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The Adam Project Ending Explained: Ryan Reynolds’ Time Travel Adventure, Unwound

Ryan Reynolds says goodbye to Walker Scobell in The Adam Project.
(Image credit: Netflix)

Warning: spoilers for The Adam Project ending are in play. If you’re looking to avoid the twists and turns of this Netflix original, head over to another piece of non-spoiler content from CinemaBlend.

Teamed up for their second film together, director Shawn Levy and star Ryan Reynolds scored a heartfelt time travel adventure through The Adam Project. The latest original to join the library of movies on Netflix, there’s a lot of moving parts that might need some explanation after getting to the end of this funny, but sweet journey through the fourth dimension. Luckily, we happen to have the answers you crave, and we’re about to jump into the craziness that is The Adam Project’s tale of temporal tampering.  

This is your last chance to avoid spoilers, as even Christopher Lloyd could tell you that there’s no turning back the clock after we begin. (And in a sense, he actually did thanks to a fun ad he did with Ryan Reynolds.) If you want to keep your viewing experience fresh, but want to know a little more about The Adam Project, you can read our official review. Otherwise, sticking around from this point forward will divulge many secrets, starting with what happened at the end of the movie.

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

(Image credit: Netflix)

What Happened At The End Of The Adam Project?

2018 is a more important year than you’d think, thanks to The Adam Project (opens in new tab). Unknown to the world at large, it’s the year that two versions of Adam Reed (Ryan Reynolds/Walker Scobell) teamed up with their dad Louis (Mark Ruffalo, in a casting move that makes total sense) to save the world. As Louis has just accidentally invented time travel, the boys slip back to this very year to correct that supposed error in history, and do so with flying colors. After destroying the only copy of the algorithm that makes time travel possible, in a manner befitting of an explosive blockbuster, the two Adams and their father play catch. 

It would be their final moment together, as both Adams have to return to their corrected timelines, with Louis destined to die not too long after the moment they’re currently sharing. Thanks to the catharsis of one final adventure with dad, Younger Adam learns to go easier on his poor mother, Ellie (Jennifer Garner), and Older Adam continues through to his much brighter future, where he meets his beloved wife Laura (Zoe Saldana). 

Zoe Saldana looks up with caution in The Adam Project.

(Image credit: Netflix)

How The Adam Project’s Future Originally Turned Out So Grim

The events of The Adam Project weren’t always so rosy. By time the movie opens in an altered 2050, Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener) is the most powerful person in the future. She managed to do this through, among other things, cornering the market on time travel; much like Ron Silver did in the 1994 time travel classic Timecop. With Laura presumed dead at Maya’s hand, Older Adam Reed takes matters into his own hands to correct the past.

Stealing a time jet, Adam intended to jump back to 2018, and enlist his father Louis to help him restore the future. Of course, The Adam Project throws in an added wrench of Older Adam accidentally landing in 2022, which then sees him recruiting his younger self to join the fight. Though he's not the only future defender trying to protect the timeline from the past. 

In a bittersweet twist, we find out that Laura is actually alive and well after her supposedly fatal trip to 2018. Hiding out in hopes of correcting history for the better, she and Adam are reunited in 2022, but only for a brief moment. Sacrificing herself so that both Adams can travel back to 2018 themselves, Adam loses his wife again, with the hope that they'll still meet on the corrected timeline. 

Ryan Reynolds defends himself with a staff while Walker Scobell watches in The Adam Project.

(Image credit: Netflix)

The Key Events Of The Adam Project That Needed To Change

In the long run, a whole bunch of things need to change in The Adam Project’s skewed timeline. Most importantly, all of Maya Sorian’s scheming and influencing needs to be undone, and there’s a lot of pieces to that puzzle. In order to collapse Maya’s empire, scores of illegal financial dealings and policy making need to be prevented.

Of course, there’s one easy way to wipe all of these misdeeds off the map: erase time travel from the timeline. The one key event that needs to be altered above all others is The Adam Project’s accidental invention of time travel, which means Louis’s algorithm needs to be lost before the government or Maya can even begin to capitalize on it. So long as time travel exists, it can be abused to reap ill gotten gains. 

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

(Image credit: Netflix)

Why Maya Changed The Original Timeline (And The Consequences)

What drove The Adam Project’s villain to try and take over the world? In a word: legacy. As we learn when Older Maya is monologuing with her younger self, Maya Sorian is consigned to obscurity in the history of time travel. The government allegedly gets their hands on it, and her lonely lifestyle of long hours and isolation were all for nothing. If Sorian is going to sacrifice her life in the name of time travel, shouldn't she at least get something out of it? 

Older Maya travels back to 2018, gives Younger Maya the tips and tricks she needs to build an empire, while ruining the world in the process. The consequences are a vastly altered timeline that stems from The Adam Project’s earliest point in time and throughout the rest of the film. Though as an added bonus, the impulsive nature of Older Maya deletes her own existence from the timeline overall.

In her attempt to kill Younger Adam, erasing him from time itself, Older Maya accidentally kills Younger Maya with the bullet she intended for her young target. The bullet then continues to damage the particle accelerator that helped accidentally introduce the world of The Adam Project to time travel, eventually resulting in the destruction of the lab Maya and Louis Reed were working in. Time travel is officially dead, Maya Sorian no longer exists, and time can now play out as it’s originally intended to.

Mark Ruffalo says goodbye to Walker Scobell in The Adam Project.

(Image credit: Netflix)

Could Adam Have Saved His Father?

Some might be wondering if The Adam Project left the door open for Louis Reed’s life to be spared. With his fatal automobile accident occurring after the window into 2018 our heroes travelled back to, some could argue that this was an event that took place in the tangent timeline. Not to mention, the way that the story was winding up in the later acts, it almost felt like there was going to be a twist where Maya Sorian killed Louis to take control of time travel.

That’s not the case, as Louis Reed’s death seems like an accident that was always supposed to happen. Were this moment to have never happened, the characters and the story of The Adam Project would lack the personal growth we see both Adams undertake. Processing their shared trauma, Adam Reed understands that he has to cherish those he loves while they’re still in his life. 

Older Adam Reed learns from his mistakes, and creates a better life where he appreciates his mother and his younger self. By the time he meets his wife to be Laura, the traumatic events of their original future are forgotten, and they get to have a fresh start in a shiny new timeline. The Adam Project is no more, but after seeing what the results entailed, it’s for the best.

If you’ve somehow read this entire ending breakdown without seeing the movie, or if you want to run through this exciting adventure all over again, The Adam Project is available to be streamed by Netflix subscribers far and wide. For those of you who don’t mind a peek into the future, feel free to head over to the 2022 Netflix movie schedule. There’s plenty of new thrills headed our way in the year to come, and this is the sort of knowledge that won’t screw up the spacetime continuum. 

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