This week's movie is the sci-fi/action/drama/hunk of cheese The Final Countdown!
The Final Countdown is one of those movies I had heard of for a long time, but never seen. The premise sounded cool and weird: a modern-day battleship finds itself back in time, the day before Pearl Harbor--so once I saw it was available on Netflix WI, I queued it up!
The film opens up aboard the USS Nimitz, under the command of Capt. Matthew Yelland (Kirk Douglas). Its being visited by a civilian observer, Martin Lasky (future President Martin Sheen), who is there to oversee the ship during a routine training mission.
During the trip, the ship finds itself in the middle of a huge lightning storm--but this is no ordinary lightning storm. No, its some sort of vortex, and when the ship gets sucked into it and comes out the other side, it finds itself back in time--on December 6, 1941!
Of course, it takes a while--a long while, actually--before the crew of the Nimitz (which includes Wing Commander Owens (James Farentino) and Commander Dan Thurman (played by SuperFly himself, Ron O'Neal) really believes this has happened. At first they hear old radio broadcasts, and figure its some sort of weird trick. Then they take recon photos of nearby Pearl Harbor and see that it looks just like it did before that fateful day.
Nearby is a small boat, and on board is Senator Samuel Chapman (Charles Durning), and his assistant Laurel Scott (Katharine Ross). They see a fighter jet overheard, which of course doesn't look like any plane they're familiar with. They end up aboard the Nimitz, and Lasky realizes that this Senator is the same guy that disappeared on December 7, 1941, and was in line to become FDR's fourth Vice President--which of course ended up being Harry Truman.
Lasky and Yelland have a lot of discussion over what to do--the Nimitz has the power to repel the sneak attack by Japanese, thereby changing all of history. Can they do it? Should they do it?
This is primo material for a compelling, classic sci-fi "What if?" kind of story, and while we kind of get that, generally The Final Countdown fumbles the ball.
Directed by Don Taylor (Escape From Planet of the Apes, The Omen II), the film has a sort of bland, TV-movie vibe: despite this great premise, not all that much exciting happens: there's a lot of arguing, some nice period detail, and some decent acting, but none of it really catches fire: the romance between Ross and Farentino is cookie-cutter (I mean, who cares, really, when friggin' Pearl Harbor is about to happen?!?), and everyone adjusts to being back in time fairly smoothly (you'd think there'd be at least one crewman who'd go bug-f*ck crazy over the idea).
There's a brief action scene, featuring a recovered Japanese pilot (played by M*A*S*H's go-to Korean, Soon Teck-Oh), which is fairly well done and tense, but its over very quickly and basically doesn't affect the plot, one way or the other.
That said, the film is still enjoyable to watch--everyone here is the utmost professional, from the lead actors to the SFX guys--so it goes down smoothly. This would be, for instance, the perfect movie to watch with your Dad on a Sunday afternoon. There's no truly bad scenes, but nothing that you'll remember for too long afterwards, either.
I won't spoil the ending, and say what Yelland and his crew decide to do in regards to Pearl Harbor. The final scene is a sort of Twilight Zone-ish twist ending, which is kinda cheesy but fun. Which is probably the best way to describe all of The Final Countdown.
One final thought: a cool element of this movie is that they don't explain the whole time-portal thing; it just happens. So, Note to Hollywood: we don't need a "re-imagining" of The Final Countdown, where you explain in exhaustive detail where the time portal came from, how it works, and basically ruin all the mystery in an attempt to make sure everything is explained to everyone. As mediocre as The Final Countdown might be, its fine the way it is!