by Doug McClure
While the plotline of the new Netflix movie The Adam Project is a familiar exercise in time travel films, its DNA shares far more with movies such as Super 8 that pay tribute to the Spielberg films of the 1990s.
The official description is “The Adam Project follows a time-traveling pilot who teams up with his younger self and his late father to come to terms with his past, while saving the future.”
The action setpieces are well done. No effort is made to revolutionize the future technology to the point that a 2022 audience could find them too distanced from reality to be either unbelievable — or too distracting from the real core of the movie. Much like Spielberg’s science fiction of the 90s, and other films of that era, the loudest part of the film is not the one that is the most important.
Ryan Reynolds plays the older version of “Adam,” the pilot, who by accident seeks out an event that happened in 2018 and instead finds himself crash-landing in the backyard of his childhood home. Reynolds is good in the role, but the prize goes to 12-year-old Adam played by newcomer Walker Scobell who plays his role very realistically. The kid makes no effort to sanitize what he’s going through as a short kid who is bullied, and the movie pulls no punches when it comes to how his father’s recent death impacts him or his future self.
Nor does the older Adam attempt to talk down to his younger self or sugarcoat the future, making a direct reference to the Terminator to give younger Adam a visual of 2050 that he can instantly understand.
While the believability of those performances is top-notch, the welcome appearance of Mark Ruffalo as the father just adds to the chemistry. Ruffalo is always a good actor, and in this film, it’s extremely convincing how he interacts with Adam as fathers and sons do.
The time travel plotline is less evolved but only functions as a vehicle. The movie has more in common with Looper or a less convoluted version of Dark than it does with Back to the Future. Given the central subject matter of fathers, sons, bullying, and loss, how people react to it will largely depend on their own experiences. In that regard it is more like the first two Terminator films where the impact is viewed through a kid’s lens very effectively.
The film is rated PG-13 which is ambiguous. There’s mild language, typical teenage-level sexual innuendo, and a good bit of emotion that some thirteen-year-olds might not find comfortable. It’s likely to be a film that families or even adult friends will want to talk about afterward because it has strong emotional depth.