Although not particularly challenging, Don Taylor's The Final Countdown remains a beloved cult favorite hinging on the ethical question about intervening with major historical events. Blue Underground celebrates the movie's 40th Anniversary on Ultra HD as a three-disc combo pack with an excellent 4K presentation, a highly satisfying Dolby Atmos track but ports over the same set of supplements as before. Nevertheless, this UHD edition with a CD audio disc is a Recommended upgrade.
For me, one of the best moments in Don Taylor's sci-fi war adventure The Final Countdown remains the scene between Martin Sheen's systems analyst Warren Lasky, Kirk Douglas's Capt. Yelland, James Farentino's Cmdr. Owens and Ron O'Neal's Cmdr. Thurman. It's at this point that the protagonists realize and confront the paradoxical situation the entire crew of the USS Nimitz finds themselves in after being sucked through a mysterious storm-like vortex. When Thurman screams about the logic of time-traveling to the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor, he might as well be screaming it to the audience, almost as if asking not to think too much about it. Instead, viewers should just sit back and enjoy the show. Besides, the bigger issue at hand is the ethical question of whether to intervene with major historical events if given the opportunity, especially when modern technology would easily secure success.
It's an amusing thought experiment driving the plot to a conclusion that feels somewhat bland and unsatisfying, if not a complete letdown. This is partly due to the filmmakers not fully embracing their own conceit and capitalizing on its possibilities, which in turn might have something to do with the production's rather modest budget. Instead, given the amount of attention and detail placed on one of the world's largest multi-mission, nuclear-powered supercarriers at the time, it should come as no surprise that the film often feels more like an expensive promotional video for the U.S. Navy than a traditional genre piece. In that regard, the movie works decently well despite being riveted together by an admittedly flimsy plot device that is never explored further or deeper. Still, forty years later, which is also coincidently the same time difference in the story, the cult war movie remains a fun, easy-going watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
For a more in-depth take on the movie, check out our review of the 2008 Blu-ray HERE.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Blue Underground celebrates the 40th Anniversary of Don Taylor's The Final Countdown on Ultra HD as a three-disc combo pack with reversible cover art. The triple-layered UHD100 disc sits comfortably atop a Region Free, BD50 copy on the same panel while a CD soundtrack of John Scott's original score sits on the opposing panel. All three discs are housed inside a slightly larger than normal clear keepcase with a lenticular slipcover. The package includes a 20-page booklet on glossy paper featuring various photos, a CD tracklisting and a reprint from The Zero Pilot Journal. At startup, viewers are taken straight to the main menu selection with an animated screen and music playing in the background.
The cult sci-fi favorite is sucked into a wormhole and lands on Ultra HD equipped with an impressive, state-of-the-art HEVC H.265 encode that blows the previous Blu-ray out of the water.
Reportedly struck from a brand-new remaster of the original elements, the native 4K transfer showboats excellent clarity and well-defined lines in the clothing, hair and architecture of the supercarrier. Every bolt of the carrier's exterior, the individual buttons of the computer panels and the various other pieces of naval equipment in the background are sharp and plainly visible throughout. As is to be expected, there are a few moments that are noticeably blurrier and softer than others, along with a couple of poorly-resolved sequences, some of which are related to the visual effects. But overall, for a forty-year-old movie, the elements appear to be in excellent condition, and awash with a fine, thin layer of natural grain, the transfer comes with an attractive, film-like quality that fans will love.
The improvements in contrast and brightness balance are a bit more subtle and nuanced but are no less appreciable. Overall, the 2160p picture shows brighter, cleaner whites, from the clothing and equipment of the ship to the individual planes and clouds in the sky. Specular highlights, likewise, add a lovely brilliance to the edge of those clouds, supply a tighter, more revealing glow to the hottest spots, like computer monitors and various light fixtures, and a welcomed realistic sheen to the countless metallic surfaces. Meanwhile, black levels are inkier and more accurate for the most part with some moments looking better than others but falling a tad short in a few spots, such as the interior scenes with Lasky in his cabin or Capt. Yelland inside the Primary Flight Control. But when in other areas of the Bridge and lower decks, blacks are richer with silky, oily shadows that never ruin or overwhelm the finer details within the darkest corners.
In either case, the 2.35:1 image comes with a beautiful cinematic appeal and shows great dimensionality for a majority of the runtime, aided by a more energetic and livelier assortment of colors than its HD SDR predecessor. The Dolby Vision HDR presentation boasts richly saturated and cleanly rendered primaries with blues, in particular, looking more vibrant and varied, from the cerulean skies and teal oceans to the darker indigos and deep arctic shades in some uniforms. Even the steel of the carrier has a nice bluish-cyan tint to it while greens and reds are fuller and more dynamic. Secondary hues, likewise, enjoy a notable pop and glow throughout, especially the tans and browns of some other uniforms. Facial complexions are not only revealing with lifelike textures, but they also come with a healthier, reddish-peachy tone in the entire cast, making this UHD edition an absolute winner. (Dolby Vision HDR Video Rating: 84/100)
The forty-year-old movie changes home theater history with a modern and surprisingly satisfying Dolby Atmos soundtrack that amazingly complements the on-screen visuals and deliveries a great listening experience compared to its DTS-HD stereo counterpart, which is arguably closer to the original design. Granted, the height channels are not really employed much and generally fall on the quieter side of things while the surrounds tend to enjoy a bit more activity. The extra-breathing room afforded by the object-based format provides a better sense of presence overall and impressively broadens the entire soundfield with several atmospherics flawlessly planning from the fronts to the rears, most notably whenever helicopters or fighter jets make an appearance. The sound of jet engines and rotor blades reverberate and echo overhead and across the entire room while still maintaining superb clarity and clean distinction in the upper frequencies and given the low-end a healthy, appreciably palpable workout. John Scott's musical score benefits most from the upgrade, displaying a superbly detailed, very well-defined mid-range while the vocals are consistently intelligible and well-prioritized at all times, making this Atmos mix a fantastic complement. (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 86/100)
For this UHD edition, Blue Underground ports over the same assortment of bonuses along with a vast picture gallery collection, all of which are also shared with the accompanying Blu-ray disc, and throws in a CD audio disc for good measure.
Starring Martin Sheen and Kirk Douglas, Don Taylor's The Final Countdown may not be a particularly challenging or complex sci-fi feature about a modern supercarrier accidentally traveling through time to the day before the Pearl Harbor attack. Just the same, the story hinges on the interesting conceit about whether or not to intervene with major historical events when given the opportunity, and it has garnered a beloved cult following over the last four decades. Blue Underground celebrates the movie's 40th Anniversary on Ultra HD as a three-disc combo pack, featuring an excellent 4K Dolby Vision HDR presentation and a highly satisfying Dolby Atmos soundtrack, given fans a fantastic upgrade. The same set of supplements are ported over from the 2008 Blu-ray, but they are joined by a CD audio disc, making this UHD edition a strong, recommended upgrade.