The Adam Project (2022)
PG-13 for '80s / '90s style swearing. There's a lot of violence, but summer blockbuster style violence. If you really think about it, I'm pretty sure that all of those guys are dead. But it's kind of unexplained what exactly happens to the guys that Adam dispatches. Also, there's some sex talk, but family friendly sex talk. It's got the objectionable content that a Marvel movie would. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Shawn Levy
See, I was about to write off Shawn Levy. But before I really spiral down a blog entry that I'm kind of terrified to write, let's establish that A) I really want to write and B) I don't want to write about this. Most people wouldn't want to write about this because it's disposable Netflix content. Not me. I enjoyed this movie quite a bit. But I'm also in the rare place of having to defend something that is absolute fluff and that other people don't like. My students all thought this movie was dumb and that Free Guy was great. I can tear apart Free Guy with the best of them. But defending something? I mean, I could summarize that it was fun and we don't get a lot of fun movies that aren't directly franchises.
But The Adam Project is Literally Anything catnip. It's a time-travel movie that deals with lost fathers. Come on. You don't have to try that hard to win me over, Netflix. I'm going to watch you. I feel a little bad because I watched it without my wife there. I was at my mom's house and she wanted to watch a movie. I assumed that Lauren wouldn't want to watch this one, so I watched it with my mom. Then, I find out that Lauren wanted to watch this one and now I don't know what to do. I will say that I enjoyed it quite a bit, but not enough to make veiled references to it in a tee-shirt. It just might be the best thing that Shawn Levy ever made. Look at that. You made me lash out at Shawn Levy, guys. I didn't mean to say that. It's a very fun movie. A lot of my point of view comes from the trailer that has reviews in it. This is the kind of movie that Steven Spielberg used to make. It is absolutely a popcorn film, but it isn't absolutely stupid either. I know. I shouldn't complain about movies like Transformers and have a weird line in the sand. But The Adam Project takes some of the ideas that all time travel nerds think about and just made an action-comedy out of the film.
Now, the weird thing about The Adam Project is that I'm not scrutinizing the rules of time travel. That's my thing. Every time a new set of time travel rules comes out, I start talking obsessively about those rules. I think I like the time travel rules of The Adam Project, but I haven't really thought about them ad nauseum. Just for the sake of clarity, I'm going to lay them out right now. Whenever time is changed, memories won't adapt to the new changes until the time traveler returns to his or her original timelines. It's not a perfect set of rules because the movie suffers from that final event where the bad guy accidentally kills her younger self, wiping herself from the reality. I think that the people behind this movie are smart, keeping the rules of time travel a little cryptic. We aren't given a ton of information on the minutiae of how time travel works, which is all for the best because it simplifies it. The fact that I can watch this movie and not come down hard on paradoxes means that I don't have enough evidence to either support or refute the rules of the movie.
Now, is that lazy? I don't think so. There's something very smart about keeping it simple. Because the film is fundamentally about character and plot, muddying the waters with pointless exposition would only hurt this film. This is the kind of time travel that we've always imagined. We want the stories of going back in time and visiting our younger selves. Heck, the movie is really aimed at younger audiences, so it's also about knowing what you will be in the future. It's addressing the issues we deal with in a manner that puts us in the third person. And that's what the movie captures so beautifully. There's got to be a German word for when you identify your flaws in other people and dislike those people all the more. That feeling usually takes a heavy dose of introspection, but with a time travel tale, no introspection needed. Every foible that either Adam commits, he recognizes it as something that he's never dealt with in a healthy way. I always have the idea that I would hate myself always nine years ago. If I have to meet a version of myself that was nine years younger, I would not care for that person. But that's what makes fun drama. These people automatically have their walls lowered because there's no pretense. It's the family you've never known you had.
But I'm the guy who keeps jumping into the dead dad pool. There's the torturing mom stuff. I don't know how much of that I did. I mean, I took out all my aggression on stepparents, so keep that in mind. But it had to hurt and I like the fact in this action sci-fi comedy that the movie takes the time to talk about the role of the grieving mother. God, it's just hitting so many buttons that only the suffering really understand. I'm not saying any of it is smart. There's a difference between vulnerable and smart. But The Adam Project is about emotional intelligence. It's the idea that your father isn't who you think he is, but that doesn't make him not your dad. Those interactions between both versions of Adam is haunting. I don't know if I would ever be older Adam, angry at Dad for dying in a car crash. (I actually misunderstood the film and thought that Maya killed Adam's father and made it look like an accident.) But that would have been something that might have been a bit too wish fulfillment. I mean, the film is largely wish fulfillment, being able to go back and time and have an adventure with your dad. I talked about this a lot with Onward. But getting him back? That might be a line too far. It's such a happy ending that I actually can't get behind it. But older Adam's reaction to his father...like I started. I don't know if Adam wouldn't turn into 12-year-old Adam when sitting down with his father. I can see animosity between the two of them. Heck, that even makes sense because it is how Adam learned to cope. But I don't see him keeping that wall up when he views someone that has defined his entire personality without a little bit of waterworks behind it.
If I do have to complain beyond my passive aggressive, backhanded-compliments, I do want to talk about the awful awful awful uncanny valley behind Maya. When I saw Tron: Legacy (I think it was called that), I was amazed what they could do with Jeff Bridges. But ever since Ant-Man made Michael Douglas look exactly like he did in the '80s, I couldn't look back. This is me at my worst. I acknowledge that I'm a flawed human and that I need to adjust. But keep in mind, this is the same feeling that got me to hate the first Twilight movie so much. Now, with a Netflix film, you kind of write off the fact that these are movies that have big budgets. And some of the effects are cool. I will say that the vaporizing of people in these movies is pretty gnarly. And while there's nothing groundbreaking with the time travel visuals, it also doesn't pull me out of the movie. This brings me to Shawn Levy. Shawn Levy just got a tangential nomination for his work on Free Guy when it comes to visual effects. I couldn't stand those images. It was all popcorny and meh. But it feels like he's very cool with functional, not amazing. I'm writing on a laptop right now with no budget on this things, so I understand settling to make the movie happen. But maybe this stuff didn't have to be done with de-aging technology. I can't understand why this wasn't addressed in pre-production. If they knew that they couldn't do it well, why do it? This might be a bigger criticism on the dependence for de-aging. I mean, even Star Wars has an issue with making these images convincing. But it is just so rough.
Listen, I know that there are things in this movie that are cornball. The full on fourth wall Deadpool joke almost made me forget that I was having a really good time with this movie. But it has more good in it than bad. If you take into account that this is a movie that knows what it wants to be, a popcorn movie with heart, it nails that. It nails it hard. It has some themes. Those themes are pretty well explored. Heck, I'm a guy who has written off Shawn Levy and I really dug it. It's a fun strong narrative with decent jokes. That's all I think I really needed.
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Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.