There’s just something about the topic of time travel. It draws film makers time and time again to create movies about it.
Ever since Back to the Future and Terminator, we’ve been overrun with such films, both memorable and miserable.
In the former (other than the above-mentioned movies of course), I include Somewhere in Time, Groundhog Day, Interstellar, X-Men Days of Future Past, About Time, Memento, and Avenger’s Endgame in my fave list.
In the latter? Oh never mind; I already said they were miserable so don’t ask! Besides, I wanna keep this nice, toasty feeling I have after watching today’s reviewed film.
So without further ado, let’s ‘make the (wormhole space) jump’ shall we?
Synopsis of Netflix’s “The Adam Project” (March 2022, 106 min)
As time-travel stories go, this one isn’t too hard to follow. Unlike say, stuff film auteur Christopher Nolan dishes out, like Memento (2000), Interstellar (2014) or Tenet (2020).
The plot in The Adam Project revolves around lead actor Ryan Reynolds’ character, pilot Adam Reed in the futuristic year of 2050.
Adam hops into a “time jet” that lets him travel back in time to 2018. Adam is searching for his wife Laura Shane (played by an ‘under-utilised’ Zoe Saldana), who has “disappeared” in a space mission that year. Unfortunately, Adam ends up in 2022 instead! There he meets his 12-year old self (played irrepressibly well by newcomer Walker Scobell, who looks destined for greatness with an unbelievable masterclass acting debut!).
Together, they travel back to 2018 to find Adam’s scientist dad Louis (played by the ever-affable Mark Ruffalo). The mission this time? To destroy Louis’ time travel invention, nicknamed ‘The Adam Project’.
Hot on Adam’s heel are villainess Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener) and her team of time-travelling soldiers. Maya’s business partner is Louis, who unfortunately died in a tragic car accident (no details given) in 2020; but not before completing his time travel creation. His passing left The Adam Project in Maya’s greedy hands, making her not just rich and powerful, but desperate to hang on to her dominion over the world as mistress of time travel.
With Adam on the loose, and her fear he would change her fate, it’s clear Maya’s out to end him and his quest.
The rest of the story is all about how Louis and the two Adams reunite, defeat their foe and mend broken father-son ties.
The Adam Project is directed by Canadian director Shawn Levy, who also did another great father-son genre film Real Steel (2011), as well as other fares like the Night at the Museum trilogy (2006-2014), Date Night (2010) and The Intern (2013).
“If I could turn back time…” — a successful time-tested genre
Having reviewed more than one father-son film here already, I still never get enough.
With an unquenchable thirst for father-son bonding films and time-travel tales, it’s not hard for me to love The Adam Project. I mean who wouldn’t want a chance to go back in time to do or undo things we wish we could, right? For “if-I-could-turn-back-time” sentiments are evergreen and ever universal.
The best part of course is I got to watch it two nights ago with both my sons, and they enjoyed it too.
And really, what’s not to like?
You have family-friendly crowd favourite actors Ryan Reynolds and Mark Ruffalo holding fort. Throw in an adorable boy who’s about the same age as my kids but with tussled blonde hair and a big dog with even more hair. Add lots of sci-fi action with the usual dose of flying spaceships, laser guns and light sabre-inspired weapons, and futuristic gadgets for the requisite fight and flight scenes.
Just what more do we need in a tried and tested genre like this sci-fi action/adventure flick, made better by the fact it’s streamed exclusively for all 222 million Netflix subscribers worldwide to watch and re-watch?
Film offers a chance to say what wasn’t said
For me, lines spoken in the movie by both the Small and Big Adam, as well as daddy Louis stood out. Thanks in no small part to the film’s excellent writing team of established movie and TV screenwriters Jonathan Tropper, T.S. Nowlin, Jennifer Flackett and her husband Mark Levin.
The thing we audiences often forget — so busy are we laughing one minute, or gasping the next; or just gawking at our favourite stars — is that all films begin with an idea flashed out via a written script. That’s what breathes life into what we eventually see on the silver screen.
And the parent-child dialogue written for this film certainly puts paid to that age-old adage: “The pen is mightier than the sword.”
While it’s not hard (though the film only started streaming five days ago) to already find sites like this capturing the movie’s many memorable quips, I was more moved by those said among the leads (including one with Louis’ wife and Adam’s mom Ellie, played by Jennifer Garner, in an unintended but poignant reunion with on-screen love interest Ruffalo from 13 Going On 30!).
Especially as it relates to the film’s key themes of broken father-son relationships and second chances to say what wasn’t said.
My fave lines from the film
Lines like when…
– Big Adam encourages his 2022 mom Ellie to openly share with Small Adam, rather than hide, her own grief at losing Louis: “You think you’re being strong for him. The problem with acting like you have it all together is, he (Small Adam) believes it. Maybe he needs to know that you don’t. It’s okay if you don’t.“
– Ellie comforts Louis in 2018 when he laments that he should have been a better dad to Adam: “He doesn’t need better. He just needs you.“
– Small Adam wisely points out to Big Adam why the latter was upset and angry with dad for dying: “You made yourself hate him because it was easier than missing him…I think it is easier to be angry than it is to be sad and I guess when I get older, I forget that there’s a difference.” Which was followed hilariously by Big Adam asking when Small Adam became so wise, and Small Adam asking back when Big Adam became so dumb.
– Louis shares these parting words with both Adams: “I haven’t been there for you. And I’m sorry. But I saw you being born. I watched you take your first breath. And after that happens, nothing is ever the same again. You’re my son Adam…I loved you from the first minute that I saw you, and that will never change. You’re my boys, and you’ll always be my boys, throughout time.” [This, my fave moment, reminded me of a famous scene in Good Will Hunting]
– Big Adam says to Small Adam in their final scene together: “I spent 30 years trying to get away from the me that was you. And I’ll tell you what, kid. I hate to say it, but you were the best part all along.”
My raw and unfinished journey as a dad
I know. Those lines probably sounded ultra sappy to most folks perhaps.
But hey who am I here but a stay home dad trying to do better everyday for my boys? And desperately failing most of the time!
Yep. As any parent will tell you, parenting foibles are par for the course.
Still, knowing that doesn’t make the sense of guilt any lesser for me. Not when my various parenting faux pas happen, oh I don’t know, everyday!
I sometimes forget that my choosing to be with my sons over choosing to work full-time is perhaps all they really need to assure them I love them.
Much of the film’s story had centred on the void Louis’ demanding career had left in Adam; made worst unfortunately by his sudden demise when Adam was ten. When I think of my own violent and emotionally-absent dad during my growing up years, it’s not hard to relate to Adam’s plight.
So as predictable and even cliche as this film might be to others, it doesn’t matter. I think Director Shawn’s casting, directing and story-pacing choices check all the right boxes for this raw and unfinished dad.
Definitely worth a re-watch the next time I’m feeling floored by yet another parenting boo-boo!
I highly recommend checking out this excellent film review of The Adam Project by Salon TV critic Melanie McFarland, and her insightful take on why Ryan Reynolds is the perfect reluctant onscreen leading man of our time!