Do you remember how in the ye olden days of the 80s to the early 2000s, Disney would see that one of their movies had been a hit and make a cash grab sequel without any of the love or passion that went into the original? Then said the movie would be released straight to DVD because Disney knows it would bomb at the box office? And that the movie would be produced on the thinnest of budgets and rely on nostalgia and goodwill to make a profit? Let’s be honest, no one remembers (or cares about) “The Lion King 2” or “Cinderella 3: A Twist in Time”. Although I think the former was old enough to have been released straight to VCR, and dear god, I feel old all of the sudden. Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The modern equivalent of that scenario is when streaming services buy up the rights to something, invest the money to get it made, and release it directly on their service. We’ve gone from “straight to DVD” movies to “straight to Netflix” movies. Sometimes these movies are okay, most of the time, they’re awful, and generally, they are not especially good (unlike Everygame online casino– check it ouuuut!). Case in point: The Adam Project.
The Plot of The Adam Project
The movie cold opens with our protagonist Adam Reed in the middle of an escape in a spaceship, flying away from Earth. He’s being pursued and manages a narrow escape by driving into a wormhole. It turns out he time travels back nearly thirty years to the year 2022 (hey, that’s when I’m am!) and happens to crash right outside his childhood home, where he’s found by 12 year old Adam Reed.
After introductions are done, Adam tells Adam that he had been trying to go back to 2018 because his wife Laura disappeared while jumping there, in an extremely unlikely scenario. He’s also being pursued by a woman named Sorian, who rules the world in 2050 by being in charge of time travel. Long story short, Sorian had been working with Adam’s father Louis on wormhole technology, which eventually evolved into time travel, and then after Louis dies in an accident, through smart business planning, Sorian ends up in charge of the technology and the company behind it.
For fairly reasonable reasons, Sorian and the company don’t simply want people jumping around time unauthorized and are in hot pursuit of Adam, who believes that Sorian is behind Laura’s disappearance in the first place. To be fair to Adam, she does come across as pretty condescending and evil right off the bat.
Further shenanigans ensue, and Adam and Adam have to travel through time again to escape and end up requiring the assistance of Louis. Now Adam, Adam, and Louis have to work together to save the day while simultaneously sorting out their feelings for one another, as love, resentment, and years of pain and sadness are all dragged to the surface for each of them.
By getting to see both the past and present of Adam Reed, we almost immediately get to see some really deep insights into the character. No one’s better to dissect Adam than Adam, right? Who else knows your secrets and weak points better than you, after all? Adam is introduced as a bit of a jerk, to begin with, and getting into arguments with his 12 year old self is easily the highlight of this movie. We can see the excitement and joy of this 12 year old as he’s brought into this adventure, contrasted with the disappointment of how his future has turned out.
Meanwhile, the present-Adam has to put up with a 12 year old version of himself he despises because of how much he regrets all the things 12 year old Adam did. For instance, he’s constantly berating his undeserving mother with snide comments and jabs, getting himself into fights by being mouthy, and retreats into video games to escape reality.
This also contrasts nicely with their reactions to Louis. To present-Adam, Louis has been dead for over thirty years. He’s resentful and sad and hates him for reasons even he can’t really explain. To 12 year-old Adam (I’m gonna call him 2022 Adam from now on), Louis died only a year and a half previously and is simply happy that he gets to see him again. Their emotional connection (along with their relationship with the mother, who takes a backseat for most of the movie) is the emotional core of this film. And it works great!
Oh yeah, and Laura is there too. I won’t spoil what happens to her, but she sits out too much of this film to really connect with the audience in any meaningful way, although she manages a pretty good moment before she steps out. Still, that’s not much of a criticism since the heart of this film doesn’t really rely on her anyway.
The only other character of note is Maya Sorian. We also get to see a past and future version of the character, which gives us a pretty cool insight into this otherwise generic villain. The past Sorian is kind of shocked by just how far gone future Sorian has become, which highlights her slide into evil villainy. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and all that. Other than that, she’s fairly generic as far as villains go.
For obvious reasons, Time Travel movies are notoriously difficult to pull off correctly. The mere fact that Time Travel exists can undermine almost any other plots that exist. After all, what kind of villain can possibly be a threat if our heroes can just go back to when they were a baby and smoosh them before the plot even has a chance to kick off?
As a result, the best time travel films usually have plots where the paradigm of time travel is the main conflict in and of itself. “Back to the Future” comes to mind. There are only a handful of ways to handle time travel. The classic “Back to the Future” method is where there is a single timeline, where changing events in the past will erase events of the present.
Then there is the Harry Potter method, where all the events, including the time travel, already happened in one consistent timeline- which is probably the hardest to write well, and it was smart for J.K. Rowling to smash all the time travel devices in book 5. Then there is the Avengers: Endgame method, where time travel involves jumping to adjacent timelines, and therefore changing the past only changes the future of that specific timeline- which is a smart way to run the story if you want your story to maintain stakes in any significant way.
The Adam Project takes the first approach. There is one timeline, and changes to the past will affect your future. The twist here that makes this film work is that if you change your own past or future, your memories will readjust once you return to your own time period. If you don’t get deleted from existence, that is.
I think this method works for this kind of movie because it’s not trying to be anything bigger than it is. There are no stakes beyond the events within the runtime. I doubt this film will get a sequel, considering both how it ends and the kind of film it is, so what happened happened, and there isn’t a greater franchise to worry about here.
I think the cast is… fine, I guess. I’m not the biggest fan of Mark Ruffalo (who plays Louis Reed), but I’ve got nothing, particularly against him either. Walker Scobell does a good job as young Adam. Child actors are infamous for, well, not being very good, but that’s not a problem here, and Walker plays a very likable character. Cathrine Keener (Sorian) does a good job with what she’s given, and Zoe Saldana (Laura) isn’t really on screen long enough either way.
That said, she does have good chemistry with Ryan Reynolds. Ryan, who plays adult Adam, is just playing Ryan Reynolds. He’s the kind of actor whom you love, and therefore love everything that he’s in, or you hate everything he’s in because every character he plays is Ryan Reynolds. The difference between Deadpool, One, Adam Reed, and even Detective Freakin’ Pikachu is negligible. They’re all Ryan Reynolds being Ryan Reynolds. Personally, I like the guy, but I can see him and his kind of comedy becoming quite tiresome very quickly, especially if you’re coming into this film right off the bat of another of his films, like “Red Notice” or “Free Guy”.
The bottom line is that The Adam Project is the kind of movie you should watch if you’ve got nothing else to put on and want something light to watch with the kids. The Adam Project is a fairly generic action-time-travel film with just enough of an emotional core to keep you engaged. It’s the kind of film that doesn’t overstay its welcome and makes you like the heroes enough to want them to win and dislike the villains enough to want them to lose.
There’s almost no worldbuilding beyond what’s necessary, and the movie is fast-paced and streamlined for what it is. It’s kind of amazing to believe that this film has been trying to get made since 2012, apparently. In the end, I enjoyed The Adam Project. You might as well watch it, if you’re looking for something to put on after or during dinner, although I doubt I’ll be watching it again any time soon.