Warren Lasky (Martin Sheen) works for the Defense Department as what others would describe as an efficiency expert, and today he arrives at a port to board a helicopter for the journey to the U.S.S. Nimitz. Before he goes, he is greeted by his shadowy boss who wishes him well - or he would be if the man actually got out of his limousine; bemused, Lasky departs and soon has boarded the aircraft carrier. All seems to be going well until their instruments pick up a strange anomaly in the weather up ahead and what planes that are in the sky are recalled. Soon an electrical storm is upon them which has unexpected consequences...
Apparently the U.S. Navy were keen to use the pop song "In The Navy" by the Village People in recruitment advertising until someone pointed out that the band were not necessarily singing a tribute to the seafaring military and might have had their own reasons for setting off in the company of men for a few months. But ever on the lookout for good publicity, they jumped at the script for The Final Countdown, a science fiction specatcular which expressly needed their co-operation if they were to make their movie. This could well be the reason that most of the running time is taken up with planes flying and men looking purposeful as they busy themselves about the ship.
Therefore if it's hardware you're looking for, this film serves it up in great big dollops, so much so that you don't expect the caption "THE END" to appear as the credits roll, but the caption "JOIN TODAY!" instead. Of course, if you did join up the chances of being flung off into the past and becoming time travellers who have the fate of history at their fingertips were slim, but that's where the plot intervened. Our Captain is Kirk Douglas as Yelland, well into his science fiction and horror phase of the late seventies and early eighties by now, but even he is elbowed out of the way in favour of more footage of the planes taking off and landing.
You'll know that old time travel paradox about going back to kill your grandfather before you were born, and if you don't Martin Sheen helpfully fills you in, well this is a bigger question in that courtesy of that storm, which looks suspiciously like a laser tunnel in a contemporary disco, the Nimitz goes back through the decades to 1941. Not December 1941? Just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor? But yes, thereby putting the crew in the position of being able to stop the attack before it happens with their advanced technology. Yet will they? As it turns out, this question does not trouble them as the film ends on a massive cop-out.
Which leaves one pondering that if some mysterious intelligence could plonk this 1980 ship back in the early forties, why bother in light of what it does at the end? While our heroes are there, they save an aspiring Vice-President (Charles Durning) and his secretary Laurel (Katharine Ross) from being blown up by Japanese reconnaissance fighters, leaving them wondering what to do with them (and their dog) without giving the game away about who they are and why their ship is so advanced. This is a problem that works itself out thanks to a script that dodges every intriguing notion it throws up in its first half hour, so that even the final twist, which you can spot coming a mile away, explains nothing. I'm sure the Navy were content with the way The Final Countdown turned out, but almost everybody else will be left feeling shortchanged. Music by Alan Howarth and John Scott.