Do you guys remember when you used to watch old straight-to-DVD cartoon movies? Or those off-brand coming of age films that had a fun feel good message at the end? Like, Indian in the Cupboard or Brother Bear or something? This movie is like that, but with good CGI and just as much racism as the early 2000’s.
This movie is made for children. It’s not meant for us adults, despite Ryan Reynolds: famous R-Rated comedian actor, playing the protagonist. If you accept this, then you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the movie. If you don’t relax, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble being ok with watching this movie. I have a hard time relaxing.
That being said, Ryan Reynolds gets a chance to be good at acting outside of his annoying, overdone schtick. I’ve mentioned this annoyance before, in my review for The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, but I think that Reynolds has been buttonholed into playing the same guy in every movie since the first Deadpool. Don’t get me wrong, he is absolutely, classically, sarcastic, mean, and ironic in this film. But he’s also… kind of complex.
You see, Reynolds plays Adult Adam (AA), while Walker Scobell plays Young Adam (YA), but AA has led a difficult life, full of losing fights over and over again. He’s a tall, muscular, cool guy, but only if you’re a 12 year old kid. In reality, AA is a sad, hurt, lonely, vengeful man. It’s actually kind of fun to know, as an adult, that we’re seeing both perspectives. As a result, Reynolds gets a chance to play this deeply complex role, knowing he’s cool for kids but pained for adults. He regrets his relationship with his mom, his dad, even his wife. The kid only sees the tech and the muscles and the progress- not the pain.
Reynolds does a great job, and gets to keep doing what he does. It’s refreshing. Also, Mark Ruffalo is a better mad scientist in this movie and the MCU should let him keep doing this as Bruce Banner.
Sci-Fi for the 21st Century
You know how every other film in theaters lately is a superhero movie, and nearly every superhero movie is a Marvel movie? It’s annoying, right? It annoys me, and I love those movies. Turns out, the people in the movies hate those movies too. Reynolds, Saldana and Ruffalo are all bonafide Marvel icons. Yet, this film actively hates on- and comments on- the fact that kids watch too many of those movies. More specifically, superhero movies. Even more specifically, this ridiculous fucking multiverse thing that the MCU is leaning into. I’ve complained about it in my Spiderman: No Way Home review a little bit, but I really don’t like this direction because it’s narratively lazy and relies far too much on people having watched everything that Marvel has put out. If it’s an optional watch, yeah, that’s fun. But a mandatory viewing of a peripheral media? That’s just obnoxious.
They also make fun of Star Wars because the kid thinks that Reynolds’ (admittedly original and very cool) weapon is a lightsaber, and we all hate that kids think that all swords are just lightsabers. Hell, even autocorrect won’t give you a little squiggly line if you type in ‘lightsaber’.
I do have issues with this movie, however. The script, direction and cinematography is fine. Just fine. It doesn’t have to be great because this movie was made for children, but it helps. What does matter is the messaging they send to the kids. This film has a great time telling us to be kinder to our parents, kinder to ourselves, and focus on being good people for our future selves. It’s a great lesson, and I loved when my childhood films gave me those lessons. Going back to Indian in the Cupboard, I distinctly recall the scene where the kid giddily turns an old Native American toy man to life. The old man, shocked at the reality of this massive child, dies immediately of a heart attack, teaching the kid not to fuck around with this fantastic power he’s been given.
To reiterate, kids’ movies contain life lessons and morals explicitly because parents love when media does their job for them. I don’t blame them though, because movies are a way for society to spread culture and knowledge. It’s a way for us to learn from one another, figure out what’s acceptable in the zeitgeist, what’s normal and what’s not. It’s important that people who make kids’ movies understand this, because they need to pay attention to all the nuances of their films, and all the lessons in their movies. This is why Pixar makes such great kids’ movies.
The Adam Project features a 12 year old boy. A male child. A cis, white, heterosexual male child. Who, in the future, meets and weds a lightskinned black woman with straight hair who shoots guns and fucks like a champ. This is not reality. This is also a major issue I have with this film.
Zoe Saldana appears in The Adam Project for a grand total of three scenes. The first is when she saves Adult Adam in an action scene, then when they retreat to her cabin- and fuck. Later that day they’re ambushed by the bad guy and Saldana dies protecting Adam. Saldana returns for one final moment at the end, as a literal reward for Adam. It’s disgusting.
This is not an accurate representation of black women, women in general, or relationships. It is literally a male fantasy and I hate that it’s in this otherwise decent movie. As a horny male myself, I realized that Saldana’s character was going to become the wet dream sex object for a ton of kids, and this is problematic. I actually wish Saldana had passed on the role, and let someone else bear the brunt of this social failure. Based on the editing and sparseness of her presence in the film, I actually suspect that she may have actually been a very late addition to the cast.
Just as a warning, the only other person of color in this movie is a nameless Asian henchman. This movie is not minority-friendly. It is an unapologetic white, privileged fantasy. No one in my generation will be able to afford a fucking cabin in the woods as nice as the one in this movie. No astrophysist makes that kind of money. Trust me, I was an astrophysicist at one point in my life.
I am going to write an erotic fanfiction of me and Zoe Saldana and NONE OF YOU CAN STOP ME SHUT UP I HAD A DIFFICULT CHILDHOOD.
The Adam Project is available in theaters for a short time, and always on Netflix.