There are three basic schools of thought when it comes to time travel methods used in popular movies. The first is a fixed timeline, where the events of the participant have already happened no matter what they try to change. This theory relates to The Terminator. The second theory is the diverse timeline. You can go back and change the past, but it can have disastrous effects on your present and create a paradox. Think Looper or Back to the Future. The third time travel theory is the multiverse, or alternate timeline concept. Even if you go back in time, you do not change your present, you only create a different outcome in that alternate dimension. Source Code and Star Trek (2009) are good examples of this.
Project Almanac basically uses all three and is a time traveling hot mess.
MTV Films and Platinum Dunes (Michael Bay’s company) produced this Chronicle ripoff. It follows a group of teens, led by wiz kid David, as they discover plans for a time machine and start dabbling with science that is far above their heads. At first, they use it for personal gain and for momentary pleasure. Yet, David breaks the rules and creates a Butterfly Effect that seems impossible to undo.
This type of movie should run at a crisp pace. At almost two hours, it feels like it takes forever to get to the point. Over 50 minutes go by and you’ve yet to see one trip back in time. I understand a lengthy setup if we’re meant to better associate with the characters. Yet, there’s nothing to them. There’s the nerd who is in love with the hot girl, there’s his two geeky friends who just want to be popular, the girl behind the camera, (I don’t think they show her face more than twice, but they’re more than happy to highlight her cleavage.) and the popular girl with a heart of gold. Basically, this cast could have been replaced with that of ‘Project X’ or ’21 and Over’ and nothing would have changed. These are the types of characters that go back in time to see Imagine Dragons in concert. (Yes, that actually happens.)
Found footage movies need a reason for existing. This one starts off with a video these friends are creating to get David into MIT. Then, it just turns into a supposed documentary showing every single facet of David’s life. The camera never turns off. There were several times when the camera was omnipresent and was wherever it needed to be at the right time. Also, this camera has the knack to pick up conversations perfectly from hundreds of feet away.
This movie taught me several valuable lessons about time travel. All you need to create a time machine is the graphics processor of an Xbox, a stopwatch app and the battery from a hybrid car. I know what I’ll be doing this weekend. See you at the Imagine Dragons show…
Project Almanac was meant to be released one year ago under the title “Welcome to Yesterday.” I’m not sure why it was delayed until now. Perhaps the filmmakers have a time machine and saw how much it bombed last year and had to reset the release to this weekend hoping it will make money.
Project Almanac is not unwatchable. For the right audience, it has its merits. However, the characters give you no reason to root for them. You see everything telegraphed from miles away, which makes it worse when the movie takes its time to get there. Had they shaved off 30 minutes, this may have been a fun, fast-paced Butterfly Effect for young Millenials. Sadly, it’s a standard found footage movie, full of plot holes, that will be forgotten in a short matter of time. C-