The Final Countdown (1980)

No, this movie sadly has nothing to do with the 1986 song by Europe, though that would have been awesome.

Frankly, I think there’s really only one way to review this film:

Just sit right back
And you’ll hear a tale
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from a tropic port
Aboard a great warship

The mates were mighty sailing men
The skipper brave and sure
One civilian set sail that day
For a short Pacific tour

The weather started getting rough
The great warship was tossed
If not for the courage of the fearless crew
The Nimitz would be lost
The Nimitz would be lost

The ship now found out it was stuck
In 1941
With Kirk Douglas
Martin Sheen, too
James Farentino and Katherine Ross
Charles Durning
Soon-Tek Oh and Ron O’Neal
Here on The Final Countdown!

Hush. I know full well I’m a dork. But this does basically sum up the premise of The Final Countdown. An aircraft carrier from the United States Navy, the USS Nimitz, encounters a mysterious storm in the Pacific Ocean containing a portal and travels through time to the day before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, thus presaging the US entrance to World War II. Once the importance of the date has been noted, the carrier’s commander, played by the always spectacular Kirk Douglas, then is faced with deciding between allowing history to happen or defending the nation he is sworn to defend from the approaching Japanese fleet. When he finally comes down on the side of defending the US out of duty and loyalty, the storm returns and swallows the carrier, returning it to its proper time.

More importantly, the movie also discusses the impact that time travelers would have, positing that the impact of any traveler in time would already have been accounted for in our time line, effectively rendering it moot. History still works out because the travelers’ impact is already accounted for. So, despite leaving the port in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1980 and then rescuing a couple of people while also shooting down a pair of Japanese fighter planes in 1941, as well as leaving a man behind, this does not change how history plays out because it is already how history has played out.

Of course, Douglas still has to explain to the Navy admiralty how he lost one missile, some ammunition, one helicopter, and the lives of multiple crew, but I suppose that’s neither here nor there. I’d blame freak weather if I were him. Meanwhile, Martin Sheen’s character, a civilian who specializes in efficiency with the Department of Defense, sits as the audience proxy and everyman voice to the idea of time travel. He starts the film visited by a mysterious benefactor and discovers at the end that it is the man left behind, now 40 years older. That man is played by James Farentino, and he ends up with Katharine Ross, the only person from the 1940s who knows that the USS Nimitz has traveled in time after being rescued at sea by them.

You will be happy to know that a dog also time travels. I don’t know why this would make you happy, but hey, time traveling dogs seems like a cool idea.

If there is one thing I have to complain about, it’s that I find this movie intensely quiet. I don’t know why that bothers me so much, but it does. Guess I’m just being picky.

2 thoughts on “The Final Countdown (1980)

    1. I’m glad to hear that! I had been aware of this movie for years after noticing it in a video rental store I used to frequent, but I never picked it up. I regret that now. It’s an entertaining film with some great actors.

      Liked by 1 person

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