What do you get when you cross Back to the Future (1985) with Deadpool (2016), and sprinkle in a little Stranger Things (2016-present) flavor? You get The Adam Project. Given that I rarely watch Netflix other than to go on and find a movie that I might want to watch, I had little idea as to the content of this film. Strike that, I did know that it had Mark Ruffalo and Ryan Reynolds in it. The only reason I knew that is because I watch Reynolds’ YouTube videos, and he did a promotional video for it with him, Mark Ruffalo, and to double down on the Back to the Future connection, Christopher Lloyd. In this clip, before Lloyd said some Dr. Emmet Brown-isms (his character in Back to the Future), Reynolds and Ruffalo talked about how they played superheroes in other films, thus Deadpool. This led me to believe that The Adam Project was going to be another movie of that ilk. Sometimes, when you go into a title almost completely blind, you can be pleasantly surprised by what you find. I cannot say that was my reaction this time, nor did I hate the experience. It was predictably okay.
According to other plot synopses of The Adam Project, Adam Reed (Ryan Reynolds) has stolen a space capable jet in a dystopian future. This vehicle can also time travel. You never see the dystopia, but it is later colorfully described. At any rate, Reynolds is being pursued by an as yet unseen figure in a little bigger ship, and he has been shot. His target year for his time jump is 2018, but those chasing him manage to do enough damage that it disrupts his plan and he ends up in 2022. It is then that we meet a young Adam Reed (Walker Scobell). He is asthmatic and being bullied at school, but the wisecracks give away who his connection to the older version. After being suspended for fighting, his perturbed mother, Ellie (Jennifer Garner), takes him home and leaves for a date. While playing video games, which Ellie forbade him to do, Adam hears a noise outside and investigates. Some searching reveals old Adam (hey, this is how the International Movie Databe (IMDb) lists them!) in their deceased father’s garage. It does not take young Adam long to figure out what is going on since, all while claiming “classified,” old Adam seems to know where everything is in the house and the dog is perfectly comfortable with him. Why does old Adam need with a twelve-year-old version of himself? Well, because of his injury, his ship will not function while his vital signs are low. In order to effect repairs, he needs young Adam to board the ship with him so he can get that process started. In the meantime, we learn that old Adam had been trying to get to 2018 in order to find his dad, Louis (Mark Ruffalo), and prevent the elder Reed from inventing time travel. Unfortunately, the people who were after him in the future eventually find him, and attack. This turns out to be Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener), Louis’ former business partner that had been using time travel for nefarious means, thus the dystopia, I suppose. They are saved at the last moment by old Adam’s future wife, Laura (Zoe Saldaña), who is able to whisk them to safety. Old Adam thought her dead, the result of a supposed training accident, but she had been in 2018, and waiting for her husband to find her. Her intervention buys our two Adams the time they need for the ship to finish fixing itself, and for them to board and make it to 2018. Once there, they locate Louis at the university where he is lecturing, and he understands pretty quickly that these are time travelers. At the same time, Maya meets up with her past self to warn her that them Reed boys are going to cause her a heap o’ trouble (forgive the slang). Still, Louis remains hesitant to do anything, citing the dangers of changing time at all. Wait, did we not see this in Avengers: Endgame (2019). . . ? I digress. Undeterred, the Adams two decide on their own to try and break into the Sorian Technology building, which houses the particle accelerator that is the basis for time travel, intending to blow it up. Eventually, they are joined by Louis, who decides to help because his son(s) cannot get into the building without him. Of course, before anything drastic can happen, they are confronted by the two Mayas and their minions. In the ensuing fracas, the accelerator is damaged, and the corresponding data goes up with the explosion. In the process, Maya accidentally shoots her past self, and irrevocably changes the future. With the day saved, them Reed boys mosey on back to the homestead (sorry, I could not resist). Before disappearing and returning to their own timelines, they are able to each have one last game of catch with dad. Young Adam hugs mom, old Adam meets Laura again, and we have a happy ending.
The Adam Project gets an “okay” from me because of its similarities to many other movies. The likeness made it predictable. Yet, because I enjoy those other movies, I did not find it too tedious. Sure, there were some parts that were silly. Old Adam needing young Adam for the ship to repair itself and function is plot convenience so that the younger version has a reason to be in the rest of the movie. Whatever. What is less blah is the film’s emotional core. Old Adam has to make some difficult choices along the way that speak to a devotion to a greater good that is admirable from a Catholic perspective. These include allowing Laura sacrifice herself in 2022 in order for old and young Adam to escape; letting go of the resentment he felt towards Louis for dying and not being there for him as he got older, with a little help from young Adam; and seeing Louis’ wisdom for not wanting to know how he dies. This last one is perhaps hardest of all. However, as Louis puts it when old Adam protests that he wants more time with his dad, they had their moments. This brings to mind a tricky Christian philosophical debate: what exactly is fate, and how can it exist when we also have free will? Put differently, if we are meant to submit to God’s will for our lives, or the greater good in the context of the film, why were we given the ability to make any of our own choices? This is where Faith, or again in deference to the movie, belief, enters this philosophical equation. It starts by choosing to believe in God. Without that, nothing else matters. The more we give ourselves to that choice, the greater the reward. Similarly, these kinds of beliefs are what make it so that old Adam can drive away from Laura to face, outgunned, Maya and her henchmen. He does so because he believes that it is the right thing to do, and hopes that they will meet again when everything is fixed. We go to Mass and practice the Sacraments, even when it is inconvenient, because we believe that it is best and that it will lead us to God one day. If we cannot make decisions like this, then humanity is truly doomed to the kind of dystopian society we hear rumors about in the film.
Yes, Ryan Reynolds is wise-cracky in The Adam Project. I have yet to tire of his modus operandi, though I cannot blame others if they are feeling some Reynolds fatigue. Either way, there are worse movies to watch. It is also not a bad one for the family, if the young ones can handle some intense action sequences. At the same time, if you have seen any of the other movies referenced above, you might find your attention occasionally wandering.