Infamy Preserved

If the USS Nimitz, sucked through a wormhole to December 6th, 1941, stops the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, America doesn’t enter World War II. If the Nimitz lets it happen, thousands of Americans die.

On concept alone, Final Countdown is among the best time travel movies ever made. That idea is such a powerful lure, it’s enough to overcome the missteps that betray Final Countdown’s narrative potential.

Watching the Nimitz crew wrestle with their reality, even as viewers know the mystery, creates compelling enough scenarios, keeping interest intact. Cold War paranoia leads to worries the Russians launched a nuke, and given the producer’s cooperation with the US Navy, Final Countdown unavoidably feels like a recruitment tool. Dazzling aerial cinematography – no miniatures – adds an authentic base to this fictional fable.

Final Countdown churns an engaging militaristic yarn

Before embarking, co-star Michael Sheen passes a Pearl Harbor memorial; he silently fights against his empathy when back in time, knowing what happens, but considering why it must. Final Countdown doesn’t engage with that messy quandary enough. Instead, Final Countdown extols military prowess, making the enemies appear feeble given the intervening decades. It’s frustrating.

Yet Final Countdown finds ways to involve history without sitting its characters in a room to talk exposition. Bringing aboard a Japanese pilot, who takes people hostage, there’s a question of what happens if he’s killed, let go, or allowed to radio back to his commanders. A US senator found alive needed to die at sea, or history’s entire course is altered. Japanese Zeroes launch their attacks, the pressure not on saving the upcoming victims, but rather what the American interference will/would do.

In that, Final Countdown churns an engaging militaristic yarn without wholly committing to its sci-fi concepts. Martin Sheen briefly explains paradoxes, but that’s it. The rest lands on the super stardom of Kirk Douglas, the Nimitz captain, as he brushes off Sheen’s warnings verbally, yet cautiously considers the impact of his own decisions. Tension isn’t found in the action, wherein the modern forces trounce the aged Japanese planes, rather how each motion toward war can dramatically alter future circumstances.

Produced independently, Final Countdown never received a sequel. Given a pre-credits twist, there’s possibilities in another chapter, or just another act. The world Nimitz left in the past follows the ship. Whether they preserved fate or altered it is left ambiguous, slyly standing against aggressive military action – maybe.

Video

Another beautiful effort from Blue Underground, delivering a pristine 4K scan dripping with detail. Definition is everywhere, tightening close-ups, and producing infinite facial texture. Wide shots at sea resolve every tiny wave, and the rivets on ships. Visual effects understandably drop things a notch, but the older compositing still improves when in comparison to Blue Underground’s previous (and included) Final Countdown Blu-ray.

The precise grain structure stays intact throughout, easily resolved by a monster encode. Intense color brings out splendid vibrancy, which means the compression needs to juice itself up. Organic flesh tones exist alongside the vivid colors of deck crew gear, neon yellows and reds both accounted for. Blues and reds on planes or flying flags glow. It’s all calibrated to perfection.

Thanks to an added Dolby Vision pass, sunlight shimmers off the water. Interior lights bring contrast to the various hallways and captain’s deck. The naturally dense shadows take on more heft than before, the occasional lapse hardly worth worrying about since those exist as part of the original cinematography.

Audio

Containing the stereo/5.1 DTS-HD from before and a new Atmos track, Blue Underground stretches the military action through the rears and surrounds on the regular. Jets fly around, their engine sounds rolling upward to activate the heights. There’s no doubt this is remixed, even if the accuracy is questionable; it’s sometimes more showy than precise. Sounds fun though, and planes maneuver overhead as they go.

While the score lacks range, fidelity doesn’t suffer. Besides, the ship’s engines produce a solid, stable rumble. Same with the jets as their afterburners kick in. It’s not room-shaking power, but enough to generate a sufficient rumble within turn-of-the-decade ’80s audio.

Extras

Extras are carried over from a two-disc limited edition released a few years back (with an additional CD soundtrack and booklet added). A commentary from cinematographer Victor J. Kemper is overshadowed by a fourteen-minute interview with producer Lloyd Kaufman. He holds nothing back in discussing the film and the people in it. Starring the Jolly Rogers is another interview featurette, this one running just over a half hour, talking with the pilots used in the film.

Some trailers are the last extra.

The Final Countdown
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

A wonderfully conceived moral quandary is The Final Countdown’s highlight, but is dimmed by some Cold War bravado and recruiting-focused action.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 48 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: