Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 28, 2022

More than just a great action comedy, The Adam Project’s sophistication is a delightful surprise

By VAREN TALWAR | March 28, 2022

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DICK THOMAS JOHNSON/CC BY 2.0

Ryan Reynolds shines as a time-traveling pilot in The Adam Project.

It is a tendency of manic cinephiles like myself to believe that we know exactly how a movie is going to be before even watching it. While others jump with excitement when they see their favorite actor dressed in a cape on a poster crowded with superheroes, most of us see another movie with an overused plot and a steadily stalling formula. So when I saw Ryan Reynolds’ snarky character in the trailer for The Adam Project, I registered it as another cash-grab masquerading behind his brand, much like his other recent project Red Notice

I was quite wrong. The Adam Project proved to be a pleasant surprise that actually breaks some new ground in the time-travel action-comedy genre. Director Shawn Levy doesn’t waste time on explaining theories like the multiverse or the grandfather paradox that we have heard innumerable times. Instead, he picks a stance and runs with it and is thus able to explore broader implications of time travel, like the corporate machinery that runs it.

Along with that, the film also builds on its already interesting premise of different versions of the same person across time. The notion of collaborating with each other explores the emotional depth of what the older version left behind and what the younger one has to look forward to.

Such poignancy is quite uncommon in contemporary action comedies, making The Adam Project stands out immediately. It handles its content very maturely and creates characters that one is genuinely invested in. Despite its appearances, at the movie’s core lies the simple concept of lost family and how people fill the hole left by their loved ones. The science fiction, the brilliant visuals and the cast uplift this powerful idea into an entertaining and touching story about second chances and sacrifice.

Levy’s stylistic choices make The Adam Project an extremely fun watch. His use of music, while not new, is effective. My personal favorite is the use of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times” when we first see Laura (Zoe Saldaña); the connection between her and adult Adam (Reynolds) actually seems electric in that moment.

The action sequences themselves are not unique but are definitely a thrill to watch. Levy’s track record as director of classics like Night at the Museum and his achievement with The Adam Project certainly has me excited for the upcoming Deadpool movie he is set to direct.

The cast, of course, is one of the highlights of the movie. Reynolds brings his classic charisma to the role and delivers on his trademark comedic style. Although he plays the same snarky character we have seen multiple times before, he integrates his emotional story with it to create a more three-dimensional version of that character.

Walker Scobell, who plays the young Adam, is a revelation, as he manages to hold his own against Reynolds and succeeds in portraying a younger Reynolds. Reynolds and Scobell’s chemistry shines throughout the film and leads to several funny and poignant moments alike.

Jennifer Garner also delivers a touching performance as Adam’s mother during her limited screen-time; one truly empathizes with her plight. As the father, Mark Ruffalo reflects the intellectual curiosity of his character beyond what is generally seen in scientists in such movies. He isn’t merely the brilliant yet troubled genius, inept at everything except his work, but a complete character who is torn between his personal and professional life and works to improve it.

The antagonist Sorian (Catherine Keener), however, is quite underwhelming. The film grossly overlooks her story and motivations and plainly portrays her as the evil businesswoman from the future. Films like The Adam Project are often just as good as their villains, so in that regard the movie fails to raise the bar, and one is left merely waiting for the good guys to defeat her rather than be engaged in any interesting dichotomy between the villains and the heroes.

The third act, too, is quite disappointing, even more so because its failing points looked very avoidable. The deliberate emptiness and lack of security around the building that the protagonists have to break into is extremely off-putting and lowers the stakes immensely. Furthermore, the reactor inside where the final standoff occurs is so unnecessarily large and elaborate that it seems like we are suddenly watching a new movie. The Adam Project shows a lot of restraint for much of the runtime but unfortunately lets it go in the third act.

Still, overall, The Adam Project is an extremely fun movie that might surprise you with its sophistication. It is a classic weekend Netflix movie, but if you are able to watch it in the theater, I would recommend taking the chance — the music, visuals and action scenes will truly shine there. The film is sure to make you laugh with its irreverent comedy and also make you teary-eyed at times with the warmth of its touching story.

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