Can’t We Just Nuke the Disease?
“The Last Ship” on TNT
By Devin O’Leary
There are only two things you need to know about Hollywood mega-producer/director Michael Bay (Transformers, Pearl Harbor, Armageddon). First he’s never met a person, place or thing he didn’t want to blow up. Second he’s developed such a gung-ho, rah-rah relationship with the US military that they’ll pretty much let him use any branch as his own personal toybox. Those two facts come together in TNT’s bombastic action thriller “The Last Ship.”
Based on William Brinkley’s Tom Clancy-meets-Michael Crichton novel of the same name, “The Last Ship” takes us on board the USS Nathan James, a Naval destroyer sent on a mysterious mission to the arctic. Square-jawed Captain Tom Chandler (Eric Dane from “Grey’s Anatomy”) isn’t happy to babysit “fearless paleomicrobiologist” Rachel Scott (Rhona Mitra, “Strike Back”). But when the President of the United States calls to inform the crew that roughly 50 percent of the planet’s population has suddenly kicked the bucket from an unknown virus, the situation gets real.
With all of civilization falling into ruin, the Nathan James—tucked safely outside the “hot zone”—is now tasked with fighting off squads of heavily armed Russian thugs, rescuing survivors, generally staying alive and, of course, finding a cure for the plague. The 200-odd crewmembers are now, as the captain bravely puts it, “The hope for our futures, for our families, for all of humanity.” But, you know, no pressure or anything.
Though the pilot is directed by Jonathan Mostow (U-571, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines), it bears the trademark stamp of executive producer Mr. Bay. The military is portrayed as only the goodest of good guys. Bright blue light streams across heroic faces in just about every scene. There are more swooping helicopter shots of expensive machinery than a Navy recruitment video. At one point rocket launchers are fired from speeding snowmobiles. Shockingly no one walks away from an exploding car in slo-mo. But the season’s just getting started.
At least in the setup, “The Last Ship” bears an uncanny resemblance to ABC’s sadly short-lived Naval thriller “Last Resort.” That show had quite a bit more subtlety of premise, however. For all its action, not a whole lot happens, week to week, on “The Last Ship.” Most of the show is taken up by montages of people yelling sternly into flashing computer monitors, shouting orders into microphones or giving well-articulated inspirational speeches to large groups of people in uniform. That doesn’t leave a lot of space for story progression or character development. Not that these characters require a whole lot. At one point, after an electromagnetic pulse has knocked out the ship’s power, the captain voluntarily uses his own body as a fuse to restart the engines. (“Badass, Captain. Badass,” is the response from a nearby crewmember.) In case you couldn’t tell, he’s the hero.
Press material makes a point to mention the show received “the unprecedented cooperation of the United States Navy.” The crew was “allowed to film aboard working Navy destroyers, helicopters and attack boats as well as in Navy bases.” Good to know there are no global crises that require the US Navy right now. If you like military hardware porn, though, “The Last Ship” has got you covered.
“The Last Ship” premieres Sunday, June 22, at 7pm on TNT.
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