Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Final Countdown

Polyc International B.V.
Director: Don Taylor
Length: 105 min.
Country: USA
Format: DVD
Date Viewed: 24 March, 2006

How Don Taylor's The Final Countdown gained a sizable cult following is completely beyond me. The film has a great idea and a good cast and does everything possible to hinder both. Having a modern (for 1980) aircraft carrier loaded with top-of-the-line fighter jets get transported back to Hawaii on 6 December, 1941, with the ability to stop the attack on Pearl Harbor is a fantastic idea centered around a hugely provocative ethical quandary.

The ship also comes in contact with very important players in 1941, a downed Japanese pilot and a Senator who apparently in real life disappeared off the coast of Hawaii on that day, and has to decide how best to deal with these alterations to the space-time continuum. But the film's central idea and these characters, all with outstanding potential for great drama, are lost in the script by four(!) hack writers who apparently just didn't care about exploring any of the ethical implications they bring up; they are quickly written out of the film so that we can spend more time with endless masturbatory shots of fighter jets flying around the blue skies and of flight deck crews in action. It's nice that Taylor and the writers tried to insert Naval realism into the film, but someone forgot to tell him that it should not be the main focus of the film as opposed to mere detail.

Even the leads, Martin Sheen and Kirk Douglas, are woefully underwritten and given little overall screentime. Both men seem to know it, and give lackluster performances that betray their talent, clearly hoping the production will be over soon so they can collect their checks.

The cinematography is similarly poor, shot in Scope but framed like it was amateur night behind the camera, with every composition looking horribly rushed and all the actors placed in the middle of the frame.

All the makings for a great science-fiction drama are there, it just needed to be done right. Let's stop remaking foreign films that were fine the first time around and remake The Final Countdown, which is desperately begging to become a good film.


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