Judge Gordon Sullivan would rather see the sequel, The Wilmington Experiment.
Our review of The Philadelphia Experiment (1984), published October 25th, 2000, is also available.
Based on actual events.
Some remakes I understand. Rebooting really popular franchises with name appeal makes sense: something like The A-Team or Star Trek. I can also understand remaking a film that was hampered by effects or budgetary constraints: Carpenter's The Thing and Cronenberg's The Fly are perfect examples. What I don't understand is rebooting a cult classic that had its shot. Most people aren't going to have heard of it, so the filmmakers gain little name recognition, and the rest of the audience who have heard of it aren't likely to want to see a remake. They're even less likely to want to see a remake if it's a low budget made-for-cable offering like this version of The Philadelphia Experiment. I guess it's going to get a few viewers from nostalgia or curiosity, but there's little to recommend this remake.
One Dr. Falkner (Ryan Robbins, Walking Tall) has developed a technology that he thinks will cloak objects, and his research is based on tests conducted by the Navy on the U.S.S. Eldridge in 1943. The only problem is that when he finally has a successful test, the Eldridge materializes in a field not far from his test site, and it's apparently come from 1943. The only survivor on board is Bill Gardener (Nicolas Lea, The X-Files). When he steps off the ship into our time, a local deputy (John Reardon, Tron: Legacy) steps on to the ship. His would-be girlfriend just happens to be sexy hacker Molly Gardener (Emilie Ullerup, Hunt to Kill). With the help of another scientist (Malcolm McDowell, A Clockwork Orange), they're going to set things right.
It doesn't take sitting through that many bad movies before it becomes easy to divine the ultimate sin in moviemaking: mediocrity. Good movies can be enjoyed for their intrinsic qualities, while bad movies can be laughed at. Good movies make us marvel at technical and creative brilliance, while bad movies make us revel in superiority and the feeling of "I could do better than this." Mediocre movies, on the other hand, have the distinction of being forgettable, the empty calories of the cinematic world. This version falls squarely into this camp. There's nothing at all good about the film, but neither is any element bad enough to be memorable. Everyone on the project is earning their pay, but without distinction. This is the kind of film that can somehow find the resources to secure some kind of military looking ship, but can't fill a script with anything that sounds remotely plausible from a scientific perspective. The film even has the audacity to go by rather smoothly, moving along at a pretty quick pace.
Two things keep me from consigning The Philadelphia Experiment straight to the dustbin of history. Somehow the folks at Syfy have managed to grab a pretty decent cast for this flick. I don't know what kind of dirt they have on cats like Malcolm McDowell and Nicolas Lea, but they show up and give performances that are actually kind of fun. No, there's nothing at all award-worthy (whether Oscar or Razzie), but everybody shows up and gives their lines some attention. That's saying something with a script this thin.
The other thing that keeps The Philadelphia Experiment pretty watchable is this Blu-ray. The 1.78:1/1080p AVC-encoded image is pretty bright and clear. It looks like a contemporary TV movie that one would expect to see on cable, which is appropriate. Detail is pretty good—or as good as we're going to get when shallow focus is used to hide less-than-stellar effects—and color saturation stays nice and even. Black levels are okay, and I didn't notice any serious compression artefacts. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track is similarly fine. Dialogue comes through from the center channel and is well-balanced with the score and effects. There's nothing to distinguish the track that's either particularly good or bad. The extras are a big fat goose egg.
I guess Syfy flicks must have some kind of cult audience of their own, viewers who watch for the silliness that's prevalent in these kinds of outings. I can sympathize with those viewers, but The Philadelphia Experiment is no DinoCrock vs. SuperGator. Still, fans of low-budget cable sci-fi can complete their collection with this release.
The Philadelphia Experiment is a forgettable attempt to remake a cult classic. Some films are better left untouched, especially if the remake is going to be as half-hearted as this one. Fans of the film during its broadcast run can at least take comfort in a decent Blu-ray presentation.
Guilty of mediocrity.
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Studio: Anchor Bay
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