This post was supposed to be a post on the science of Project Almanac. There is no science in the movie. None at all. There isn’t even any bogus math. However, there are some really impressive looking gadgets and some interesting ways of looking at alternative world timelines. But most of the technology and science just doesn’t make any sense, when it’s there, that is.
I did not want to finish this review. If it weren’t for all the requests for me to finish it I would have given this movie a pass. As a time travel movie, it’s OK. As a launching point to discuss science or rubber science, it stinks. As a teenybopper movie, as an adolescent fantasy, well then, it’s pretty good. Sofia Black-D’Elia and Ginny Gardner are certainly up to the task of fueling adolescent fantasies. So is Jonny Weston for that matter.
The main characters: David Raskin (Jonny Weston), Adam Le (Allen Evangelista) and Quinn Goldberg (Sam Lerner), David’s sister Christina (Ginny Gardner), and the love interest Jessie Pierce (Sofia Black-D’Elia).
David Raskin is a genius. His father is also a genius. He notices in one of his home movies a reflection of himself at his current age, senior in high school, in a mirror at his seventh birthday party. He watches as the reflection moves toward the basement. So he explores the basement until he finds a hidden panel. Under that panel is a gadget that his father built while working on some special, super secret government project. Let’s just call the gadget a flux capacitor because it isn’t named in the movie. (Even if it is named in the movie, flux capacitor is as good as any other bogus name. It’s at that same level of specificity anyway, so why not?) With the flux capacitor are plans to finish building a time machine.
David builds the time machine and then uses it to enrich himself and his friends as well as maneuver events to get Jessie, the popular girl in school, to fall in love with him. He does all this via the time machine because David is a wimp and can’t bring himself to ask Jessie out for a date even though Jessie secretly admires him and even though David is played by Jonny Weston. Go figure.
David seems intelligent, cool and decent looking but doesn’t have any backbone. He is a nerd. He dreams of going to MIT but his single mother, his father died in a car crash the same day as David’s 7th birthday party, doesn’t have the money to send him to MIT without a full scholarship.
Thus, this story is also a coming of age adventure as well as a time travel movie.
The friends, see main characters above, use the time machine to go to rock concerts, party and get good grades. Add to that getting laid and you have the ultimate adolescent fantasy cum power trip. They also use this awesome power to win the lottery and fix their pathetic love lives. In the end, however, they mess up the timeline so badly that David has to go back and destroy the flux capacitor to reset the timeline. Of course, he fears he won’t get the girl. Throughout this whole movie, David fears he won’t get the girl. Even after he gets the girl, he is motivated by the fear that he won’t get the girl because he constantly flits around in time, by himself, breaking a pact he made with this friends never to travel alone in time. And of course, since he violated the pact, this spells disaster. He loses the girl. He has to flit around some more in time to fix this, piling change on change. (Though why the pact is important is anyone’s guess. The pact only prevents the gang of kids from being affected by the changes not the rest of the world and it is the rest of the world that winds up in the shitter. To see a complete synopsis, click here.)
The timeline in Project Almanac, unlike Primer, is linear. There is no branching of the timeline at all. Rather, the timeline changes, then the people who change it go back to where they started in the original timeline but with the changes. That is, if you start in timeline A, you don’t return to an unchanged timeline A or crossover to timeline B, but rather come back to where you started in timeline A but with butterfly-effect like changes. (Timeline A’ is equal to timeline A plus change.) Some of the changes surprise the hell out of the kids. And of course, because David has broken the pact, the other kids are mad at him that he changed their world. Forget about the billions of other people on the planet, they are pissed because he went behind their backs and changed their lives.
This single timeline view makes the time travel loops somewhat easier to keep track of because there are no loops. The movie is simpler to understand than most time travel movies but, then, it isn’t a very good time travel movie. However, you don’t need a scorecard or a synopsis explaining all the loops and their resolutions, or lack of resolution, as you do for Primer. That’s something.
The kids, having gotten hold of the flux capacitor, hook it up to batteries. This is one of the first bogus pieces of technology in the movie aside from the flux capacitor itself. They hook it up to the most powerful batteries they can find and eventually have to use a car battery to get enough juice. How, then, is a car battery any more powerful than household current? And why do they need batteries. Presumably they want the portability that batteries afford. However, since they aren’t traveling very far back in time, why they can’t just plug into household current in the past is anybody’s guess.
So, what is the first thing they do after traveling back in time for the first time? The first thing the kids do is go to Quinn’s house to look at him sleeping just to make sure that they are time traveling. Quinn draws on his past self’s neck to see if they get a Looper effect. We watch as he draws on his own neck and it magically appears on the future Quinn’s neck. Then, the past Quinn wakes up and see his future self and the two of them start flickering. This is interesting. Why would meeting your future self start rewriting your existence in a timeline? Quickly, the kids hightail it out of the past Quinn’s presence before disaster strikes. Eventually, though, Jesse meets her past self by accident and they both disappear.
This doesn’t seem logical. What if one of the kids does not recognize himself? Say the past kid? Would they both disappear anyway? Is it the recognition or the simply act of seeing you future or past self? No other information is exchanged other than a visual of your other self. Is a paradox created just by seeing your past or future self? What paradox would that be? I have nothing. This isn’t like the grandfather paradox where you go back and kill your grandfather, thus preventing you from being born and going back to kill your grandfather, etc. You aren’t occupying the same space at the save time.
Eventually, after much time traveling, David goes back into the past to destroy the time machine and plans and everything is reset. His body flickers in the past and then vanishes. Now, why would that happen? Is this akin to the grandfather paradox?
We cut to David, back in the present, looking in the attic with Christina. They find their dad’s camera with footage of what they were saying and doing just a few minutes ago. Then later, at school with the gang, David realizes he has Jesse’s backpack. (Remember, they shouldn’t remember any of what just happened in the movie because it didn’t.) He returns the backpack and says to Jesse something she told him the first time they spoke. Jesse asks him how he knew what she was going to say. He leans in and says, “This is gonna sound crazy, but I think we’re about to change the world.”
This last line had me clutching my head, screaming, “Oh no. Not again. Why does he want to go through all that mess again?”
The only parts of this movie that ring true are the adolescent angst about sex and popularity, when they are using the time machine to go to rock concerts, win lotteries and arrange their sex lives for the better. The rest of it is just smoke, hogwash and beef and cheesecake.
My next post will be about The Name of the Wind and Station Eleven. Just as soon as I am done reading them.