DIRECTOR: Shawn Levy

CAST: Ryan Reynolds, Walker Scobell, Jennifer Garner, Zoe Saldana, Mark Ruffalo, Catherine Keener, Alex Mallari Jr.

RUNNING TIME: 106 mins

CERTIFICATE: 12A

BASICALLY…: A soldier in the future (Reynolds) travels to the past, where he teams up with his younger self (Scobell)…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

Director Shawn Levy and actor Ryan Reynolds appear to have established a neat little partnership with each other, following the success of last year’s audience hit Free Guy and the very recent news that Levy will direct the next MCU-set Deadpool movie with, of course, Reynolds back as the Merc with a Mouth. In between those projects, though, is another symbol of their tight new relationship: the throwback Netflix sci-fi adventure The Adam Project, which continues their fun collective spirit to mostly entertaining effect, although it’s still far from perfect.

Reynolds is Adam Reed, a pilot in the year 2050 when time-travel is possible, but has apparently turned the future into a dystopian wasteland – or so we’re told, since we never actually see said hellscape at any point in this movie. Escaping the wrath of tyrannical leader Sorian (Catherine Keener), Adam manages to escape through time, heading toward the year 2018 which is when his wife Laura (Zoe Saldana) was apparently last headed before disappearing. However, he accidentally winds up in the year 2022 instead, when his twelve-year-old self (Walker Scobell), still reeling over the death of his scientist father Louis (Mark Ruffalo), is getting into trouble at school and causing his mother Ellie (Jennifer Garner) all kinds of frustration. Both Adams eventually cross paths when young Adam finds older Adam injured near his house, and as the young boy awes at his future self he is whisked on a time-travelling adventure that will see both of them come into contact with their father, who they need to help rid the world of time-travel before it’s even invented.

The Adam Project is a bit of a strange creature, for it obviously takes heavy inspiration from a slew of classic 70s/80s sci-fi movies like Back to the Future and Star Wars (which seems to be Levy’s forte, given he’s also an executive producer and occasional director on the streamer’s Stranger Things), but has little of its own identity outside of directly referencing those things to truly feel like a natural successor. The script, credited to no fewer than four writers – the film has, after all, been in development hell for some years – plunges straight into the main story with barely any set-up for these characters or even much context for what’s going on (the opening scene is just Reynolds’ Adam escaping through time, with a bullet wound already in his lower abdomen; no further explanation given, except in what can only be assumed to be a lengthy deleted scene). The film only quickens the pace from there, leaving precious few moments for genuine connection to these characters outside of the fact that one is Ryan Reynolds and the other is a young kid doing a fairly decent imitation of Ryan Reynolds. It all goes by so fast that when we eventually do reach the climax, it feels like we’re still somewhere in the second act instead of actively wrapping everything up.

It’s difficult to engage with it on an emotional level because, despite some good turns by its cast (Reynolds, as familiar as he may seem here, still has enough charm to get by, and Mark Ruffalo has some very strong moments throughout the film’s second half; meanwhile, Zoe Saldana is woefully underused, while Catherine Keener has even less to do as the ineffective villain, who shares scenes with a hauntingly young CG body double, because God forbid they just cast a different actress instead), there’s simply not enough time given to absorb the story and its characters. It’s paced so frenetically with its numerous action scenes and quick bouts of exposition dialogue that it almost becomes exhausting, but to Levy’s credit there is also a slight sense of fun still present, which primarily comes down to some of the oddball soundtrack choices which elevate certain scenes. For instance, during an intense fight sequence with a typically excitable orchestral score, the film will suddenly play Led Zeppelin to mark a major character entrance, suddenly giving the scene the burst of life it was, up to this point, sorely lacking. Levy and Reynolds achieved this better in the Mariah Carey-laden climax to Free Guy, which was overall a more focused and less frenetic slice of entertainment, but while The Adam Project isn’t quite up to that level, it at least gives the film more of a personality than it was struggling to obtain.

Hopefully, Levy and Reynolds’ next collaboration on Deadpool 3 will be more Free Guy than The Adam Project (albeit, fingers crossed, with lots more blood and f-bombs), but there is clearly a harmonious sense of synergy between the two creatives which makes it easy to understand why they’d want to keep working together. Even though their newest film together doesn’t entirely work, you can at least identify their passion for one another which, regardless of how it turned out, makes The Adam Project slightly more endearing.

SO, TO SUM UP…

The Adam Project is hard to define, given its overly-frenetic pacing which leaves the viewer with little connection to its characters and plot, but director Shawn Levy and star Ryan Reynolds manage to inject a small amount of fun into its otherwise personality-lite script.

The Adam Project is now available on Netflix.

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