MOVIE REVIEW – What if you had the chance as an adult to talk through nagging questions with your parents again? To make peace with your younger self? Could you put the past, or maybe the future, right? That’s the question taken quite literally in Shawn Levy’s clever time-travel film “The Adam Project”. The film is also reminiscent of a short story by Frigyes Karinthy, as our hero effectively meets his childhood self.
Levy and star Ryan Reynolds recently collaborated on Free Guy. The Adam Project, written by Jonathan Tropper, T.S. Nowlin, Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin, similarly builds on Reynolds’ “big-talking action hero” routine, allowing him to excel in comedy and classic action film.
“Time travel exists, you just don’t know it yet”…
… is the punchline of the film at the very beginning before we dive into the sci-fi action-adventure. Interestingly, the film’s message is that it’s initially more about the symbolic restoration of the father-son relationship than it is about actual time travel.
The story is that the grown-up Adam (Ryan Reynolds) arrives from 2050 and lands in 2022, in his old backyard, where young Adam, trying to survive his 12 years: the overly bright, teenage teenager, is living, being himself, only in the past. He has to repair his spaceship and heal a gunshot wound, which gives him ample opportunity to hang out with his younger self. Big Adam’s destination was 2018, to search for his missing wife (Zoe Saldaña), but he mistakenly flew back to 2022.
Of course, it won’t be easy, as the bad guys will soon be on Adam’s trail, and soon he and young Adam will have to escape from a nefarious time-travelling tech mogul, Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener). The only way to make things right is to go back one last time to find their father (Mark Ruffalo) and stop him from inventing time travel.
Back to the old movies
The Adam Project is clearly inspired by films such as Back to the Future and Terminator, which are directly referenced in the script. There are, however, similarities to other, more recent films, such as Rian Johnson’s time-travel-killer drama Looper or other parts of the film reminiscent from Guardians of the Galaxy, which also starred Zoe Saldaña. The Adam Project is like a retro adventure movie, with a precocious kid and a desperate adult playing the “Odd Couple” roles, but with more battle lasers and killer robots. For all the complexities of time travel presented here, the story seems neither innovative nor original.
What makes The Adam Project unique is its down-to-earth aesthetic. The forested, organic landscape of the Pacific Northwest provides the backdrop for the super high-tech futuristic weapons of invisible planes and bow wands of “lightsabers”. There are some remarkable shots, particularly in the first half of the film, that juxtapose the world of 2022 with the weapons of 2050, and this contrast also reflects the relationship between the two Adams.
It would have been better on Father’s Day
The film’s first half is the most captivating, as the older and younger Adam constantly pull at each other, asking the tough questions and figuring out their mission together. But it all falls apart in the trite third act when the characters finally find themselves in a routine standoff to save the world. Moreover, any nuance of the conversation about reconciling their past and present is lost on the altar of kitschy sentimentality.
By the film’s final stages, it has long since gone beyond emotional resonance and landed squarely in the realm of patronising (unsuccessful) emotional manipulation. This time-travelling film is also so full of the usual (highly clichéd) father issues that it’s surprising Netflix didn’t release it on Father’s Day. Sadly, what could have been thought-provoking ends up being a rehash of the usual clichés seen a thousand times in sci-fi action movies.
4K/HDR visuals and action are fine
For those who just want a spectacular and entertaining sci-fi action movie and maybe have a 4K TV, you won’t be disappointed. Thanks to Netflix’s needle-sharp streaming (perhaps I was lucky), the visuals were amazingly detailed in places on my 4K TV, and this action sci-fi was an excellent treat for my eyes as a result. The generally exciting action sequences were also well-choreographed; perhaps only the last big “confrontation” was a little undemanding.
The Adam project will therefore be most enjoyed by those who don’t mind a formulaic but highly spectacular action film using and remixing recipes from previous sci-fi classics, with a routine and funny Ryan Reynolds, who once again delivers an entertaining performance with his usual well-performed, laugh-out-loud quips, while pulling his little-boy self.