Marvel fans have a lot to celebrate in Netflix’s new movie The Adam Project. Elektra, Deadpool and the Incredible Hulk may not sound like the ideal team up, but you know…art and stuff. Aside from that, there’s hardly a shortage of things to love about this story that celebrates family and accepting yourself at any age.
It must be said from the outset the emotional damage inflicted by this movie over and over again is breathtaking. Ryan Reynolds has always had a talent for partnering laugh-out-loud humor with heartbreaking devastation, and he was no exception here. Newcomer Walker Scobell did a fantastic job of giving a child’s eye view of grief and trauma in a story with a lot of both to spare. Even quiet moments were permeated with anguish. And Mark Ruffalo…I still don’t know if I’m strong enough to think about his whole storyline.
This movie clearly attended the Marvel School of Time Travel Explanations, and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Of course Ruffalo played a quantum physicist who radiates an egregious amount of chaotic energy. Although the specifics varied, the strategy of providing no explanation when asked was probably the most effective one. Rather than writing themselves into a hole, the filmmakers have left the science to us, and charged viewers to come up with our own unhinged explanations to make the whole thing work. The story is better for it.
The movie went incredibly hard on the humor and action to offset at least some of the emotional devastation. Not every joke landed at every moment, and there were definitely emotional moments undercut by an ill-timed attempt at humor. That being said, when the humor was good it was great. When the action was good it…looked like bad CGI. But it all worked out, and the massive CGI fights were kept to a minimum.
The weakest part of this movie was its treatment of women. Jennifer Garner was stellar as Adam’s mother Ellie. However, her character became a stand-in for how poorly treated mothers still are in our society. She never caught a break in the course of the movie. Zoe Saldaña’s character Laura had to die not once, but twice to prove her love to the male lead. And Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener) a one dimensional villain with no nuance nor sympathy. Even though her demise was coming, it held no weight and didn’t give the story any form of satisfying conclusion.
The third-act big bang failed to tie the entire story together. That doesn’t negate everything that came before. It was just disappointing that the powers that be couldn’t find a third act to fit with the tone that had previously been created. This was the moment where the less-than-stellar CGI was most evident. It completely took away from the story itself, and pulled focus from the characters. If so many movies are trying to reach Marvel’s levels when it comes to Big Third Acts, they’ll need a Marvel-level budget.
The Adam Project at it’s core was a meditation on grief and loss, as well as a topical reminder of the importance of self-love at any age. Who among us hasn’t looked back on the younger versions of ourselves with cringe at the least, loathing and judgement at worst? Perhaps if we look closer, we might find a lot to love about those previous versions of us and view them with a little more compassion. Although not nearly everything about this movie worked, the parts that did were so incredibly endearing, making it absolutely worth the enjoyable watch.
The Adam Project is available to stream on Netflix.