The Adam Project
- Director: Shawn Levy
- Writers: Jonathan Tropper, TS Nowlin, Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin
- Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Walker Scobell, Jennifer Garner, Zoe Saldaña, Mark Ruffalo, Catherine Keener
The Adam Project marks the second film in as many years featuring director Shawn Levy and Ryan Reynolds, after 2021’s Free Guy. This familiarity certainly helps the film in how it utilizes its polarizing star, but doesn’t ultimately save it from familiar sci-fi conventions. I’ll always give points to big-budget* action/sci-fi films that aren’t based on some pre-existing IP, but what holds the film back is its inability to distinguish itself from other films in the same genre.
*Since this is a Netflix film, no budget numbers for The Adam Project are readily available, but based purely on its star power, and the extensive use of CGI, it’s a film that couldn’t have been terribly cheap to make.
Using the concept of time travel to explore lost connections or to rekindle familial relationships is nothing new for film, and this is the primary driving force of The Adam Project. Reynolds stars as Adam Reed (no, not the creator of Archer) in 2050, a world that is reportedly “like Terminator 2 on a good day”. He travels back to 2022, where his younger self, played by Walker Scobell, is a bullied 12-year old living with his single mom (Jennifer Garner). Reynolds’ snarky shtick has helped and hindered many a project in which he’s starred, and a film that doubles down on this with a younger version of him is surely a recipe for disaster, yet somehow Levy doesn’t lean too heavily into what makes Reynolds occasionally so punchable. In his first acting role, Scobell does a decent job at imitating Reynold’s signature attitude. And at least some credit is due for using Adam’s snarky-ness primarily as a defense mechanism after experiencing trauma, rather than a shallow character trait.
While the final version of the script is credited to Jonathan Tropper, the project has been gestating since 2012, when Tom Cruise was originally attached to star. The film works best when it becomes a kind of coming-of-age story between the older and younger versions of Adam. Reynolds and Scobell have decent chemistry together, and their comiserration over their deceased father, their difficult upbringing, and their mother’s grief, are the film’s best scenes.
Padding out the overly-qualified cast list is Zoe Saldaña as Reynolds’ wife from the future, whom he assumed was dead, and Mark Ruffalo as Adam’s father, a scientist who’s wholly responsible for making time travel possible. And, in one of the film’s more disastrous decisions, Catherine Keener appears as Ruffalo’s business partner twice, once as her future iteration, and once as a digitally de-aged 2018 version. Keener is a capable, engaging actress, and has done fine work in villainous roles, but she never feels like she’s fully invested in the material. Not that she has much to work with here; her primary function is essentially to be an Evil Corporate Type.
Action scenes are dynamic, and the futuristic weapons and vehicles look great. For as much flack as Netflix rightfully receives for its rigid cinematography compression, The Adam Project looks great overall. Much like in Free Guy, Levy knows how to stage an action set piece. Though he’s been directing films since 1997, it feels like Levy just needs to find a script worthy of his talents in order to stand out as an action filmmaker. The Adam Project is destined to make an impact on Netflix in a March that’s relatively starved for big streaming content. Whether or not it stands out in its genre, or amongst Netflix’s rapidly increasing library, is another story.
The Adam Project will be available to stream on Netflix on March 11, 2022.
- If Free Guy can land a visual effects nomination, there’s hope yet for The Adam Project. Beyond that, don’t get your hopes up.