Time travel is like catnip for storytellers. They just can’t get enough of it and love coming back for more. The great thing about time travel is that it’s a mechanism, not a genre in itself. Time travel can occur in a comedy, a romance, an action film — the list goes on. The problem with time travel, however, is that although writers tend to root it in science, it really leans more towards magic. There are no rules for how time travel works in real life, so writers are forced to come up with rules on their own. Very rarely though do those rules hold up under scrutiny, so as an audience member, the best thing to do is to just sit back and enjoy the ride rather than put much thought or analysis into the rules themselves.
The Adam Project is a great example of this. The plot of the film is extremely manufactured and contrived in order to set up a situation in which Ryan Reynolds‘s character meets his younger self. To accomplish this and move the story forward, the movie’s time travel rules are a bit stricter than most. Yet, if you dwell on them, those rules don’t make sense and start to fall apart. But if you ignore those rules, the film can still be a lot of fun with some great heartfelt moments. The comedy and sci-fi action is the driving force behind the movie, so to enjoy them you have to overlook its time travel confusion.
Avengers: Endgame has a similar problem. Its time travel rules are even addressed during the movie, but ultimately, this is not a story about hard sci-fi. It’s a fun Marvel movie about superheroes and the culmination of a decade’s worth of storytelling. The movie plays to fan service and nostalgia for all the films past, building to a great moment during the final battle. So although time travel can be used to tell a lot of great stories, audiences should take its rules lightly to enjoy the tales for what they are.
The Adam Project is now streaming on Netflix. Avengers: Endgame is now streaming on Disney+.