Final Countdown, The (Blu-ray) (1980)

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Released 10-Oct-2012

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Sci-Fi Action None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1980
Running Time 103:00
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Don Taylor
Studio
Distributor
Icon Entertainment Starring Kirk Douglas
Martin Sheen
Katharine Ross
James Farentino
Ron O'Neal
Charles Durning
Victor Mohica
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $29.95 Music John Scott


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 (4608Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     The Final Countdown is an interesting anomaly of a film (no pun intended). Released in 1980, the plot revolves around a simple premise that was rather mind-blowing at the time, being, what would happen if a 20th Century aircraft carrier were sent back in time to just before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour? This sort of “alternate history” was the sort of plot that was prevalent in episodes of Star Trek and The Twilight Zone, but not necessarily a big screen venture.

     With only a small budget to work with, the producers were nevertheless able to secure cooperation from the Department of Defence who saw this film as an opportunity to showcase their military prowess, and in particular the “super carrier” U.S.S. Nimitz upon which the majority of the film was shot.

     Starring Kirk Douglas as Captain Matthew Yelland and a very young Martin Sheen as civilian observer Warren Lasky, the film is a seemingly “by the numbers” sci-fi affair by today’s standards, but yet it retains a particular charm that explains the film’s cult status so many years later. As the crew slowly comes to grips with what has happened they are faced with the difficult decision as to whether they should intervene to stop the bombing of Pearl Harbour or to let history play out as they remember it.

     Some 25 years later, author John Birmingham would take the notion to a far extreme with his Axis Of Time trilogy revolving around the consequences of an aircraft carrier group form the 21st Century being sent back in time to the Battle of Midway. Where Birmingham’s series of novels had far greater scope, I found it bemusing that the first thing I thought about as I started the series was this film. So clearly, despite being now a fairly large slice of 80s cheese, The Final Countdown left an impression.

     I will admit that The Final Countdown holds a certain nostalgia factor for me, and for that reason I may have enjoyed re-watching it all these years later more than somebody who is new to the movie. As a trip down memory lane, this film holds up remarkably well. As a film that holds its own by today’s standards, there is likely no contest, but there is undeniably something impressive about the fact that all of the carrier and aircraft shorts were done for real and still have an awe factor over 30 years later.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Filmed on 35mm film, the Blu-Ray is encoded at a resolution 1080p in MPEG-4 AVC encode.

     The source for this transfer is remarkably clean and the results are quite impressive. Exhibiting a light coating of film grain, and some film artefacts that would have been difficult to clean up, the image is surprisingly cinematic, lacking any digitised post-processing.

     Colour is well saturated and life-like, without any “colour boosting” which often occurs with remastering of older films with some studios. There were no film-to-video artefacts, including none of the dreaded edge enhancements that often plague remasters of older films.

     Shadow detail is excellent and film-like and the image never degenerates into “noise”.

     Unfortunately the biggest problem with this transfer appears to be an issue with the film source itself. Indoor shots on the carrier seem to have been shot with a lens that blurs the edges leaving the centre of the screen in focus but everything out of the centre in a soft blur. The outdoor shots do not seem to suffer from the same issue, so I am chalking this one up to a problem with how the source was filmed, rather than a problem with the transfer itself.

     Subtitles are available in English.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio has been remastered into a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix at 48kHz. Originally filmed in Dolby 2.0 Stereo, this remaster is quite the feat. I was seriously impressed.

     What I was reminded of when watching this was the recent remastering done for the Blu-Ray release of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

     Dialogue was front and centre, and easy to understand. Channel separation was good with good panning across the channels.

     But the true star here is the dynamics. The audio gives the presence of an A-7 Corsair making a hard landing on the flat top or an F-14 Tomcat hitting the afterburner and screaming off the tarmac. Thundering bass and high frequencies tearing at your nerves almost loud enough to make you put your hands to your ears.

     All up, this is a very impressive remaster of an aged soundtrack and again serves as a good example for other studios to follow when effecting their own remasters. My one quibble is that, for some reason, the Australian release only has a 5.1 surround mix and not the 7.1 surround mix that is present on the US release. Whilst I appreciate that 7.1 surround systems are not exactly common at the time of writing this review, they are certainly becoming prevalent enough to justify the additional mix for those who do have the capabilities.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menus

    The start-up menu is a static shot presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced with Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The US version also includes:

     The US release is clearly the winner.

Summary

     The Final Countdown is a dated but nevertheless still fun slice of 80s cold war sci-fi cheese. If you were a fan as a child, you will be pleased to know that it still holds up. If there is no nostalgic attachment for you with this film, then I suggest you give it a rent first. The Blu-Ray is the best presentation of this film to date, although the US release is clearly the winner in terms of its audio and special features.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Edward McKenzie (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDPlayStation 3 160GB with HDMI 1.4a, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung 64" Plasma PN64E8000 (this device is 3D capable). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationMarantz SR6006 Receiver, Rotel RB-1552 and Rotel RMB-1565
SpeakersWharfedale Diamond 10.2 fronts, wide-fronts, and rears, Wharfedale Diamond 10.CM centre, Velodyne MicroVee Subwoofer

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