This post also appears on the Amazing Stories Magazine blog…
Recently I watched “The Adam Project”, a new Netflix scifi movie starring Ryan Reynolds as Adam Reed, with a time travel theme. Bottom line, I enjoyed the movie overall and would give it a B+. Spoilers ahead!
I didn’t bother to analyze the script’s take on time travel, which seemed a bit elastic to me, as far as what could and couldn’t be done. The same person existing as himself and as a child in the same moment in time and interacting would violate the rules of a lot of classic SF. I also questioned the premise that if Adam was able to ‘correct’ the time line, no one would remember any of what happened…except they kinda would on a submolecular level…the movie wanted to have its cake and eat it too. I just strapped into my time travelling jet and enjoyed the ride.
The movie felt like several films stitched together to me. There were elements which reminded me of classic 1980’s SF, with Spielbergian overtones and music. There were scenes with a definite Star Wars flavor and even a ‘light saber’. Talk about wish fulfillment. There was a love story. Now as a romance author, I very much enjoyed the love story and I’m happy to see Zoe Saldana as an ass kicking elite time travel pilot warrior but I had a hard time with the idea (MAJOR SPOILER) Adam would go to all this trouble to correct time so he could find Laura (the character Zoe played) and then just let her sacrifice herself so he could escape to fight another day. I guess Adam had more faith in his ability to fix time than I did. The romantic scene also felt shoehorned in.
And there was an exciting time travel fighter jet dog fight that reminded me of both ‘Top Gun’ and ‘Independence Day’.
At least there was no cute robot sidekick although there is a great dog who survives.
I had major issues with how Adam treated his younger self. Major issues. He was downright cruel to the boy (well-played by Walker Scobell). Would a grown man hate his boyhood self so much? I got that adult Adam was a mass of unresolved emotions and not exactly at his best, walking around with a wound that probably should have been fatal. (He fixes it with what looks like hydrogen peroxide he gets at the local drugstore – really?) And he came to the wrong time since he was under stress. But still…I asked myself, if I went back and needed my twelve year old self to help with anything, would I be mean to her? Nooo….I’d remember all the things I’d gone through to arrive at my present state of being and make allowances. I’m the adult after all. (Plus I actually like my 12 year old self.) They do arrive at a better relationship by the end of the movie, thank goodness.
The two actors had several scenes where they mimicked each other physically and those were well done and funny. The viewer could believe they were the same person at different ages.
Now I thoroughly enjoy the way Ryan Reynolds dishes snark and wise cracks and I found myself waiting eagerly for that to begin in the movie, which of course it does. But the same tone and kinds of remarks from the twelve year old were grating and sounded ‘off’ to me. I didn’t care for those.
Can we stop and just enjoy the moment of Jennifer Garner, who is wonderful as the mother, and Mark Ruffalo, also terrific as the father, reunited? The duo acted together in “13 Going On 30” in 2004 and it was so great to see them together (although only physically together for one scene) in this film. I actually kind of wanted there to be a whole Jennifer Garner-based movie spinoff.
Covering all the bases, the movie has a slambang action sequence in the guts of a complicated particle accelerator invented by Adam’s physicist father but financed by Maya Sorian (played by Catherine Keener), the movie’s Big Bad. I didn’t like her and of course the viewer wasn’t supposed to like her but I found her so cold and calculating as to not be believable. Especially once we saw her younger self, who didn’t seem like the kind of person who could or would do the things the older Maya had done. Sure she was tempted to go to the dark side…ummm…to do the bad things…but underneath she seemed pretty decent. The future Maya does have swagger though. Anyway, long story short the scene in the high tech place felt like a superhero movie to me. Exciting but yet another movie genre dragged into the mix.
The extremely affecting sequence where the father and the two Adams have their final farewells comes right afterward and while I got a bit dewy eyed, I didn’t find it all as touching as it might have been because it came hard on the heels of “superhero family fights it out in the reactor room” slambang action. There was also the issue of time having been corrected by Maya’s death but our two Adam heroes remain behind conveniently for long enough to do the big emo scene? There was a throwaway line that maybe it takes time a while to correct thirty years of going astray. Oh, okay, works for me.
But this scene in the gorgeous woodsy backyard of the family home is genuine wish fulfillment right here. Who doesn’t wish they could have the chance to exchange even a few more words and a hug with a loved one who is no longer with us? Aside from everything else, I thoroughly enjoyed the rapprochement between the father and son(s).
And the ending satisfied the romance author in me so thank you VERY much, moviemakers, for giving us the full scene between grown up Adam and Laura in the ‘corrected’ future.
I must mention how happy I was to see Alex Mallari Jr., doing the best he could with his limited part as assistant bad guy Christos. We definitely got the idea the character had a fascinating backstory even if we didn’t get to see any of it. Mallari was the wonderfully complex ‘Four’, Ryo Ishida, in one of my favorite and still missed SF series ‘Dark Matter’ and I wish he’d had more to do in this current film.
I’ll probably watch the movie again because it was fun, went very well with popcorn and there was a Happy Ever After.
And don’t forget my own recent time travel novel, STAR CRUISE TIME LOOP…