Here's an interesting "what if...?" for you: "What if" you took a modern-day United States Navy aircraft carrier, complete with its 5,000-plus person crew and 100-plus jet fighters, and suddenly transported them all to another time in history? And "what if" that warship, with all its awesome firepower, turns up in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii on December 6, 1941 - the day before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor?
That's the premise of "The Final Countdown," a 1980 science fiction film starring Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, James Farentino, Charles Durning, and Katharine Ross. Sound far-fetched? I remember thinking so the first time I watched it - on TV - many years ago. I also remember thinking at the time that the movie was actually pretty good.
I recently purchased a DVD copy of "The Final Countdown" because wanted to see if it would still seem "pretty good" to me 30 years after I first watched it.
Our story opens in the year 1980. The aircraft carrier "USS Nimitz," operating off the coast of Hawaii, is suddenly caught in a strange electrical vortex that transports the ship and its entire crew back in time to December 6, 1941 - the day before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Captain Yelland, the ship's commanding officer knows his history, and what that portends for the future. He and his crew face a terrible dilemma: should they take steps to stop the impending Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, thereby altering history... or, should they let historical events play themselves out, knowing full well what those events mean for the future?
After viewing "The Final Countdown" for the first time in 30 years, I still think it's a "pretty good" movie. It's well written and acted, has good solid production values, and is both thought-provoking and fun to watch.
No modern-day science fiction film should be without world-class special and visual effects. This is one area where "The Final Countdown" was a bit of a disappointment. The scenes showing the electrical vortex engulfing the "USS Nimitz" were definitely substandard, even by 1980 standards - reflecting perhaps the movie's budgetary constraints. Certainly, three years after the release of the visually dazzling "Star Wars," the production team for "The Final Countdown" should have made a stronger effort to make their film more visually appealing. Other special effects were somewhat better. Scenes of fighters taking off from the "Nimitz's" flight deck were excellent, and accurately showed what goes on during aircraft launch operations. The dogfight scenes between the F-14 fighters and Japanese Zeroes were also noteworthy.
Three decades ago, I first watched "The Final Countdown" and thought it was a "pretty good" movie. That was at a time when hi-tech special effects were in their infancy, and only a very few science fiction/fantasy films were being produced. Now, even with stunning special effects the norm and a plethora of science fiction/fantasy films being released every year, "The Final Countdown" manages to hold its own. It's still a "pretty good" movie. Enjoy!