Saturday, July 27, 2013

Schlockbusted #2: "The Philadelphia Experiment" Review

I normally have an arbitrary cut-off date for movies I'll review under the Cinema File banner, to enforce a measure of self-discipline in only featuring movies released in the current or previous year. Today's movie is probably the oldest Syfy Channel Original movie I have saved in my queue that still falls within this range, which is the whole reason I started the Schlockbusted series, to give me the opportunity to examine some of the older examples of Syfy's catalog  among other "classic" schlocky movies on the underside of Netflix. Though I happened to come to this decision around the time I watched The Philadelphia Experiment, the level of excitement that inspired said decision is a total coincidence, and should in no way suggest that today's movie is anything other than a boring, completely pointless piece of crap.

The Philadelphia Experiment is based on a famous urban legend surrounding the officially non-existent Project Rainbow, a Naval experiment designed to turn an aircraft carrier, specifically the U.S.S. Eldridge, invisible. This supposed historical event was also the inspiration for an 80's sci-movie of the same name that I've never seen, and maybe that one explains it a bit better as to why invisibility also entails teleportation and time travel, but screw it, it's sci-fi, so I guess I just have to roll with it. Certainly everyone else does in this movie, considering that despite its relative obscurity, weirdly everyone in town down to a waitress seems to already know the significance of the name “U.S.S. Elderidge” without any context, as if the ship's disappearance in time were somehow common knowledge. Maybe they all saw the 80's version.

This updated take on the story seems to want to cast the ship itself as the monster, or maybe the disaster. Not sure exactly where this movie falls on that all too familiar axis of Syfy movies, though I can't exactly say it falls somewhere in between like Ghost Storm, it employs too many of the tropes of both to be considered something new (as if this movie ever gives any indication that it is inclined towards originality). Basically, big ship is lost in time, appearing and disappearing sometimes in precarious fashion as when it lands on top of a skyscraper, sending off waves of ill-defined timey wimey effects, and I think at various points its in danger of exploding or destroying the space time continuum for whatever reason. I really couldn't be bothered to pay that much attention honestly, because the presentation here is just so devoid of any energy sufficient to hold my interest.

The one bright spot is Nicolas Lea as the sole surviving crewman of the Eldridge who finds his way off of the ship only to find himself in an era completely unfamiliar to him. He has the standard action beats of slowly discovering his new place in a scary modern world, seeing a newspaper headline, passing by relatively futuristic technology and strange culture and fashion, and of course the obligatory moment where he's expected to pay for something and finds out the inexorable horror of inflation. He plays it well and makes for a credible action hero, even though I desperately wish it were in a better movie that I could actually invest emotionally into. The rest of the cast is mostly one note, save a cameo from Malcolm McDowell as a crotchety old scientist who would have made the movie for me had they had the good sense to keep him in long enough.

Notice how its the same pic as the 1st one? That's how boring this movie is!

Not that you would ever really have any opportunity to watch this save the occasional re-run (assuming you don't save all the Syfy Channel movies for the year and more like I do), but if you ever get the chance, feel free to skip The Philadelphia Experiment. The logic is muddled, the pacing is soul crushingly boring, and aside from a few moments just on the edge of fun, there really aren't too many redeeming qualities to point to. The science fiction elements aren't even fun enough to justify the effort, and more importantly, everyone involved seems to recognize this, as nobody comes off as if they are enjoying themselves making it. And be warned, even for SyFy movie endings, this one is particularly dumb and anti-climactic. But again, you shouldn't even get to that point, as you shouldn't ever be in a position to watch this movie, let alone want to.

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