The Philadelphia Experiment - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Philadelphia Experiment Reviews

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½ August 21, 2016
Written by John Carpenter and starring Michael Pare, The Philadelphia Experiment sounded like a nostalgic 80's pleasure.

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.
½ August 15, 2016
not my fave sci-fi film of the '80's that goes to 'blade runner' but still watchable
September 8, 2015
It's an okay little time travel 80's B-level flick. Visual effects are fun but very cheesy, Michael Pare isn't a very charismatic actor, and Nancy Allen... well, plays that supporting type of role. The film admittingly dabbles into a lot of fluff, chases, etc. but it seems to delay the inevitable as Pare ends up joining forces with the people that he ran away from the whole movie, and who tried to kill him cause... I don't know, to cover up a disaster with the failed experiment? It makes the film feel questionably pointless in a way. The love arc at times seems to kind of overshadow the character's motives to get back to his time and find answers, so while Pare and Allen don't work so badly together, its questionable whether their relationship and what led to an impact on the character's decisions in the end was really best for the film. Can he really return to 1943 with everything he's seen? Questions aside, Philadelphia Experiment kind of avoids the intelligible scientific route in favour of character relationships and action. It's a bit sluggish and its focus may not necessarily be in the right place, but as it is, its dumb B-movie fun that has just enough intrigue to warrant a harmless viewing.
January 30, 2015
Based on an "actual event" that took place in 1943 and set during WW2 , a ¨Philadelphia experiment¨ about invisibility and involving an anti-radar goes wrong , causing an USS naval battleship -Navy Destroyer Escort- to disappear from the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard , Virginia , by means of a warp time--'The Philadelphia Experiment' takes the intriguing idea of time travel forward and turns it into a routine, often silly thriller... Great Promise - Utter Disaster!!
Super Reviewer
½ November 16, 2014
Highly enjoyable adventure which is supposedly based on the real events of 1943 involving the USS Eldridge. Of course there is no evidence to support the stories but the spooky possibility of it all is still fun to think about and actually adds to the films enjoyment.

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.
November 11, 2014
Very enjoyable, especially when it first came out in the 80's. Those movies seemed to skip through time with not much support given for each segment before it would move on. Still a good movie though.
½ October 18, 2014
A solid B-movie, which I remembered seeing when I was a kid. Very out-of-date CGI effects aside, the story holds it's own, even though it's full of simple solutions.
½ July 28, 2014
A disappointing. cheesy 1980's time travel movie that isn't convincing nor is it a movie where you want the main characters to succeed.
It should be an exciting watching experience, but it's just dull!
It's no Back To The Future!
June 27, 2014
nice flick that worked pretty well
½ June 25, 2014
A really lame attempt to provide time travel drama that just doesn't make sense. It also has the most out of place knee-jerk anti-authority attitude I've ever seen, with the "hero" flat out killing a Fed who's trying to bring him in. Then twenty minutes later he gets caught anyway and, surprise surprise, it turns out that they were trying to help him get back to where he belonged and save the world. As was pretty obvious from the start. I could understand that attitude if it was a '70s counter-culture hippie that got whipped through time, but this guy is a fairly straight-laced '40s navy brat. Why the automatic assumption that the government is evil?
½ March 31, 2014
Loosely based on an alleged naval experiment during WWII to make a destroyer invisible to radar; film veers from the purported 'incident' with two sailors being transported into the future in 1984. Interesting and similar to THE FINAL COUNTDOWN, but not quite as good.
½ January 31, 2014
While I liked the basic idea/premise of this film, the overall execution of it was a huge let down. The effects were bad (even for 80's standards), the dialog was awful, but most of all, the director had no concept of how to tell a story.
December 31, 2013
Just a funny science fiction film.
½ December 22, 2013
Michael Paré and Bobby Di Cicco are a couple sailors caught up in the supposed Philadelphia Experiment, which sends the two into the future. Paré meets up with future woman Nancy Allen who helps him solve the mystery of what happened to him, but the film unfortunately focuses more on Allen and Paré's relationship than the sci-fi elements of the story, which make for a fairly dull film. I think it wanted to be "Somewhere in Time" and but ends up nowhere close. I know this film has a sizable cult following, but for my money, watch "The Final Countdown" instead, which is kind of the reverse story, with a modern aircraft carrier being send back in time right before the Pearl Harbor attack. Still, it's passable sci-fi, but probably would have been better as a 30 minute Twilight Zone episode.
½ August 3, 2013
A pretty bad movie, bad script, bad acting. In different hands might have worked.
Super Reviewer
July 17, 2013
Likeable little sci-fi, love story thing.
June 25, 2013
Very bad acting! Especially the lead woman from the U.S . Destruction team project! Yuck!
½ June 10, 2013
Another pretty average film sack movie which I guess wasn't too bad for a 1984 movie. Had some good bits to it but overall it's just some cheesy time travelling movie.
½ May 28, 2013
There sure are a lot of car crashes here for a movie that started being about a boat. The story is dull and plodding, and most of the acting is wooden at best. It doesn't seem to have any of the fun elements of a time travel story or take advantage of the conspiracy angle that makes the urban legend so endearing.
April 21, 2013
This isn't a great movie, but it brings back a lot of warm childhood memories of seeing it on a sleepover on VHS. Amazingly Michael Pare and Nancy Allen had a fair bit of chemistry.
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