But the fact that I didn't discover this smart, ambitious science fiction film until now I lay squarely at the feet of that awful 1986 song of the same name (whose shrill, hair-band chorus makes me shudder in embarrassment for the entire decade). Because as it turns out, The Final Countdown is an admirable attempt at the kind of time-travel scenario found in an early Twilight Zone or Star Trek episode (such as "The Last Flight" or "Tomorrow Is Yesterday," for those in the know).
The movie's central premise is simple: What if a modern-day aircraft carrier slipped through time and found itself in the waters near Pearl Harbor, on December 6, 1941—the day before the Japanese attack?
|Sheen, Farentino, Douglas|
The production also takes advantage of its chief ace in the hole—the full cooperation of the U.S. Navy—to show off the real-life workings of the U.S.S. Nimitz. This provides a fascinating amount of (presumably authentic) detail for aviation buffs, including some outstanding aerial footage unmarred by digital tinkering, a highlight of which is a nifty encounter between two F-14s and a couple of Japanese Zeros. Such attention to process, equipment, and personnel helps ground the story in a reality that makes the ensuing fantasy all the more believable, and keeps the film from tipping over into simple Navy propaganda.
|A Japanese Zero takes aim at a civilian target|
What might be most remarkable about The Final Countdown is that it was co-produced by none other than Lloyd Kaufman—future creator of The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke 'Em High—lending the film a whiff of unreality that almost makes you believe time travel is possible.
If it were, I'd likely go back to 1980 and smack my younger self in the head for missing this one. And then I'd find a way to prevent the members of that Swedish rock group from recording such an awful, awful song.
NOTE: This title expired on 8/1/14.