Review by Daniel Blackaby March 14, 2022
The Adam Project (Christian Movie Review)
Final Verdict: A mechanically made and derivative story that is best left forgotten in the past.
About The Film
Well, The Adam Project is certainly a movie. In fact, It might the moviest movies I have seen in a long time. Despite being a story about characters traveling through time and space, the film continually fails to transport viewers into a believable fiction. From start to finish, the movie feels more like reading a script than being swept up and lost in an engaging story. Nothing feels authentic or real. Everything feels mechanical. The dialogue sounds rehearsed and recited, and the cornucopia of different ideas and inspirations are undercooked. Overall, The Adam Project feels more like a first draft than a complete film.
The basic plot is relatively simple. The existence of time travel in the future has turned the world into a dystopian nightmare (at least, that is what we are told). To prevent this hellish reality, a quip-happy pilot named Adam (Ryan Reynolds) must travel back in time to stop time travel from being invented. Along the way he picks up his younger 12-year-old self (Walker Scobell) and deals with the hurts and family drama of his past. This is an intriguing—if largely derivative—premise on paper, but the filmmakers are unfortunately not able to translate it to the screen in any interesting or meaningful ways.
A recent film like Matt Reeves’ The Batman excelled by establishing and executing a clear identity and vision. The Adam Project falters for the opposite reasons. Director Shawn Levy and the screenwriters toss a half-dozen different ideas into a blender. While there are occasional glimpses of those original inspirations, the overall result is a sludge. The movie simply doesn’t seem to have any idea what kind of movie it is or wants to be. At times it is a throwback Spielbergian family film, but also features a barrage of profanity and overly dramatic story. The film seeming aspires to be fun and self-aware like Jame Gunn’s The Guardians of the Galaxy, with action scenes accompanied by a groovy soundtrack, but these moments feel half-hearted and hit more like an aging dad trying to use the “hip slang” of his kids.
The Adam Project’s inability to commit to a singular vision is also apparent with its take on time travel. In general, there are two approaches to communicating the mechanics of time travel in film. One is to try and ground it in enough legitimate science, and the other is to shrug the shoulders and say, “It works. Don’t ask why. Just enjoy the movie!” The Adam Project initially appears to take the later route. When the younger Adam tries to ask about the implications of time travel, the older Adam quips, “You’re wasting your time. You watch too many movies.” But the movie doesn’t take its own advice. There is so, so, so much talking and exposition. Even during the climatic third act, the characters are still pausing the action to stand around giving jargon-filled monologues trying to explain to audiences what is happening. Rather than ground the film, the endless exposition becomes exhausting.
When it comes to original films, Netflix has a reputation for quantity over quality, and The Adam Project does nothing to change that perception. The film is not fun or funny enough to work as mindless, enjoyable entertainment, and not clever enough to be a thoughtful sci-fi flick. Time travel might be a way to return to past experiences, but the 1:46m spent watching The Adam Project is likely not an experience many audiences will want to relive.
On the Surface
Profanity: Lots. Despite being a rare PG-13 film that doesn’t use its allowance of 1 F-Bomb (it is mouthed, but not spoken), it is filled with profanity. I stopped keeping track after 20 or so. The profanity is not to the level of an R-rated comedy, but for this type of movie, it is surprisingly and unnecessarily high.
Sexuality: Character talk about “getting laid” in college, and there are several sexual innuendos and jokes about male genitalia.
Violence: Bloodless sci-fi action.
Beneath the Surface
Engage the Film
The Importance of Living in the Present
For a film about traveling backward and forward through time, The Adam Project is most insightful as a commentary on the importance of the present. The characters frequently talk about “fixed time,” meaning the point in time where they naturally belong before being displaced by time travel. To a degree, the film’s message is consistent with the Biblical wisdom, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
This theme is most effectively explored in the contrast between the older and younger versions of Adam. As an undersized geek who is regularly bullied, Young Adam looks with greedy eyes to his promising future when he will one day look like a buff and handsome Ryan Reynolds. Old Adam, on the other hand, has become jaded and bitter due to the pain he has experienced, and looks to his younger self as a time of innocence and potential. Both Adams have something to teach the other, and they learn by the end that what truly matters is not looking back or looking ahead, but fully embracing and living in the present.
Dealing with Grief
Grief plays a central role in the film. Adam (both older and younger versions) still struggle with the tragic loss of their father. The outworking of this loss is also shown in their mother (played by Jennifer Garner), and since this is a time travel story, the father himself (played by Mark Ruffalo) eventually gets in on the action too. The interesting aspect of navigating this theme in a time travel story, is that the same characters are able to be depicted at different stages of life and different stages of grief. Old Adam is able to help his younger self to support their mother as she struggles with the loss, and Young Adam is able to counsel his older self not to resent their father or hide his grief behind a mask of anger or cynicism.