Skip to main content

How The Adam Project's Time Travel Works

The Adam Project
(Image credit: Netflix)

Warning: spoilers for The Adam Project and its time travel adventure are in play. We’re going to talk about a lot of plot points here, and it’s all classified. So don’t be afraid to head out to a spoiler-free piece of coverage on CinemaBlend, should you want to remain fresh.

Oh boy. Where do I begin with this latest wrinkle in the timeline? You know how, through some sort of fun and games another version of me traveled a year in the future to talk about how Hot Tub Time Machine’s time travel works? Well, that version of me promised we were going to talk about Timecop next, and to be fair I can see why. There are events in Netflix’s The Adam Project that echo that very movie’s plot, and it could have made for some useful background. 

However, with the recent release of Ryan Reynolds' journey to the past on everyone's minds, it only seemed right to shift gears for the moment. We're all about timeliness here at CinemaBlend, and timelines can always shift in the name of excitement. Before we get started, here’s a quick word of wisdom from fellow time expert Christopher Lloyd; thanks to a very special PSA hyping the movie we’re about to discuss: 

Without further delay, let’s fire up the Time Jet, crank up The Spencer Davis Group, and discuss from here to there in the then and now. 

Ryan Reynolds in The Adam Project

(Image credit: Netflix Film)

The Time Travel In The Adam Project

In the future, the world is pretty messed up, and under the control of one Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener). Desperately hoping to correct the timeline, Captain Adam Reed (Ryan Reynolds) makes an unauthorized trip into the past, but accidentally finds himself running into his younger self (Walker Scobell) in the process. Hilarity, and Star Wars style shenanigans, ensue.

Who's Time Traveling
Our main time travelers are both versions of Adam Reed, with the older version of Maya Sorian chasing them down through the timeline. Though it’s later revealed that Adam’s wife and fellow time pilot Laura (Zoe Saldana) has also made her own jump into the past. 

From When To When
The events of The Adam Project take place between 2018 and 2050, with Older Adam accidentally stopping in 2022 to pick up Younger Adam. This is also where he reunites with Laura, after previously thinking she had died in a trip to 2018. 

The Purpose Of Their Trip
Thanks to Maya Sorian’s evil scheme to manipulate her past self into building a world ruling empire, the timeline has become corrupted. Piecing together this insidious conspiracy in 2050, Adam Reed needs to go back to 2018 to prevent his father, Louis (Mark Ruffalo) from accidentally inventing time travel. 

A wormhole generated by a time jet in The Adam Project.

(Image credit: Netflix)

How Time Travel Happens In The Adam Project

Prepare for one of the coolest time machines this side of Doc Brown’s DeLorean! Just when Ryan Reynolds had thought people would forget his time as an ace pilot in Green Lantern, he’s thrown into another hot shot’s cockpit in The Adam Project’s preferred method of temporal excursion: the Time Jet! Coded to the DNA of the pilot that is assigned to a specific jet, only that person (or any incarnation they meet on the timeline) can use it.

How this works is actually quite simple, and definitely in line with how Back to the Future’s time travel works. Since Time Jets fly through air and space with ease, you only need a space that has enough room to hold a localized wormhole that makes time travel possible. Time Jets generate these wormholes, through a cannon mounted on the underside of the craft, and all that’s required is the right amount of energy to produce the charge that opens these wormholes.

It’s all possible thanks to ISPCA, or the Infinitely Shifting Plasma Containing Algorithm. Designed by Louis Reed to stabilize the wormholes he and Maya were working with, the man himself describes it as “the mathematical equation to make time travel possible,” its existence holds the key to everything. Destroy that, you destroy time travel.

Unfortunately, this process can be a bit tricky, as The Adam Project shows us first hand. Captain Adam Reed meant to zap himself back to 2018, where the problems of his future all began; but he accidentally winds up in 2022. There’s a lot of “oopsie daisies” in this universe, and they all add up to Maya Sorian’s dastardly plot to control the world. 

Catherine Keener offers her younger self a drink in The Adam Project.

(Image credit: Netflix)

Can History Be Changed As A Result Of Time Travel In The Adam Project?

Thanks to Maya Sorian’s funding and Louis Reed’s work creating “utilitarian wormholes in space,” the experiment known as The Adam Project actually gave humanity the means to travel through time. Time travel can absolutely change history in this universe, and its mere existence is the catalyst for the chain of events that see the Adams facing off against Sorian.

In terms of how our time travelers exist in the universe of The Adam Project, it’s basically a case of one singular timeline that’s being rewritten in real time. Since Maya Sorian’s disruptions originate in 2018, the timeline that sees The Adams going on their adventure is already skewed. While Laura freaks out about “parallel contact” between the younger and older Adam Reed, it’s not a problem as things are already borked from four years prior to their meeting.

By time The Adam Project puts right what once went wrong, the singular timeline is corrected to its original state. It only took two major corrections, which unraveled the consequences of Sorian’s empire building enterprises. 

Zoe Saldana and Ryan Reynolds meet in a futuristic classroom in The Adam Project.

(Image credit: Netflix)

What Are The Consequences Of Time Travel In The Adam Project?

Despite the agreement between Louis Reed and Maya Sorian that The Adam Project would have an oversight committee to ensure ethical usage of time travel, that never happens. After Louis’ untimely death, Maya takes over the project, and uses it to install herself as a ruthless tyrant. If it wasn’t for Louis’ well-intentioned work, none of this would have ever happened.

How Time Travel Impacted The Life Of Maya Sorian
Through Maya’s altered timeline, she’s practically unstoppable. Rich beyond her wildest dreams, and ethically corrupt as a result, she has legions of troops and henchmen helping her rule with an iron fist. Unfortunately for her, that hubris leads to her trying to kill Young Adam in 2018, which through a series of scientific flukes and bad luck leads to her accidentally erasing herself from the timeline by killing Young Maya. 

How Time Travel Impacted The Life Of Adam Reed
Sadly, Adam Reed cannot save his dad, as those events are not connected to The Adam Project’s ultimate mission. However, through his journey with his younger self and his late father, Adam learns to process his grief better throughout life. Repairing his relationship with his dear mother Ellie (Jennifer Garner), Adam becomes a better person, and a good son. Thankfully, it all leads up to Adam and Laura still meeting in the future, without a time pilot program to take them apart. 

Ryan Reynolds, Mark Ruffalo, and Walker Scobell walking together in The Adam Project.

(Image credit: Netflix)

Time Travel Exists. You Just Don’t Know About It Yet.

Who's ready for our next lesson in time travel? This one comes courtesy of Prime Video’s The Tomorrow War, where we’ll see what happens when Chris Pratt and his fellow soldiers are drafted into a war that’s decades in the future. That’s your homework for next week, so make sure your Amazon Prime subscription is in order to be prepared.

Before we dismiss the class for this week, don’t forget you can catch up on all of our past case studies in time travel through the CinemaBlend Time Travel Archives. I didn’t almost die in Timeline’s parallel version of medieval France to just let these breakdowns sit on a hard drive in our sub-basement. Until next time travel, stay safe, and try to avoid parallel contact with your past self as much as possible. 

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.