The Philadelphia Experiment Reviews
Uncredited for his writing efforts on The Philadelphia Experiment, the role that John Carpenter actually played in the film proved to be far smaller than I could have hoped. I don't know what elements of his screenplay still made it to the end result with all the rewrites going on, but it is not a film I would find having any association with the legendary auteur of horror. The difference between a film written by John Carpenter and directed by John Carpenter really boils down to how the production values are handled. While John Carpenter always prioritized getting the best possible visual resolution for his films, Stewart Raffill is the man put in charge of helming The Philadelphia Experiment. Once I saw the name Stewart Raffill on the titular credits I instantly knew that there was bound to be something majorly wrong with the feature.
Given that Stewart Raffill is the same filmmaker behind the catastrophically awful Mac and Me (1988), his credibility does not stand all that high. When The Philadelphia Experiment ultimately lives down to his standard of filmmaking all too often, it doesn't come as a surprise. If this were a John Carpenter film there would be an intense focus on the paranoia of the main character in his attempts to evade authorities and adjust to his complicated situation, as well as a tenacious musical score. Stuart Raffill instead chose to rework the material to focus on a generic romantic relationship intended to develop between its one-dimensional main characters. Because that's exactly want viewers want to see in a story about time travel; the main character engaged in interaction with a local girl through methods completely bereft of charisma. The Philadelphia experiment fails to do anything with its concept, reducing it to a series of dull conversations that come up short on scientific logic or character development while the distinctive lack of action around it is made all the more obvious. There is perhaps two stunts in The Philadelphia experiment, and neither of them are interesting whatsoever. Neither are the visula effects as they full extent they offer proves to be mainly some random green screen moments and a varying colour scheme which seems to be straight out of Windows Movie Maker. Stewart Raffill was never a man with an eye for imagery, and so the lack of visuals in The Philadelphia Experiment do not come as a surprse.
The story in The Philadelphia Experiment is essentially one where Michael Pare somehow travels through time to a point decades in the future where nothing of interest is happening, and then the rest of the film is him attempting to return to his time. It's essentially the exact same premise as The Final Countdown (1980), a film I consider to be one of the worst I've ever seen. But at least The Final Countdown had the gimmick of boasting some slightly memorable aviation footage, even if it did nothing with its concept. In The Philadelphia Experiment, the film hints that it has no story and delivers on that. But it expects you to sit through a full 102 minutes to realize that, and the slow pace of the film makes it feel like it goes on for far longer. It's astounding that not one single interesting thing happens along the way or how anyone saw fit to actually implement some kind of action into the film. But ultimately, the film is unable to succeed in any genre. It lacks the depth or character development to have any real dramatic virtues while its inability to grasp the potential themes in its premise ensures that there is no political commentary either. You would hope that somewhere along the way there would be some kind of gimmicks to support the film at any point. I challenged myself to find one, but just kept drawing blanks.
With all this weighing down on the film, there is nothing that the cast of The Philadelphia Experiment can do to support it.
Michael Pare does nothing as the lead in The Philadelphia Experiment. I'm a mild fan of Michael Pare due to his leading performance in the cult classic rock n' roll drama Eddie and the Cruisers (1983), but he only ever had a mildly succesful career for a brief period of time in the 1980's. He is an actor very much defined by that era, and as a result it is not believable in the slightest when he portrays a man from out of the 1940's. He has too much of a stereotypical Jersey Nature which is no different from essentially any other role he portrayed in the decade, and the narrative never gives him a chance to display his charms. He may have a cult legacy for playing a rock musician or as vigilante Tom Cody in Streets of Fire (1984), but The Philadelphia Experiment is a film with neither gun violence or John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band to support it. As a result, the man is trapped in a one-dimensional role that could have been played by anyone and perhaps would have been more convincing were it an actor that nobody had heard of. Michael Pare is miscast in The Philadelphia Experiment, and his monotonous lack of charisma makes him a boring screen presence during every scene.
Nancy Allen is similarly unimpressive. Though an actress who has garnered more acclaim during her 80's run than Michael Pare, her character is present to be subject to a formulaic and obligatory romantic story and so she has to reduce herself to playing a really lame character. I didn't maintain much interest in seeing where she was going with her performance because the character was such a dull one, and so I can't say there is anything about Nancy Allen's performance which was actually memorable aside from a very stereotypical 80's melodrama sparking up at sporadic moments.
The Philadelphia Experiment squanders whatever potential lies in its concept on a ridiculously slow drama that comes up short on action, relying more on a sombre dialogue-laden premise full of stupid romantic conventions and minimal science fiction or action.
Yes it looks pretty kooky now with lots of errors and dodgy effects but like many old films that's part of the fun. Actually the effects for the time vortex aren't too bad and the shots of the vortex hole in the sky with lots of swirling cloud around it are quite good still.
The acting is very basic and hokey with chief of cheese Mr Pare and one of the Queens of the 80's Nancy Allen both in a very soppy love plot. Lots of military types running around being ordered by lots of scientist types in white coats...its all very cute.
Its really the perfect boys own adventure with a love interest, daring heroism, mystery and a happy ending which can't fail to make you smile..it will also make you wanna jump through time vortexes too.
It should be an exciting watching experience, but it's just dull!
It's no Back To The Future!