The Final Countdown Reviews
The casting is impressive with this old sci-fi, Martin Sheen is a civilian observer, a systems analyst who is on board for reasons unknown frankly. Charles Durning plays a fictitious senator back in 1941 and the epic Kirk Douglas is the USS Nimitz Commander. All three of these actors add much needed impetus to the project as lets be honest...this is total B-movie fluff. Although I still can't for the life of me work out why Sheen's character is required, and here lies one of the plot issues.
In this movie the USS Nimitz was designed by an aged Mr. Tideman who we don't see. Now this chap has made sure that Sheen's character gets on board the Nimitz for its training run. The reason being because what happens on board the ship and in the past (when the ship gets there) will effect the future. You assume Sheen's character will obviously somehow effect someone or something that will cause a time ripple, but he doesn't as far as I could see. Sheen doesn't really do anything throughout the whole movie accept stand around and offer the odd bit of advice. The only thing I can think of is the fact that the Nimitz was delayed by two days waiting for Sheen's character to arrive and board (according to Douglas' character the Commander), by order of the mysterious Mr. Tideman. So maybe that delay was required so all the following events would be set in motion at the right time.
Naturally time travel paradoxes may arise in a story like this and I'm pretty sure the main twist in the tale here doesn't work. Basically it turns out one of the officers on board the Nimitz is a younger Mr. Tideman who gets stranded back in 1941. Tideman helped design the Nimitz because he served on board her as an officer up until the point he gets stuck back in time. So it was the older Tideman back in 1980 who wanted Sheen's character to travel on the Nimitz for her training ops...although I don't get why as I already said Sheen does nothing.
So here is my issue. Young Tideman goes back in time and gets stranded (in 1941), he then must pretty much relive his life through to the present of 1980. Thing is in the present of 1980 with Tideman now an old man, at some point many years earlier, another younger version of Tideman must be born so he can join the Navy, join the Nimitz and eventually go on the training ops mission back in time. So this would surely mean there would be two versions of Tideman living in the same time, is that possible? I'm sure the older version would know not to try and meet his younger self so maybe it would be OK?
There is much that isn't really explained in the movie, whether that's because its left up to your own imagination or not I don't know. The mysterious storm is never explained, the fact it seems to be aware at one point because it tracks or homes in on the Nimitz when they try to outmaneuver it. The whole event is simply written off as a mystery or freak of nature. Also I noticed that when the Nimitz goes through the time portal, even jets that aren't on board her go through too. At the end there is an entire strike force of jets up in the air and nowhere near the Nimitz when the storm time portal thing catches the ship and they go back through to 1980. So even if these jets aren't on the ship and not even close to either the ship or the portal...they still go through? Is that because the ship goes through and they just materialise along with it? maybe they are foreign objects in time and time knows they don't belong there?
Admittedly most of the run time is taken up by military prowess and military hardware porn, put it this way if you like big guns, jets, aircraft carriers, warships, old planes, helicopters, flybys etc...you're gonna have a field day. Its basically a US Navy recruitment campaign combined with a training video showing you all the cool fun stuff, life on a carrier and errr...all the cool fun stuff. You could also say it was a long homage and love letter to one of the USA's best supercarriers, one of the biggest warships around. A day in the life of the Navy at sea and how it runs. I can't deny it all looked very impressive though, very slick, very cool, it gives 'Top Gun' a good run for its money...and this was 1979! imagine what they're like today.
Anyway back to the movie, it was fun, an enjoyable little Twilight Zone-esque escapade which I find agreeable on most days. I knew there would be problems along the way with this, you can kinda tell, but it doesn't detract from the fun too much. Very well put together, nice effects for the time, cool aerial camera work on various military toys and it keeps you thinking.
"Nothing in the world can prepare you for..."
The Final Countdown is a terrible movie. You should know that. But it is one of those movies that is so bad, it's undeniably entertaining in its terribleness. Plus, a first rate cast make things go down a little better. Kirk Douglas commands the movie like a true film veteran. Martin Sheen is fine as well; as are Katherine Ross, James Farentino, and Charles Durning. Nobody is at their best, but how could you be with a movie as ridiculous as this one.
Umm... plot; get ready. In the 1980's, the U.S.S. Nimitz is at sea, when they enter into a storm, the like of which none of them have ever seen. All of a sudden, the storm stops. They are left in sunny skies, with no damage. Everyone looks at each other. What just happened? No one knows. Soon, evidence starts trickling in that begins to make them believe they have traveled through time to December 6, 1941. Yes, the day before Pearl Harbor. When a run in with some Japanese planes confirms this; they are left to decide whether they should take action and risk changing history or let history run its course.
Obviously, none of this is supposed to be taken seriously, but it plays itself out in a way that makes me think director Don Taylor was taking it seriously. It's a what if movie. What if a modern aircraft carrier was dropped into a battle that happened 40 years ago? What if we changed history? What if? What if? What if? That's all this movie is, is what if.
I'm not going to say that the movie is one of the worst movies in history because it isn't. It may be one of the stupidest, but it isn't the worst. There are some redeeming qualities that make the watch more interesting. The film also made me think that making terrible movies would be the most fun job in the world. Sure, you're not going to make a lot of money and people are going to despise your work, but coming up with stupid, off the wall stuff like this and then actually filming it. It's every stoners wet dream.
One of the only reasons anyone remembers that this movie exists is the ridiculous hair-metal song Europe wrote (very) loosely based on it five years later. (And now you will have that keyboard line in your head the rest of the day. You're welcome.) The film is just as ridiculous as the song, but I can't deny it's a guilty pleasure, one of the things you keep around to watch when nothing else sounds good and you're in the mood for something familiar where you can simply turn your brain off. Few movies fit the bill as well as The Final Countdown. And now, with that cheesy keyboard riff playing in your head...
Plot: A state-of-the-art aircraft carrier, bankrolled by a mysterious millionaire named Tideman, is out for its initial maneuvers when it runs into a storm unlike anything any of its seasoned crew have ever seen. The new boat weathers it well enough, but when they emerge, they find themselves nowhere near where they started-in fact, they are afloat off Pearl Harbor in the early days of December, 1941. The boat's captain, Matthew Yelland (the mighty Kirk Douglas), and his crew have the opportunity to change the course of history with, as it were, insider information. While no one landside is quite sure what to make of this massive structure, things on the boat reach a tipping point when the boys capture themselves a Japanese recon pilot, Simura (Mulan's Soon-tek Oh). With some of the crew arguing to intercept the coming force, some arguing against it, and a few dropping hints that they should make it look as if the information came naturally from the interrogation of Simura, things are bound to come to a head-and sooner rather than later.
What amazes me about cheesy movies like this is the incredible starpower they were capable of attracting in the pre-DTV days. Kirk Douglas is just the tip of this particular iceberg; Martin Sheen plays his second in command; others on the boat are played by Katharine Ross, James Farentino, Lloyd Kaufman (in his final role before founding Troma), and Ron O'Neal, all towards the top of the seventies B-list, while Charles Durning plays a Senator who's out for a cruise while the action is taking place. That's a lot of talent on one screen, and all of it put to...this. The talent therein is what saves it from mediocrity and makes it the watchable artifact of the unbearably cheesy theatrical releases that it is. Still, if you have a low tolerance for scripts that lay it on thick, you might want to avoid this one. I guess there's no one to blame, but you're still leaving ground. ***
Kirk Douglas captains the USS Nimitz along with a crack lead airman played by James Farentino and a last second civilian addition, Martin Sheen. For such an exciting concept, the action is pretty limited but the build up to the potential clash with the Japanese attackers is well done. This movie also contained some outstanding military footage. Unfortunately, when the final conflict is about to occur the movie's ending resorts to showing us the easiest possible resolution. Bummer.
Excellent score by John Scott--we'll have top track this one down. Film Score Monthly released the soundtrack not long ago.
Kirk Douglas always has a funny look in his eyes and a tongue-in-cheek smile because he knows its a very nutty premise.