The Adam Project (2022) Review

We have Deadpool, Elektra (from the Fox version), Gamora and Hulk in a single movie. Except that The Adam Project isn’t about the Marvel characters joining forces but just happens to feature these familiar faces. Instead, it’s a sci-fi adventure that combines the familiar time-travel elements and Amblin-style storytelling seen in the ’80s era.

The “Adam” in question refers to the titular fighter pilot, Adam Reed played by Ryan Reynolds. At the beginning of the film, he is supposed to travel into the past, specifically back to 2018 but mistakenly landed in 2022 instead. From there, he meets his much-younger self (Walker Scobell) in the woods. The two Adams do not get along at first but they eventually work together to save the world. Apparently, it has something to do with their late scientist-father (Mark Ruffalo), who invented the time-travel technology. And of course, no time-travel film would be complete without an antagonist and here, we have Catherine Keener plays Maya Sorian, who desperately wanted the technology for personal gains.

Director Shawn Levy, who reunites with Ryan Reynolds after last year’s Free Guy, doesn’t reinvent the been-there, done-that time-travel formula here. He simply embraces the oft-told genre and while I admit it does feel like a glossy, manufactured Hollywood product straight out from the assembly line, at least he does it with enough heart and decent entertainment values.

Ryan Reynolds and Zoe Saldana in Netflix's "The Adam Project" (2022)

The film mostly benefits from Ryan Reynolds and Walker Scobell as the two Adams. They share great chemistry and it’s nice to see them interacting and dealing with each other. Individually speaking, Reynolds’ smarmy and wisecracking schtick may see him playing his usual self again. But he uses them to his advantage and manages to balance his familiar act with some poignant touches of an emotionally-driven character. Newcomer Walker Scobell turns out to be a real find and he certainly shows a lot of promise as an up-and-coming actor to look forward to in the future.

Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo deliver solid supporting turns as Adam’s parents and seeing them together again immediately evoke a strong sense of nostalgia, given their previous memorable appearances in 2004’s 13 Going on 30. Unfortunately, the otherwise talented Catherine Keener is sadly relegated to a stock antagonist role. Zoe Saldana shows up as Adam’s love interest and while I love her energetic and physically demanding role here, her appearance is more of a glorified cameo. It’s kind of a wasted opportunity because her onscreen chemistry with Reynolds is among the best things here in this film.

"13 Going on 30" co-stars Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo reunites in Netflix's "The Adam Project" (2022)

The film has some worthwhile action sequences that are thankfully crisply edited and devoid of herky-jerky camerawork. The fight setpieces are equally well-choreographed, complete with Adam’s choice of weapon, which is an obvious homage to Darth Maul’s iconic double-bladed lightsaber (the word “lightsaber” is even literally referenced in the film) seen in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999). The film also has a field day referencing other like-minded genre films including Back to the Future and Terminator and at one point, there’s even a memorable quote straight out from the first Deadpool. Levy sure loves to insert pop-culture references as much as he did in Free Guy.

The special effects, in the meantime, is a mixed bag. I’m okay with most of the effect-laden sequences but what I can’t tolerate at all is the god-awful de-ageing effect on Catherine Keener’s character’s younger self. This is particularly evident with all the glaring dead eyes and the uncanny-valley appearance. Her character is already wasted enough and the poor de-ageing effect on her in certain scenes only make things worse.

Interestingly enough, The Adam Project used to be a victim of development hell that has been lingering around since 2012. Way before Netflix acquired the film, it was originally known as Our Name Is Adam with Tom Cruise attached in the lead role following Oblivion and Edge of Tomorrow.

The Adam Project will be streaming on Netflix this Friday.

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