Kick-Back Friday: #192
Watching The Final Countdown (1980), starring the recently departed James Farentino, is more of an exercise in “How could I make this movie really good?” as opposed to recognizing its few merits—one of which is the evergreen premise of rewriting history through time travel. This is a solid, if not always entertaining, sci-fi theme, which is unfortunately directed and scored here in cringe-inducing, ham-handed fashion. And let’s not even talk about the special effects, which are laughably rudimentary, even for 1980. One wonders what Spielberg and John Williams would have done with the not-so-terrible screenplay in their prime (and if Spielberg had actually passed on the project at some point during its development).
The setup: For some completely inexplicable reason, the USS Nimitz, the world’s largest aircraft carrier, is transported through a freakish Pacific wormhole on December 7, 1980, to—you guessed it—39 years earlier.* The conflict (shouldered largely by the ship’s commander, who is played solidly by an otherwise too-old Kirk Douglas): To prevent the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor or to not fuck with the Day of Infamy and the world’s destiny generally. Military men being military men, most are completely up for a technology-fueled ass-kicking of Japan’s propeller air fleet; while an on-board civilian from the Defense Department (Martin Sheen**) warns of the so-called butterfly effect and other pesky philosophical stuff. The ship’s commander must also have the safety of his crew in mind, especially given the haphazard nature of the arbitrary wormhole. What if the warship accidentally travels back to 1980 while its F-16 pilots are in flight, chasing the Japanese?
The movie also stars a sputtering (no matter what decade he’s in) Charles Durning and a forever-young Katharine Ross—whose character (like us) worries most about what happens to her gorgeous collie.
* When “Nimitz”–ha, ha–was only the name of the guy who commanded the US Pacific fleet.
** This must have been a refreshing walk in the park after Apocalypse Now.