Released 2022. Director: Shawn Levy
TAKING THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE, SHAWN LEVY and his writers have made The Adam Project a straightforward, undemanding sci-fi adventure for easy consumption whether you’re a parent or a kid. There are opportunities aplenty in this story about time travel for them to dive further and deeper into the story and characters but these are skipped in favour of achieving a more simplistic treatment. I don’t mean they should have gone in the direction of heavy-duty science stuff but more so in an emotionally richer way like some of its family-friendly sci-fi cousins such as Super 8, Big Hero 6 and The Iron Giant.
The Adam Project borrows heavily from established and instantly recognisable visual cues from a slew of movies. You’ll have no problems pointing at scenes going “that’s Darth Maul and his double-edged light sabre from The Phantom Menace!” or “that’s the forest chase with flying scooters from Return of the Jedi” or “that’s the dogfight in Top Gun!” or “that’s like the hoverboard in Back to the Future!” and so on. There’s also a reference to Face/Off on someone’s t-shirt. Even Adam’s dog is named Hawking, a nod to Einstein, the dog in Back to the Future, a time travel classic.
We start in the year 2050 when fighter jet pilot Adam (Ryan Reynolds) steals his super-duper sophisticated jet to fly back in time to 2018 to find his wife, missing and presumed dead in an earlier time-travel mission. Instead, he lands ahead in 2022 where he meets his 12-year-old self. Young Adam is home alone while his widowed mum is out on a date and the fearless boy connects with the wounded stranger in an instant, and realises just as quickly they’re the same person. Big Adam explains some stuff, young Adam accepts the inconceivable and together they try to stop the Adam Project, the genesis of time travel, because, well, something about bad stuff happening in the future.
This involves fighting with armoured robocops arriving from the future to catch them, finding Adam’s professor dad (before he’s dead) who developed the project, destroying the technology at the villain Sorian’s curiously unguarded top-secret lab, spending bonding time with mum, and saying a proper goodbye to Big Adam’s wife. And then everything will become normal again and the future is saved!
Time travel is a tricky concept to pull off logically in the movies. Mostly it’s illogical and messy, knotted it its own paradoxes. The Adam Project is one of the unfortunate ones with a half-hearted attempt at explanation that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, but I suspect you’d overlook the lack of precision in its narrative construction and appreciate its main focus as a family entertainment without the hard questions. The main business is to keep the action zipping by hoping you’ll miss the holes, make sure the hero stays on his charm offensive, sprinkle a few quips and one-liners, blow some stuff up and guarantee a bright and cheerful ending.
Ryan Reynolds continues his career trajectory playing easy-going likeable dudes with a great sense of humour, following a string of hits such as Free Guy, Red Notice, The Hitman’s Bodyguard and the Deadpool movies. He has a natural and effortless ease in these comic roles that he’s clearly very good at playing, and a movie like The Adam Project is right at his comfort zone without stretching his range.
The movie doesn’t skimp on names. Mark Ruffalo plays the dad. Jennifer Garner the mum. Catherine Keener is Sorian. Zoe Saldana plays Adam’s wife. Kudos to first-time actor Walker Scobell in capturing the continuity in personality between young Adam and big Adam, nailing a critical aspect that links the two characters.
The Adam Project aims at a cross section of age groups in the family. It touches on bullying at school, being in a single-parent household, and even attempts a small degree of poignancy when big Adam sees his family through the eyes of his parents, now that he’s about their age. Amidst its derivative nature, there’s a mix of puerile humour mixed with the sentimental, smart-alecky attitude with shiny and glossy visuals that makes for a mildly entertaining distraction, enough to pass the time but not the test of time.
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