What it's about:
A brilliant high school student and his friends uncover blueprints for a mysterious device with limitless potential, inadvertently putting lives in danger.
What we thought:
Time travel lore has been around since forever, popularised by H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, and has been the subject in countless films and television series, sometimes a go-to tool to fix plot holes, ensure characters come back to life or just to keep the plot going (used to extremes in the Heroes series).
Travelling forward or backwards, the science behind movie time travel has been intensely theorised, but mostly have two premises – time is fixed and unchangeable (The Twelve Monkeys) or the smallest change can have massive ripple effects (Back to the Future).
Project Almanac, although a typical teenage film with all the angst, falls into the second category, and its science is quite tolerable and slightly believable. The found-footage camerawork, not so much.
A genius teenager trying to get funding for university, stumbles upon his deceased dad’s time machine work and decides to finish it with his sister and friends. As teenagers do, they use it to fix problems in their lives and have a good time in general, until they realise their actions have fatal consequences.
Perfectly watchable and not without appeal, Project Almanac does not exactly hold up in terms of memorable in terms of its genre. It’s target audience will probably love it, but at least it’s not close to being another teenage time travel film - that terrible Disney TV movie Minutemen (which is awful, don’t look for it). At least in this one, their actions can’t just be comically fixed with some pseudo science. And at least the teenage genius is plausible enough that he could build a time machine from his dad’s schematics in a basement. The small scale CGI makes the time travel believable, which is impressive for a film produced by explosion-maniac Michael Bay.
But it remains a teenage-dialogue-infested plot with zero adult supervision. I can’t understand how the mother never wonders what her children and friends are doing in the basement, especially as they constantly blow up batteries and other gadgets. Many plot points don’t get explained, especially after they have changed their present somehow. And I despise the found-footage style. I liked it in Chronicle, which is a great film on how to do it decently, but I would have enjoyed Project Almanac more, even though the camera work ends up being integral to the story’s ending.
The actors weren’t really anything outstanding, but they performed well enough for what the film is. Sometimes you have to accept a film isn’t going to wow audiences and go with what it is trying to do, and stick to that, instead of trying to make your role more poignant than it should be.
For these young actors Project Almanac is a good addition to their resumes that won’t embarrass them in years to come when E! Channel looks back at where they come from.