This is a film that is best seen up on the big screen so there's that to consider. It's also one of those films that could and should have been much better since the original premise was so fantastically inventive: What if a modern day (well, let's say modern day 1979) aircraft carrier with full compliment of planes and bombs and whatnot, was suddenly scooped up into some sort of time vortex tunnel (kind of like a sideways tornado complete with noisy special effects) and then spat out the back end into 1941? Specifically, December 8th, 1941 - the day before the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The possibilities are endless.
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN (1980) is a film directed by Don Taylor and written by seven writers at least according to the imdb page and as we all know, that many hands on a script rarely heralds anything brilliant. The cast includes many actual U.S. Nimitz crew members and Kirk Douglas who is kind of wasted in an uninspired part as Matthew Yelland the bewildered captain of the U.S. Aircraft Carrier Nimitz. We also have James Farentino as Commander Richard Owens, Martin Sheen as Warren Lasky a Department of Defense trouble shooter who just happens to be on board, Ron O'Neal as Commander Dan Thurman and Katherine Ross as Laurel Scott assistant to Senator Samuel Chapman (Charles Durning). None of these competent actors really have much to do except react in various stages of befuddlement to the on-going on board crisis.
Ron O'Neal, Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen
The Senator and his aid (and her dog) do not come aboard the Nimitz until 1941when their little beauty of a wooden yacht (mint condition) is blown out of the water by two Japanese Zeros on a reconnaissance mission. They are air lifted to safety by a Navy helicopter from the Nimitz. But not before an exciting air display by two 'modern day' jets buzzing around the Japanese planes and finally, annoyed, shooting them out of the air.
But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself as usual.
Let's back up a bit. First there's the intro of the ship with a rather long opening credits sequence to the accompaniment of stirring music by John Scott. Afterwards there's the intro of the actors and before too much longer we're out on the high seas looking for adventure.
In between we're treated to scenes of thrilling flights and views of the wonderful job done by those charged with making sure planes land and take-off safely. There are few things as exhilarating as watching planes take off from an aircraft carrier - at least for me. This is my favorite part of the movie actually. I love all that military hullabaloo. Like most women (or at least women like me) I'm fascinated by the colorful (but orderly) display of military brawn, the nuts and bolts of an alien world - the rugged maleness of it. It's like viewing the workings of a secret club. Yeah, I know that now there are probably women serving on board these sorts of ships but this was then.
At first everyone assumes the on-coming vortex is just some violent storm unexpectedly headed their way though the on board weather equipment says all should be sunny and clear. Uh oh.
Long story short, as the aircraft carrier and crew find themselves back in 1941, they're called upon to pick up a couple of survivors of a Japanese air attack: a Senator and his aid (and her dog). The captain tries to keep these unexpected passengers from interacting with the crew or seeing the 'modern' equipment, but to no avail. Things go from bad to worse as no good deed goes unpunished: a very confused Japanese pilot found floating in the water clinging to wreckage - a survivor of the original attack on the woody yacht - is brought on board. Uh oh.
Once the captain and crew realize - finally - that they really, REALLY are back in 1941, the captain is, understandably, bent on attacking the planes and ships headed for Pearl Harbor even if he more or less understands the ramifications. His argument is this: He works for the U.S. Navy and he and his ship are charged with protecting the U.S. against aggression no matter what year it is. Makes sense to me.
But I don't have to tell you about time travel paradoxes and all that, we've read enough books featuring the 'what if you do or don't do this and that does or doesn't happen?'. We've watched enough Star Trek episodes.
In the end the movie cops out. Things are left undone (maybe for the best), questions are left unanswered and we get, instead, a quirky little smiley-face ending featuring James Farentino, Katherine Ross, Martin Sheen and Charlie the 40 year old dog.
So why am I bothering to talk about this movie if I'm so lukewarm about it? Well, I think it's because of what might have been - it's the sort of 'high concept' story that makes you think about possibilites. I keep imagining what better writing, a better cast and maybe Spielberg at the helm would have done with it. Plus let's not forget, there are those fabulous flying sequences.
And by the way, what is it about movies from the 70's and 80's? Everything always looks so cheesy. I lived through that time - it didn't seem so tacky back then.
Well, it's Tuesday and that means checking in with Todd Mason at his blog, Sweet Freedom, to see what other films, television and/or other audio-visuals, other bloggers are talking about today. We're a stellar bunch.
There are so many films, such as the one you describe here which could, somehow or other, have been rather better. And it is not always easy to decide in which ways.
Where anything 'military' is concerned, we are, we are afraid to say, less than keen and do try to avoid films, plays and books where people are killed violently in peacetime or as an act of war. Perhaps we are cowards at heart?
Although we never saw this film, this review really does act as a very fair guide to its overall worth and may well tempt some.
I'm not overly fond of most military films either, especially the ultra realistic ones. So I'm with you on that, Jane and Lance. But I don't find this sort of 'fantasy' type 'war' story - it does involve time-travel after all and I love that aspect of it. And I do love jet planes. :)Delete
And now since The Great South American Adventure last December, and another booked, we too are converts to jet aeroplanes! :))Delete
Oh I can only imagine where you might be off to next....Well, let me see...Nope. I'll have to wait and see. :)Delete
Not forgotten by me. I've always liked this film and it's theme. Good cast too.ReplyDelete
You probably liked it more than I did, ienna. But I did enjoy it enough to write about at any rate. :) Thanks for dropping in.ReplyDelete
Yvette, I remember seeing THE FINAL COUNTDOWN when I was a kid seeing it at a Saturday matinee when I was a kid with my family. It was a bit on the cheesy side, but I was a kid, what did I know? My brother was more than happy to explain to me about time paradoxes and such. In any case, I enjoyed your witty post itself, my friend, as always! :-DReplyDelete
Thanks, Dorian. I had first seen this on the big screen once upon a time as well. It worked better there. :) But it still brought back a few memories.Delete
I haven't seen it, but I just KNOW it has to be better than 'The Perfect Storm' which I wasted an hour or more on.ReplyDelete
Well, Tom, this IS time travel. Always a good idea. :)Delete
"what is it about movies from the 70's and 80's? Everything always looks so cheesy."ReplyDelete
I hear you on that one, Yvette. Sometimes I'm drawn to re-visit one of my favorites from those decades and I'm so terribly disappointed. The memory of the first viewing is sometimes best left untinged by reviewings.
Whatever happened to Karthaine Ross? She showed such promise but had such a short film career fo successed. Right after THE STEPFORD WIVES (only her 8th movie after THE GRADUATE) she ended up doing schlock movies and lots of forgettable made-for-TV dreck. Well, there was her odd turn as the psychiatrist in DONNIE DARKO, one of the few good things in a movie I particularly loathe.
I think you may be right about leaving the films from that era alone. :) I think Katherine Ross just didn't make good choices. It happens that way sometimes. She does have some sort of family troubles with her daughter and was married five times. Although her last marriage to that gorgeous cowboy actor has lasted since 1984. Acting careers can be funny things.Delete
Yvette, I enjoy watching movies about the military too, especially the navy and more specifically aircraft carriers, one of the reasons I liked TOP GUN. I'm surprised that the USS Nimitz was around in 1980 or thereabouts but then aircraft carriers have a shelf-life of fifteen-plus years or more. I can't imagine what those floating cities teeming with thousands of people are like. I'd watch this film for the naval (and war) aspect as well as for Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen.ReplyDelete
Oh, I'm sure you'd enjoy this, Prashant. There are several thrilling aspects to it - most especially, as I've mentioned, the navy doings. Love all that stuff. It IS a floating city, exactly. Another good film along this kind (sort of) is THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER with Sean Connery.Delete
Yvette, I liked both the book and film version of THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER; the book probably a bit more. Clancy's eye for technical detail is amazing. I prefer Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan though Alec Baldwin does a pretty decent job in this film in spite of being overshadowed by Sean Connery. Occasionally, I read about aircraft carriers and all that goes on in its vast bowels.Delete
I agree Yvette it's a fun idea that would have served an episode of TWILIGHT ZONE well but which lets itself down predictably at the end - it's the problem with all of these time travel tropes involving real-life events. Wehn movies try and go against that (for instance killing off Hitler 2 years early in Tarantino's war movie, everyone gets up in arms) - history, bit of a bastard really ...ReplyDelete
I recently read a fabulous book LIFE AFTER LIFE in which the heroine changes history - dealing with Hitler, I mean. I can say no more. :) Yes, the let-down in this film is enormous. Really, it's as if the writers couldn't decide what to do (because of the enormous implications) and so did nothing. I'd like to see this brought up to date with a thoroughly different ending.Delete
Sounds bizarre enough that I just added it to my Play List! Now all I need to do is find time to sit down and watch all these movies and TV shows!ReplyDelete
Time, time, where does it go? :) I know what you mean, Joan. All we seem to do is play catch-up. But remember that I warned you about the cheesy aspects. Ha.Delete
Hi Yvette! This sounds like a fun movie to see! I had to laugh at your comment about the 70's and 80's --it does seem cheesy now, doesn't it? But everything old, soon becomes new again, and soon the younger generation will be wearing tie dye and bell bottoms and growing their hair long...lolReplyDelete
Hopefully I'll be dead by then - HA!! Just kidding. But the horror of it all makes me shudder. :)Delete
How did I miss this one. Have to see if Nexflix has it. Happy Easter yvetteReplyDelete
Netflix definitely has it, Yvonne. That's where I watched it. Have a Happy Easter as well, m'dear. Thank you.Delete
I never can remember the name of this movie. I remember the plot. Also, when it would show up on TV I could never tear myself away, even though I ached to "fix" it. But I can never remember the title. All I have to say to my husband is "what's that movie I can't remember?" and he knows right off the bat. Silly, but that's the way it is.ReplyDelete
Ha! I've had movies like that too. They always pop into my mind minus the title. Must be catching. :) I laughed at the thought that your helpful hubby knows your quirks so well.Delete
I've been wanting to see "The Final Countdown " again for the longest.Delete
Why can't you find it anywhere. Netflix don't even have it in all their claim to be stuff. I love watching that movie. Somebody "PLEASE" help me get a hold of it so I can watch it again.