Photo courtesy of Netflix

‘The Adam Project:’ A love letter to 80s sci-fi

5 mins read

“The Adam Project” is a love letter to timeless classics, such as Steven Spielberg’s “ET” and Robert Zemeckis’s “Back To The Future,” while rekindling the childhood aspiration of being called to adventure through narratives and tales of fictional imagination centered around diamond absolutes and leaves one wondering if your future is the one you truly envision.

It comes off as a simple time travel crusade with stellar action, heart, creativity, and scene-stealing performances from almost everyone involved. Though, after a while, the film takes a turn and starts to question the importance of parents and their effects on our lives and upbringing. It’s an exciting dynamic that unfolds through multiple perspectives from child to adult, to a single parent, with each role resembling a part of the more prominent character study of exploring and living through grief and coming to terms with accepting the pain. 

However, the brilliance of this film is to start the journey at the beginning and, in turn, the moment we are most vulnerable to our childhood, primarily middle school, a time of exploration and division. When we first meet Adam it’s from the perspective of his younger self. He is smaller than the average child, he stands out, he’s a victim of constant bullying and always pondering his place in the world. Until a moment of a dream-like child, fantasy occurs before him and he encounters his future self. 

Ryan Reynolds in “The Adam Project.” Photo courtesy of Netflix

I feel the choice to showcase the duality of past and future symbolizes the direction of choices and commentary on the power of actions while not knowing the outcome. For example, from the first moment adult Adam (Ryan Reynolds) steps into the picture, he’s cool and confident but comes off conflicted, closed off, struggling to confront his past, whereas his younger self is mesmerized and begins to question every moment of his future. This is where the sensation of fantasy starts to manifest and, for a majority of the film, it stands center stage allowing for an equal amount of direction. 

The younger version of Adam is played by Walker Scobel, who is making his film debut, which came with the daunting task of playing and embodying a younger Ryan Reynolds. Scobel was a scene-stealer every time he stepped in front of the camera and the frame. I never once questioned his comedic timing and impressions of Reynolds’s mannerisms that felt organic, and just his oozed confidence. Especially towards the later portions of the film where the audience could feel the humanity from Levy and Reynold’s passion. The soft moments of confession between both Scobel and Reynolds reflecting on the path that each took was heartwarming, but it’s clear one is angry and lost in his grief, where the other remembers the childhood euphoria. At that moment each can grow and learn to accept closure. 

Zoe Saldaña and Ryan Reynolds in “The Adam Project.” Photo courtesy of Netflix

One of the reasons why the story works as a whole is because of the dichotomy lingering in the screenplay. Levy and the writers crafted a story around the balance of hope and acceptance, leading to a confession that Shawn Levy and Ryan Reynolds need to collaborate on other projects going forward because it seems both have a bond, and the chemistry between both is utterly perfect. 

The balance of human and fantasy work well in cohesion because at times you see Adam coming off broken and distant from his mom (Jennifer Garner) while trying to save face, only to resort to quipping one-liners to escape the pain conveying its clear he’s not ready to come to grips with losing his father, which is addressed relatively quickly. 

At other moments exciting action and callbacks to other sci-fi gems are perfectly reflected through exposition or recreations of iconic scenes. Once again Levy and Reynolds are clearly having a blast, but feeling nostalgic as well by honoring the source material present from the 80s to ensure a tether to childhood could be felt for everyone watching the film, but by having the integrity to showcase the silver lining of a parent trying to connect with their child during the moments of grief when they know their child is slowly drifting apart, which makes the film genuine. 

Walker Scobell as Young Adam and Ryan Reynolds as Big Adam. Photo courtesy of Doane Gregory/Netflix

Jennifer Garner’s character, Ellie, Adam’s mom, is hurting as well, but she doesn’t want Adam to see her differently. Noticing the grief lying dormant waiting to bubble to the surface, she has to stay strong, accepting the past is set. 

Zoe Saldaña had a minor role in the film but her chemistry with Scobel and Reynolds was exciting, and the action was elevated while the story shifted once again working in the favor of the screenplay. 

To spoil Mark Ruffalo’s arc would be a disservice to the film but in my opinion, Ruffalo was tied for breakout performance along with Scobel. When Ruffalo enters the story it feels like a sign of closure is about to unfold for the characters, but the real truth of understanding the role of a parent, instead of being a peer to a child, hits me on an emotional level and I’m not afraid to admit that.

Spoilers Ahead

One perfect example of tension displayed by Levy was the genius of the bar scene. The scene works because of the chemistry between Reynolds and Garner. Garner is portraying a mother crying, wondering if her son is still her little boy, only to see the man she raised sitting before her, but the twist is she doesn’t realize that. Reynolds as Future Adam is stunned and breathless from the image of seeing his mother so young and dispelling the grief she bottled in front of him for years. 

Though it’s clear Adam wants to atone for the pain he caused for years, and he gets it by reassuring her anxious thoughts by admitting, “I have the best mom in the world and don’t give up on Adam. He needs his Mom.” At that moment, Ellie sits puzzled and amused that a stranger wearing her husband’s jacket is the conscience she needs to hear. Meaning Adam can move forward and so can his mother. 

End of Spoilers… 

Now, I did have a few minor flaws with the film. The plot felt too similar to other established IPs and the villains felt lackluster and unappealing, but that’s the only issue I have with this adventure. I noticed signs of “The Terminator,” “Tron,” and “Minority Report,” to list a few that I’m referring to. Of course, I do feel the time travel 80’s love letter or quantum fun was a red herring to the story of pure human attachment residing in the background, though the thought of seeing the future you think you created is in flux and not knowing what lies ahead is quite interesting to admit. 

It’s a childhood aspiration we strive to see become reality, but the moral of “The Adam Project” is don’t grow up too fast and enjoy the journey. Everything will work out and our choices are born from the action because being human is a diamond absolute. 

“The Adam Project” will be a timeless classic as the years pass, and it’s a family film that reminds us of our childhood while reflecting on human emotions as we mature into adults. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Brendan Rooney

Brendan Rooney has always been full of creativity and enthusiasm toward the world of widespread media. He is also a passionate comic book fan along with a die-hard sports pedigree. Brendan has written various articles covering all topics and dreams of forging a long-lasting legacy by bringing respect to the Rooney name as either a teacher, journalist, or whatever else the future holds. His work has been featured on Google, Quoted by Marvel Games, Reshared by Movie Trades, Broken exclusives, Spoke and presented at syndicated academic conferences as well.

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