aircraft landing and taking off, back-lit by the sun. During one particular filming sequence, the ship's commanding officer changed the ship's course, thus changing the light. When Scott asked if they could continue on their previous course and speed, he was informed by the commander that it cost $25,000 to turn the ship, and to continue on course. Scott wrote the carrier's captain a $25,000 check so that the ship could be turned and he could continue shooting for another five minutes.[9]

Other ships and squadrons also supported the filming. Scenes that took place in the aircraft carrier command center were filmed aboard the USS Ranger (CV-61) while it was pierside at Naval Air Station North Island. And frame-by-frame examination of scenes where F-14s launched missiles reveals that the F-14s belonged to squadrons VF-114 and VF-213, and were filmed during actual training missile launch exercises.

Most of the sequences of the aircraft maneuvering over land were shot at NAS Fallon, in Nevada, using ground-mounted cameras. Air-to-air shots were filmed using a Learjet. Grumman, manufacturer of the F-14, was commissioned by Paramount Pictures to create camera pods to be placed upon the aircraft that could be pointed toward either the front or rear of the aircraft providing outside shots at high altitude. Hand-held cameras were used for some of the interior cabin shots. Navy F-14 pilots flew the planes, changing helmets as needed. The aircraft used for the fictional MiG-28s are Northrop F-5E (single seat) and F-5F (two seat) Tiger IIs, flown by pilots of VFC-13 aggressor squadron.

Many of the scenes were shot in and around the actual facilities at NAS Miramar and the (now decommissioned) Naval Training Center, which was located adjacent to San Diego's Lindbergh Field municipal airport. The filming was primarily conducted during the fall of 1985.

Renowned aerobatic pilot Art Scholl was hired to do in-flight camera work for the film. The original script called for a flat spin, which Scholl was to perform and capture on a camera on the aircraft. The aircraft was observed to spin through its recovery altitude, at which time he radioed "I have a problem... I have a real problem". Scholl was unable to recover and crashed his Pitts S-2 into the Pacific Ocean off the Southern California coast near Carlsbad on September 16, 1985. Neither Scholl nor his aircraft were recovered, leaving the official cause of the accident unknown.[10] Top Gun was dedicated to the memory of Art Scholl.

Music

The Top Gun soundtrack is one of the most popular soundtracks to date, reaching #1 on The Billboard Top Pop Albums chart for five weeks. Harold Faltermeyer, who previously worked with both Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson on the films Flashdance and Beverly Hills Cop, was sent the script of Top Gun by Bruckheimer before filming began. Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock worked on numerous songs including the Oscar winning #1 "Take My Breath Away" and "Danger Zone". Kenny Loggins performed two songs on the soundtrack, "Playing With the Boys", and "Danger Zone". Berlin recorded the song "Take My Breath Away", which would later win numerous awards, sending Berlin to international acclaim. After the release of Loggins' #2 single "Danger Zone", sales of the album exploded, selling 7 million in the United States alone. On the re-release of the soundtrack in 2000, two songs that had been omitted from the original album (and had been released many years before the film was made), "Great Balls of Fire" by Jerry Lee Lewis and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" by The Righteous Brothers, were added. The soundtrack does also include "Top Gun Anthem" and "Memories" by Steve Stevens/Faltermeyer and Faltermeyer. However, no soundtrack release to date has included the full Faltermeyer score.

Other artists were considered for the soundtrack project but did not participate. Bryan Adams was considered as a potential candidate but refused to participate because he felt the film glorified war. Likewise, REO Speedwagon was considered but backed down because they would not be allowed to record their own composition. The band Toto was originally meant to record "Danger Zone", and had also written and recorded a song "Only You" for the soundtrack. However, there was a dispute between Toto's lawyers and the producers of the film, paving the way for Loggins to record "Danger Zone" and "Only You" being omitted from the film entirely.[11]

Vehicles

Reception

The film opened in the United States in 1,028 theaters on May 16, 1986. It quickly became a phenomenon and was the highest grossing film of 1986. It was number one on its first weekend with a $8,193,052 gross, and went on to a total domestic figure of $176,786,701. Internationally it took in an estimated $177,030,000 for a worldwide box office total of $353,816,701.[12]

Top Gun went on to break further records in the then still-developing home video market. Backed by a massive $8 million marketing campaign including a Top Gun-themed Diet Pepsi commercial,[13] the advanced demand was such that the film became the best-selling videocassette in the industry's history on pre-orders alone. It was also one of the first video cassette releases in the $20 price range.[14] Top Guns home video success was again reflected by strong DVD sales, which were furthered by a special-edition release in 2004. Bomber jacket sales increased and Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses jumped 40%, due to their use by characters in the film.[15] The film also boosted Air Force and Navy recruitment. The Navy had recruitment booths in some theaters to attract enthusiastic patrons.[16]

Critical reaction was mixed. Roger Ebert gave the film 2.5 out of 4 stars, pointing out that "movies like Top Gun are hard to review because the good parts are so good and the bad parts are so relentless."[17] The film is currently rated at 49% on Rotten Tomatoes.[18]

The AFI's 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes list had the line "I feel the need...the need for speed!" from Top Gun at number 94 on the list.

The film also ranked at number 455 in Empires 2008 list of the 500 greatest films of all time.[19]

Yahoo! Movies recently ranked Top Gun #19 on their list of greatest action films of all-time.[20]

In the season opener, the Saturday Night Live crew did a sketch for the Top Gun 25th Anniversary DVD, featuring "never-before-seen screen tests". The SNL cast mocked up people like Tony Danza, Alan Alda, Paula Abdul, Sinbad, and others.[21]

Awards and nominations

The film won the following awards:

YearAwardCategory – Recipient(s)
1987ASCAP Film and Television Music AwardMost Performed Songs from Motion Pictures – Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock for the song "Take My Breath Away".
1987Academy AwardBest Music, Original Song – Giorgio Moroder (music) and Tom Whitlock (lyrics) for the song "Take My Breath Away".
1986Apex Scroll AwardAchievement in Sound Effects
1987BRIT AwardBest Soundtrack
1987Golden GlobeBest Original Song – Motion Picture – Giorgio Moroder (music) and Tom Whitlock (lyrics) for the song "Take My Breath Away".
1987Golden Screen
1987Grammy AwardsBest Pop Instrumental Performance (Orchestra, Group or Soloist) – Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens for "Top Gun Anthem".
rowspan=21987rowspan=2Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel AwardBest Sound Editing
Best Sound Editing – Sound Effects
1987People's Choice AwardFavorite Motion Picture
1988Award of the Japanese AcademyBest Foreign Language Film
2005AFI's 100 Years…100 Movie QuotesWon for the line, "I feel the need...the need for speed!" Ranked 94th.

The film was nominated for the following awards:

American Film Institute Lists

Involvement of the U.S. military

A motion picture producer, John Davis, claimed that "Top Gun was a recruiting video for the Navy. It really helped their recruiting. People saw the movie and said, 'Wow! I want to be a pilot.'"[26]

The United States Navy stated that after the release of the film that the number of young men who enlisted, wanting to be Naval aviators, went up by 500 percent.[27]

Paramount Pictures offered to place a 90 second Navy recruiting advertisement at the beginning of the videocassette for Top Gun, in exchange for $1 million in credit towards their debt to the Navy for production assistance. An internal memo to the Pentagon from an advertising agency rejected the offer, noting that "Both movies are already wonderful recruiting tools for the military, particularly the Navy, and to add a recruiting commercial onto the head of what is already a two-hour recruiting commercial is redundant."[28]

3D conversion and 2012 re-release

Top Gun is being converted to 3D by Legend3D for a 2012 re-release in theaters, pending Tony Scott's approval. A four-minute preview of the conversion, featuring the "Danger Zone" flight sequence, was screened at the 2011 International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam, Netherlands.[3]

Sequel

On October 13, 2010, New York magazine reported that Paramount Pictures had made offers to Jerry Bruckheimer and Tony Scott to make a sequel to Top Gun. Christopher McQuarrie had also received an offer to write the sequel's screenplay, which was rumored to have Cruise's character Maverick in a smaller role.[29]

When asked about his idea for a new Top Gun film, Scott replied, "This world fascinated me, because it's so different from what it was originally. But, I don't want to do a remake. I don't want to do a reinvention. I want to do a new movie."[30]

In December 2011, Tom Cruise stated that the sequel was in the works, and that he was in talks to reprise his role.[31]

In March 2012, it was revealed by Tom Burbage, Lockheed Martin F-35 programme manager, that the F-35 Lightning II will be used and to be flown by Maverick as a test pilot in the sequel.[32]

Video games

See main article: Top Gun (video game). Top Gun also spawned a number of video games for various platforms. The original game was released in 1987 under the same title as the film. It was released on five platforms in total: PC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) (with an equivalent version for Nintendo's "VS." arcade cabinets). In the game, the player pilots an F-14 Tomcat fighter, and has to complete four missions. A sequel, Top Gun: The Second Mission, was released for the NES three years later.

Another game, Top Gun: Fire at Will, was released in 1996 for the PC and later for the Sony PlayStation platform. Top Gun: Hornet's Nest was released in 1998. Top Gun: Combat Zones was released for PlayStation 2 in 2001 and was ported to the Nintendo GameCube and Windows PCs a year later. Combat Zones was considerably longer and more complex than its predecessors, and also featured other aircraft besides the F-14. In late 2005, a fifth game, simply titled Top Gun, was released for the Nintendo DS. At E3 2011, it was announced that a new game, Top Gun: Hard Lock which was released in March 2012 for Xbox 360, PC, and PlayStation 3.

Mobile game publisher Hands-On Mobile (formerly known as Mforma) have published three mobile games based around Top Gun. The first two were top-down scrolling arcade shooters. The third game takes a different approach as a third-person perspective game, similar to Sega's After Burner games.

Notes and References

  1. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092099/
  2. http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=topgun.htm Box Office Mojo
  3. News: Top Gun Coming to Theaters in 3D. Giardina, Carolyn. The Hollywood Reporter. 2011-09-12. 2011-09-14.
  4. http://www.fast-rewind.com/topgun.htm Top Gun Movie -The 80s Rewind «
  5. Special Edition DVD, Interview with Jack Epps
  6. Special Edition DVD, Interview with the producers
  7. News: Alex. Roth. The San Diego Union-Tribune. down Cunningham's legend. 2006-01-15. A-1. 2006-02-19.
  8. http://www.topgunbio.com Baranek, Dave "Bio", "Topgun Days"
  9. Special Edition DVD, Interview with Tony Scott and Pete Pettigrew
  10. Ashurst, Sam (November 4, 2008). Hollywood's deadliest stunts. Total Film.
  11. http://www.toto99.com/blog2010/index.php?/archives/785-TOP-GUN-soundtrack.html
  12. Web site: boxofficemojo.com. Top Gun (box office). November 8, 2006.
  13. Taylor, Rod (March 1, 2005). High Flyer. Promo.
  14. Web site: The New York Times],Wearing Spielberg Down To Put 'E.T.' on Cassette]. Harmetz, Aljean. May 17, 1988.
  15. Web site: Time],Through A Glass Darkly]. August, Melissa; Derrow, Michelle; Durham, Aisha; Levy, Daniel S.; Lofaro, Lina; Spitz, David; Taylor, Chris. July 12, 1999. November 8, 2006.
  16. http://film.guardian.co.uk/News_Story/Guardian/0,4029,543821,00.html Top Gun versus Sergeant Bilko? No contest, says the Pentagon
  17. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19860516/REVIEWS/605160302/1023 Roger Ebert – Top Gun Review
  18. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/top_gun/ Top Gun
  19. http://www.empireonline.com/500/8.asp The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time
  20. http://movies.yahoo.com/ Yahoo! Movies All-Time Greatest Action Movies
  21. http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/top-gun-25th-anniversary-dvd/1358167
  22. http://www.afi.com/Docs/100Years/thrills400.pdf AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills Nominees
  23. http://www.afi.com/Docs/100Years/handv400.pdf AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains Nominees
  24. http://www.afi.com/Docs/100Years/songs400.pdf AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees
  25. http://www.afi.com/Docs/100Years/cheers300.pdf AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers Nominees
  26. Book: Robb, David. Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies. Prometheus Books. New York. 2004. 181. 1-59102-182-0.
  27. Book: Robb, David. Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies. Prometheus Books. New York. 2004. 182. 1-59102-182-0.
  28. Book: Robb, David. Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies. Prometheus Books. New York. 2004. 180–181. 1-59102-182-0.
  29. News: Top Gun 2 is Heading to the Runway. Brodesser-Akner, Claude. New York magazine. 2010-10-13. 2010-10-15.
  30. Web site: Exclusive: Tony Scott Doesn't Want a Remake or Reinvention for Top Gun 2. Ellwood, Gregory. HitFix. 2010-10-24. 2010-10-26.
  31. News: Tom Cruise in talks for Top Gun 2. CBC News. December 9, 2011. 2011-12-09.
  32. News: Top Gun 2 will rock the F-35, Tom Burbage says. Flightglobal. March 1, 2012. 2012-03-01.