September 8, 2009

TOP GUN Part One: The Soundtrack

**Over the next few weeks, I will be posting three spoiler-filled reviews of the 1986 blockbuster TOP GUN. Did I mention the spoilers?**

There are a lot of good things that have happened to me at sunset.

I had my first kiss at sunset. Before my grandfather passed away we watched a long orange sunset disappear over the icy Atlantic. Just last year I shared a beer with a beautiful woman and watched the sun go down over the spring leaves of Oregon. But not once, not in all the sunsets I've seen in my entire life, did the Top Gun Anthem fail to start blaring out of my ears like the half dead ghost of Glam-Rock out of the 80's. It's become part of the experience.



If you're like me and suffer from Top Gun Soundtrack Syndrome, I suggest that in lue of downing a bottle of roofinol with a bottle of Jack every morning, you seek professional consultation in the form of a wildly superior John Williams soundtrack.

Every single freakin' time that "nao-nao-nao-na-na-na-na-nao-nao-na-na-NA-na-na-NA-NAAA-NAAA" plays in my head, it's like my inner DJ just OD'd on painkillers after locking the booth and putting in the most annoying record ever made. Okay, so it's not that bad. I just wish I could enjoy the image of a setting sun without thinking of Maverick and Goose attempting a 4G Inverted Dive against a MiG-28 for the express person of giving someone the finger.

Top Gun is a Tony Scott movie produced by the legendary Jerry Bruckheimer, a man so powerful he once took a Technical College of Passidena dropout whose only claim to fame was a few "Got Milk" commercials and an unintelligible Meatloaf video and turned him into Michael Bay, Power Director. Top Gun was Bruckheimer's attempt to captured the essence of the 80s. In fact, I would venture to say that the seminal moment of that whole decade occurs within a single scene of Top Gun. That moment is when pre-Scientology Tom Cruise makes awkward love to an excessively permed Kelly McGillis as blue-tint silk drapes billow in the background and the retarded thumps of Take My Breath Away start... for the sixth time. I dare you to respond with something more essentially 80's than that.

But why do I associate this movie with sunsets, you ask? Because Top Gun is a movie about three things: Fighter Jets, Tom Cruise sex, and the Jeopardy category "Things that Happen at While the Sky is Orange." Every single scene in this movie, from the opening credits to the very last shot, happen with a setting sun in the background. There are even scenes where the opening shot happens at sunset, then the scene is shot during the day, and then the ending shot is at sunset again. Sunsets in the real world last for 8 minutes. Sunsets in the Jerry Bruckheimer world last longer than the breakfast shift and Denny's.

But there is one song, beyond the Top Gun Anthem, that has stuck with me through those many long years. That song is Kenny Loggin's Danger Zone, which is an 80's power ballad whose lyrics appear to have been written on the dare to incorporate every slang term in aviation into one highly repetitive verse.

Danger Zone isn't just a little bit repetitive. It's very repetitive. The refrain goes: "Highway to danger zone. Gonna take it right into the danger zone. Highway to the danger zone. Right into the danger zone." This feeds into the first of the 6 rules to the Top Gun drinking game, which is to drink whenever anyone or anything says the word "dangerous" or any variation thereof. If you played with this rule alone, you could be decently buzzed by the time the (8 minute) opening credits are over, and be unconscious by the time Maverick is going through his aviation crisis.

Nevertheless, for all the invocations of "danger" in this movie, none of the scenes actually make the audience feel any of that danger. A practiced movie viewer will know from the moment the jets streak across the sky and a generic military voice fills us in on the plot exactly how things are going to go down. By the last scene, watching Tom Cruise blow up Russian fighter jets like pinatas filled with bombs is not only tired and unsurprising, but markedly uninspiring as well.

But there is more to this movie. Next Tuesday.

1 comment:

  1. Revvin' up your engine
    Listen to her howlin' roar
    Metal under tension
    Beggin' you to touch and go
    Highway to the Danger Zone
    Ride into the Danger Zone
    Headin' into twilight
    Spreadin' out her wings tonight
    She got you jumpin' off the track
    And shovin' into overdrive
    Highway to the Danger Zone
    I'll take you
    Right into the Danger Zone
    You'll never say hello to you
    Until you get it on the red line overload
    You'll never know what you can do
    Until you get it up as high as you can go
    Out along the edges
    Always where I burn to be
    The further on the edge
    The hotter the intensity
    Highway to the Danger Zone
    Gonna take you
    Right into the Danger Zone
    Highway to the Danger Zone

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