Directed by: Don Taylor
Starring: Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen
Blue Underground has been under the radar crushing it with killer 4k releases over the last year. I mean under the radar because they aren’t getting as much attention as like an Arrow Video for example, and that’s a real shame. The truth is that Blue Underground is releasing generally stronger releases than Arrow. The transfers that Blue Underground has been dropping are industry leading, better than a lot of what I see from studios like Disney.
All that said, Blue Underground has set its own bar pretty high with releases such as Daughters of Darkness and Zombie.
There’s a reason The Final Countdown is a film Blue Underground always revisits when there’s new or improved technology. The movie is solid old school sci-fi done well. The plot is a classic formula of science fiction; if you had the opportunity to change a tragedy of the past would you do it? If you did how would it impact the future, or the now? In this version, a cutting edge (for 1980) aircraft carrier gets sucked back in time to hours before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Different factions on the ship believe different ways about the situation, there’s the political opinion, the military one, and the moral high ground one. This movie is at its best when these conflicts are played out among the two factions on the claustrophobic ship.
The Final Countdown features a very solid cast led by Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, and Katherine Ross. I wouldn’t say they are doing their best work here but I would say they are giving appropriately melodramatic performances. These performances, the classic sci-fi formula, and the over the top patriotic vibe of the film really make it feel out of time itself. The film was made in 1980 but it feels like a film from the 50’s in a lot of ways, which just makes it all the more fun watching it nowadays. The special effects would stand out as being a bit low budget even for the era but they are buffered by real fighter jet footage and real aircraft carrier settings. The real surprise is that Lloyd Kauffman, yes from Troma, produced this film. This was Kauffman’s only real dip into the Hollywood system and in a lot of ways he rescued this film from crashing and burning.
The Final Countdown sets up a classic science fiction situation and executes it in a very classic cinema way that just makes this movie rise above its budgetary limitations. It’s a great time.
This is another solid new 4k video presentation from Blue Underground. There’s a noticeable upgrade in detail while the color is purposefully subdued. Detail levels in clothing texture, skin and water are all much deeper than in the previous blu release. A lot of times the initial expectation with HDR is to blow the colors, well, out of the water, but that’s not what it’s supposed to be used for. HDR is supposed to offer a wider dynamic range of color allowing film to digital 4k transfers to more correctly match the film source material. Sometimes that does mean eye popping color, and sometimes, as in this case, it just means muted filmic tones. There are a few dynamic moments, such as explosions, but even those are subdued, probably due to the budget of the original film. Black levels are much deeper, contrast is improved, detail is higher, and grain structure remains organic and mostly consistent. The Final Countdown doesn’t give Blue Underground to the opportunity to blow the image out of the water because it was never a part of the source material to begin with. I think the best compliment I can give is that this presentation is the most accurate representation of the film to its film source that has ever been put to disc.
Blue Underground provides the original stellar mix, but also rewards our upgrade with an object based Dolby Atmos mix. The Atmos mix sounds a bit bigger and more grandiose than the previous mix, giving the film a more epic feel, especially in certain scenes when the overhead speakers kick in. Music fills the soundstage while dialogue stays properly center mixed and clear throughout. The Final Countdown does not sound like a modern movie, but this release down give us a very modernized cool mix. I wish the subs kicked more in key scenes, but that’s a minor complaint.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
Let’s talk about the packaging for this release. Blue Underground has set a design standard for 4k releases that focuses on very upscale feeling black slipcovers with lenticular art and clear cases. Not only do these releases, The Final countdown included, look fantastic and premium separate, but they look fantastic on a shelf all together. The cover art is reversible to the original poster art too.
This three-disc set includes the 4k, a Blu-ray, and a CD soundtrack. Blue Underground previously released this film on DVD and Blu-ray and through those two releases have accumulated a nice selection of extras. In a nice touch, Blue Underground provided the trailers and TV spots in 4k with HDR applied. The featurettes are from a previous DVD released and have been up sampled. You can tell they have been up-sampled but it doesn’t matter because the content is great. Of everything on offer my favorite is the featurette with Lloyd Kauffman. He tells the real story of making the film, the good, the bad, and the real ugly. Kauffman is refreshingly brutally honest. There’s a lengthy interview session with the pilots that executed the maneuvers put to film and they have great stories about their work and the production in general. There are some nice stories in the commentary with the cinematographer but it’s a little to laid back for my taste. All of the original image galleries are here from both previous releases as well as some new ones. So, you may not consider having a 1080p version of the film a bonus feature but in this case, I believe it is. This isn’t just a reissue of the original blu, it’s struck from the new 4k scan, features the Atmos mix, and still offers D Box support if you have compatible seating. If you are into soundtracks this release is fantastic including every track from the film. Finally, an original digital essay from the DVD has been reproduced in a pack in booklet.
There’s not a ton of new extras here but the attention to detail is outstanding and the extras that have already been created for this film are already very solid.
The Final Countdown is some old school sci-fi done right and that’s why it continues to age so well. It’s a fun watch and a fun sci-fi question to discuss afterwards. This is another fantastic 4k upgrade from blue Underground. Keep ‘em comin!
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Movie: 8/10
The Video: 8/10
The Audio: 8.5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features: 8.5/10