Blockbuster movies made for Netflix still haven’t quite managed to crack the level of quality you’d expect considering the sheer amount of cash the streaming service spends on their productions. Ryan Reynolds seems to be the unofficial poster boy for this as both the underwhelming and expensive 6 Underground and Red Notice went on to feel weirdly disposable despite the hype that went into them.
However, Netflix’s most recent attempt to try and make Reynolds’ streaming antics viable is The Adam Project, a sci-fi action pic from Shawn Levy, whose last movie was the bewilderingly entertaining Free Guy that also saw its star synch up that forever reving motormouth with a sizable effects budget.
Does this dose of Back To The Future meets virtually ever other time travel movie ever made manage to turn Netflix’s efforts around or is it yet another ironic case of history repeating itself?
It’s the year 2050 and time travel is real. Epically cynical test pilot Adam Reed steals a time travelling space jet – or as he puts it, “Borrowed the shit out of it” – and attempt to jump back to 2018 to save his wife who was lost in a previous mission that involved her jumping through time. However, after the inconvenience of getting shot messes up his math, he instead travels to 2022 with a hole in his side and a busted jet and he takes refuge in the only place he knows – the home of his twelve year-old self.
At this point in his life, Adam is an asthmatic runt with a big mouth who balances regular ass-whuppings with unleashing his caustic wit on everyone around him in the wake of the death of his scientist father. However, older Adam’s accidental detour proves to be awkwardly beneficial as the time jet is coded to his DNA and after convincing his younger self that he’s striving to thwart an multiversal conspiracy, the two get the jet working in order just in time for the time travelling shit to hit the fan.
Chronal kingpin Soren, a former colleague of Adam’s father who has manipulated this scientific discovery to illegally make her fortune while simultaneously trashing the future, arrives with an army of armoured, silvery Stormtrooper types and the chase is on to change the time stream for the better.
After a lot of bickering with himself and a fair few surprises, both Adams bounce themselves back to 2018 in order to meet up with their pre-death dad in order to kill time travel once and for all. However, there’s something more pressing than futuristic assassins and dystopian futures and that’s the metric ton of daddy issues both older and younger Adam have to resolve now that they’re face to face with their dear, departed dad.
So, to cut to the chase, The Adam Project isn’t bad at all. It’s funny, it’s polished and it’s genuinely heartfelt at times and as fitting for it’s director, who regularly delves into 80’s nostalgia with his work on Stranger Things, The Adam Project shamelessly pillages that same cheesy tone from such endearingly dated family sci-fi fkicks as The Last Starfighter, Explorers, Flight Of The Navigator and Masters Of The Universe. However, as it goes on it ends up borrowing a hell of a lot more than that and before you’ve even gotten halfway through, you’ve spotted scenes, concepts and even shots pilfered from an astonishing amount of sources that make the movie hopelessly derivative despite the good things that come out of it thus making the while damn thing feel rather inconsequential.
It’s a shame, because as you’re reeling off bits stolen from other movies such as Top Gun, Captain Marvel, Independence Day, most of the Terminator films, Star Wars, all of the other films I’ve previously mentioned and lots more besides, there’s some truly fun stuff to unpack here.
The cast is the sort of collection of superhero veterans that kicks off drinking games and Reynolds brings that standard brand of textbook self loathing wise ass that seen him well virtually his entire career but his scenes opposite the more laconic Mark Ruffalo are pure gold, their opposing cadences and dualling goofiness is an honest high point among the flashy action and cool tech nicked from other movies (the lightsaber is freaking shameless). Elsewhere, young Walker Scobell channels Reynolds’ hyperverbal wisecrackery to stunning effect, impressively matching his older self withering remark for withering remark as he jousts with the latter’s notorious talent for sarcasm with boundless excitement pushed through an impossibly gleeful grin – surely this kid has a bright future.
Elsewhere, Jennifer Garner does solid work in the overwhelmed single mom genre and we even get a brief, but weirdly sweet 13 Going On 30 reunion between Garner and Ruffalo that I didn’t know I even wanted.
On the flip side, while it’s great to see Zoe Saldana kicking ass in a sci-fi movie while keeping her original skin pigmentation (no Gamora greens or Na’vi blues here) but she’s hideously underutilised in a role that’s not much more than a glorified cameo. Also feeling wasted is Catherine Keener as the villain (or villains) of the piece, but she is only required to do your basic brand of corporate, sci-fi nefariousness that clings very much to the kind of work Ron Silver did in Timecop.
So, despite some effective pulling of heart strings and some nifty fights scenes, The Adam Project unfortunately doesn’t reverse that stigma of Neflix blockbusters just yet, but it’s still a mildly diverting romp that you’ll lap up primarily because you don’t actually have to make much of an effort to see it.
You’ll watch it, you’ll probably like it, but chances are you wouldn’t reverse time just to see it again…