I saw this film before I joined the Navy and again before I served on Nimitz (CVN 68). Kind of a nice feather in my cap experiencing the world's largest 'time machine' in person!
On to the movie... A very interesting premise which should have merited a more detailed analysis! Executed well enough for 1980, but could be remade into one hell of a motion picture today! I'd love to see it.
One thing the story does well is get one thinking about the 'what-if' scenario having the most modern carrier in the today's fleet taking on the Japanese Navy almost 40 years prior... Hmm. What a mismatch that would be in much the same way that **** SPOILER ALERT **** Combat Air Patrol (CAP) Tomcats rendered the 'Zeroes ' splashed handily! But, the very nature of Paradoxes would have rendered intervention potentially destructive to Nimitz and all aboard! (Which would have made profound changes to MY naval career as well.) And that was the dilemma faced; Do we change history because we feel a conscious duty to tilt the war in our favor (At least in the short term.)? Or do we choose to let nature take its course knowing full well the outcome if nothing is done? 4 more years of war and millions of lives? Or win a decisive victory and save all of the agony yet to come at the possible expense of destroying the fabric of space/time... or at the very least causing the U.S. and the Allies to lose in the long run because the U.S. would have delayed entering the war? Thorny, eh? As it turns out, history in this film was changed in a minor way but then again... was it? Possible predestination paradox, meaning events were supposed to happen the way they did.
***SPOILER ALERT*** If the Nimitz had stayed to fight, logistically it would have been possible... for a short time. Without access to spare parts, jet fuel and other means of support, the ship would have been nearly useless. True, this vessel class can steam for over 20 years on a fresh set of plutonium rods, but jets can't fly without fuel or spare parts! And just imagine trying to provision that ship with its crew of 5000 plus with 1940's technology! This ignores what the U.S. Government would have done once they got their hands on Nimitz and her technology back then! The debriefing would never end for those people! And imagine the changes to history then! (Could be a whole other movie!)
All in all, I think it was a great piece of science fiction and a very enjoyable 'what if'... I recommend anyone see it who can! It has its flaws and is dated but the concept is still very valid. The movie's big strength is not so much what is said, but what is not. The important stuff is left to the viewer's imagination, and this is what makes it very entertaining and provocative!
This is the movie that made the USS Nimitz a household word and I am very proud to have served on a piece of science fiction history (no pun intended)! The ship is very distinguished and far more impressive 'in the steel' than she is on film.
I give this film a 7.9/10. Mostly for the powerful premise.