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The Adam Project: tired sci-fi with its heart in all the right places

The Adam Project: tired sci-fi with its heart in all the right places

The Adam Project, reviewed by Tom Cairns

Image Credit: Property of Netflix

The Ryan Reynolds Cinematic Universe continues..

Cutting his teeth on goofy teen comedies and rom coms, it’s easy to overlook the fact Ryan Reynolds has been involved in a feature film every single year since 1999. During his career the Canadian born has had a lot of practise in perfecting the art of turning every character he plays into.. well, a slightly different shade of himself.

However critical that may sound, its done nothing but work in his favour seeing a resurgence in his output since landing the part he was seemingly born to play. In 2016 Reynolds played Deadpool, an amalgamation of 2004s sarcastic charming vampire hunter Hannibal King and 2002s sarcastic charming high school student Van Wilder, all rolled up into an Xmen spinoff that took the world by storm. The highly successful film received a sequel in 2018 and has landed Reynolds multiple opportunities in franchises down the line, The Hitmans Bodyguard (and sequel), Detective Pikachu, Hobbs & Shaw, Free Guy and Red Notice to note a few.

Now, this may all feel like its building up to a negative take on Reynolds, but it isn’t. I love Reynolds as Deadpool because he can do the thing he does best to the highest degree, be Ryan Reynolds. His charm, his brand of comedy and even the way he can shift between drama and comedy works perfectly to elevate a character like Deadpool. This was however the reason I took a pass on his more recent films, Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, Free Guy and Red Notice. Admittedly, The Adam Project does have its Ryan Reynold-esque wink at the camera style self-awareness and the typical CGI heavy 3rd act, but the family driven dynamic and the ‘what would you do if you could go back?’ style questions this film makes you ask yourself makes it so much more than just another typical time travel movie.

What would you tell your younger self if you could go back?

The film opens in 2050 following a wounded adult Adam played by Reynolds in a sci-fi dog fight attempting to travel backwards in the timeline. Amidst the chaos this Adam finds himself in (our) present day, 2022, 4 years past his target date.

2022s younger Adam then comes screaming into the film played by newcomer Walker Scobell and though from the get-go it feels like he’s doing his best Ryan Reynolds impression, the young actor is given plenty of stuff to do in this film that really lets his performance stand on its own.

At its peak, the dynamic between the two Adams points the finger inward at the viewer; knowing what you know about the characters during certain beats really aids in keeping the audience fixed on the film. Because of this, the more cliché driven moments (there’s a few!) still have some form of emotional payoff. And for me that’s where the film really cements its worth.

Our time is finite, and our relationships don’t last forever; we’ve all held unfair grudges, we’ve all had communication breakdowns. We’ve all thought we would have one more day with our loved ones. And apart from the glaringly obvious sci-fi elements, this is what makes the film oddly relatable on a level I wasn’t expecting.

Don’t get me wrong, the stakes aren’t high and there isn’t a giant payoff when the curtains are called, there is even an air of confusion with the time travel elements during the final moments. But the interactions between the characters and introspection the film prompts are certainly engaging throughout its 106-minute run.

Time travel exists you just down know it yet

This film makes no effort to hide the fact its bringing nothing new to the table in the wide stretched pool of sci-fi/time travel films we’re lucky to have. The film constantly pokes fun at certain concepts, young Adam generally serving as a mirror for the audience and old Adam generally shutting down the comments with a quip or an eye roll. This works to varying applause, young Adam calling out older Adam’s weapon being a lightsabre on an almost 1:1 basis seemed to work, however, efforts to make conversations about multiverses, quantum-isms and superhero landings feel self-referential already feel like exhausted grounds.

Time travel is always a fine line to walk in terms of how much weight the narrative needs to lean on whether the concept makes sense or not. The film follows the Back to the Future style logic as the plot relies heavily on changing the course of the future, with the twist being ‘fixed points’ to hand wave away the more paradox heavy elements of that logic. The truth is, you’ll enjoy this film more the less you worry about the logic it follows.

The combat scenes in the film offer plenty of excitement and visual flair but the villains’ motivations just feel like something tacked on to add minor tension and facilitate the current movie staple of a CGI heavy 3rd act.

A reunion 18 years in the making

Alongside Reynolds and Scobell as Adam Reed, Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo also share the screen for the first time since 13 Going on 30 as Ellie and Louis Reed, Adams parents. Garner, as Adam’s grieving mother, plays a supportive loving parent who clearly can’t get through to her shut off son after tragedy falls on the family. Though it feels like they give Ruffalo more to do, her performance in this was an absolute standout for me. Ranging from full of wisdom and warmth to grief ridden and deeply sad Garner plays a mother stuck between a rock and a hard place perfectly in this film.

Though Ruffalo does portray some of his almost signature goofiness throughout the film, its interesting watching his character communicate with Reynolds as a father figure (and pull it off well!) though in reality there’s only 9 years between the two actors.

The ADAM Project

The Adam Project serves as a mediocre sci-fi film with a family driven heart that elevates it above its baseline potential. The film does lean on the shoulders of films that have come before it quite heavily, boasting a retro soundtrack not dis-similar to Guardians of the Galaxy, a timeline ripping concept lifted straight from Back to the Future and hopping over to Star Wars briefly to plagiarise the action.

Though treading a lot of familiar ground, the film is an easy and thoroughly enjoyable watch, with beautiful on site locations, serviceable laughs and earnest performances all round. This film knows what it is and plays to its strengths with that in mind.. and in any case, any movie with Long Time by Boston on the soundtrack is worth a watch in my books!

Directed by Shawn Levy and starring Ryan Reynolds, Zoe Saldana, Walker Scobell, Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo, The Adam Project is available on Netflix now.

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