The Philadelphia Experiment

| June 11, 2013

Remember the time a World War II Navy Destroyer fell out of the sky and destroyed a Chicago Skyscraper?  Well, the producers of The Philadelphia Experiment do because this film is based on actual events.  Basically the story is that a team of scientists aboard the aforementioned Navy Ship, in an attempt to render the vessel invisible, powered up what they called a phase generator and history tells us that the ship then exploded.  Fast forward to present day, where Dr. Richard Falkner (Ryan Robbins) has managed to successfully turn objects invisible with his own phase generator and suddenly the ship reappears, pulled through time from the point of its initial disappearance to land on a runway in Pennsylvania.  From there, the ship continues to jump through space, threatening to destroy the entire planet and the space/time continuum itself if the good doctor can’t figure out how to stop it.

The packaging for the film doesn’t say that this is a Syfy original movie, but it’s pretty easy to tell after watching it for a little while.  All of the classic signs are here:  a cast you almost recognize, endless exposition about the film’s premise being scientifically plausible, and a group of archetypal and otherwise uninteresting characters.  This is one of the better Syfy originals I’ve seen though, with some legitimately good and even witty moments in the script, and a time travel element that doesn’t implode on itself with a bunch of amateur time travel narrative paradox problems.  The performances are about as good as you can hope for from one of these films, with Ryan Robbins definitely being the highlight.  The rest of the cast includes Nicholas Lea, who plays the WWII Ship’s sole survivor; Emilie Ullerup, who plays Lea’s granddaughter; and Gina Holden, who is some sort of generic government agent with limitless resources and a heart of stone.

This has to be the biggest misuse of the “based on actual events” line to draw in an audience.  Maybe there was an experiment during WWII to make a Destroyer invisible, and maybe the experiment ended with the ship exploding, but I am convinced that the rest of this film (basically all of it) is a complete fabrication.  It’s one thing to find out that something like The Blind Side, or The Social Network were sensationalized and exaggerated, but to spin a movie that’s 98% fiction as “based on actual events” feels cheap and manipulative to me.

No special features.  Available now on Blu-ray and DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment.

About the Author:

Joe Ketchum Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
Filed in: Video and DVD

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