Time after time: A review of ‘The Adam Project’

Published March 11, 2022, 7:25 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng

Every few months or so, Netflix will go all out promoting their big budget productions; and we’ve seen how these ‘prestige’ projects run the gamut of Limited series (whether from Korea, or the U.S.A – think Squid Game & Bridgerton), and high profile film projects (Don’t Look Now, and Red Notice). The new one that’s getting the hype and the full 10 yards of promoting, is The Adam Project. It drops on Netflix today, Friday, March 11, and boasts of a cast that includes Ryan Reynolds, Zoe Saldana, Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo. It’s directed by Shawn Levy, whose last full feature film, Free Guy, was one of the surprise big hits of 2021.

The best way to describe the film would be to call it a SciFi Action/Adventure family drama. And while I know that’s a mouthful, and sounds like it’s trying to cover so many bases, never let it be said that Netflix doesn’t know what it’s doing. Quite literally, it’s as described, and it’s obviously trying to be the E.T. or Big of today, the one that this streaming service will be known for as it invites the whole family to sit back and enjoy this ‘with something for everyone’ kind of film. The poster for the film evokes this E.T. mood, but with a time travel, older-self meets younger-self premise; instead of a visit from an extra-terrestrial.

The film opens with an outer-space action sequence set in a futuristic 2050. It’s timeworms and fighter aircraft that recall Star Wars, but with a Top Gun feel, given the constant chatter and smart-ass wisecracks of Ryan Reynolds’ Adam One (let’s call him Adam One for the purpose of this review). Through the time shift, we’re then thrust into 2022, and introduced to Adam Two, portrayed by talented child actor Walker Scobell. Adam Two is a pint-sized thirteen-year-old who’s just lost his Science professor dad (Mark Ruffalo), and now lives with his Mom (Jennifer Garner). He hasn’t adjusted well to the loss and is constantly getting into fights, thanks to his penchant for snide smart-ass remarks – see the synchronicity here?

The film takes pain to establish this Adam Two as a predecessor of the Ryan Reynolds film persona we’ve grown to love, and it works beautifully. Scobell gets my nod here for properly establishing himself as a younger version of Adam One. So when we get the inevitable meeting of the two, and the phenomenon of parallel contact and ‘multiples’, we’re right at home suspending disbelief.


No spoilers here, so it’s enough to say the plot then revolves around correcting the wrongs done between 2022 and 2050; taking another time jump to when Adam’s father was still alive, and meeting up with the woman that Adam One knows is the soul partner he was destined for – a fellow pilot played by Zoe Saldana.

One sidebar of note is to look out for a character named Christos, a mortal enemy of Adam One. He’s played by Alex Mallari, Jr., a Filipino-Canadian actor. Alex was born here in the Philippines, but was raised in Canada.

What’s especially effective in this film is the interplay between Reynolds and Scobell, as the two iterations of Adam. Some touching scenes are also provided by Ruffalo, as he confronts two versions of his son. There’s a concluding scenario that asks a lot of us in terms of just going along for the ride, and won’t pass careful scrutiny; but at that point, we’re pretty much invested in the film, that it doesn’t really matter.

There’s a light touch to the directing and tone of the film, but lightness doesn’t mean it’s not effective. With the whole family as the target market, it’s excusable to find us not being subjected to long or logical explanations; and kids, more than us adults, will know that you leave that demand for rationality at the door, when you enter this kind of film.

Besides, I found this to be a more satisfying film than say, Red Notice, which was more about ‘look at the star power we assembled’; and fell short as a narrative-driven film experience. This one knows how to entertain, and keep us invested, caring about the characters. The Adam Project works, and I’ll actually say that it’s Scobell as the young Adam who best makes this happen.