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The Adam Project's Complete Chronological Timeline Explained

Ryan Reynolds seems to be settling in nicely in what feels like a new home at Netflix thanks to the success of his latest feature, "The Adam Project." The family-friendly sci-fi adventure landed the third biggest opening weekend in the streaming platform's history (via The Hollywood Reporter). Its 92.4 million viewing hours in its opening weekend trails only the Adam McKay-directed satirical star-studded affair, "Don't Look Up" and the other recent Reynolds-Netflix action team-up flick, "Red Notice," whose numbers are likely boosted by the presence of co-stars Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot.

"The Adam Project" follows Adam (Reynolds) as he travels back in time from 2050 to stop the invention of time travel and save the world from becoming a dystopian version of itself. There's only one problem: He doesn't make it back to 2018, the year when his dad, who also happens to be the mind behind time travel, is still alive. Instead, he crash-lands in 2022, where he's forced to team with the younger version of himself (Walker Scobell) so they can skip back an additional three years and make contact with their father.

While the storyline of "The Adam Project" seems pretty straightforward, this new outing from Reynolds creates somewhat confusing time travel rules that don't quite gel with other versions of time travel in movies. Multiple characters appear side-by-side as more than one version of themselves. Deceased characters show up at different points even though earlier versions of themselves are wiped out of existence. Needless to say, this movie can be a bit hard to follow. But never fear: We have a timeline broken down to help you understand the chronological conundrum of "The Adam Project."

The 2010s give us a glimpse into Adam's home life

The relationship between Adam's parents, Ellie and Louis Reed (reunited "13 Going on 30" stars Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo), is the heart of the movie. Louis is the brains behind the concept of time travel in this fictional world, and Ellie is a nurturing force for her child as they deal with the loss of Louis following his death.

As Netflix's Tudum points out in their details breakdown of the chronology of "The Adam Project," Louis and Ellie welcome their baby boy Adam in 2010, evidenced mainly by the character's age in the later settings of the story; he's 12 when the movie introduces the Walker Scobell version of the character. Not much is known about his first decade of life other than a few references. Ryan Reynolds' adult Adam confirms that, when he is seven years old, he runs into a table, causing an injury to his chin that requires 12 stitches. This incident is used later on as a way for the older Adam to prove to his younger self that they are the same person.

In 2018, Louis comments to Ellie that he wonders if he shouldn't have built a video game for Adam. The game may have been instrumental in him becoming such a capable pilot as the gameplay looks eerily similar to the real-life flight mechanics of his ship later in life. Viewers also see a puppy version of Hawking, the dog young Adam cares for in 2022. While the action is still set in 2018, Louis makes a comment in response to two future versions of his son showing up and giving him insight into how his invention impacts the future. This interaction sparks his participation in the events that take place in the climax of the film. 

The majority of The Adam Project takes place in 2018 and 2022

2018 is a pivotal year in "The Adam Project." It is the year older Adam tries to get to in order to prevent Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener), the person funding Louis Reed's research who eventually controls time travel and is the leader of the dystopian future, from manipulating time to allow her rise to power. It's also the year that older Adam's wife, Laura (Zoe Saldaña), is marooned when she starts getting close to the truth about Maya's rise to power. Like Adam, Laura is a time pilot — a detail later revealed to be integral to the couple's first meeting. Although she is believed to have perished on a mission in 2050, Adam believed her to be too talented of a pilot to have died in the way she was reported.

Adam's feelings are proven correct when Laura reveals herself as both Adams fight off Maya's henchmen in 2022 and she can explain what she's been doing while in hiding for the last four years. She convinces the duo to go destroy "The Adam Project" (the name Louis gives the magnetic particle accelerator that facilitates time travel) and covers their getaway, ultimately sacrificing herself in the process.

With Laura's help and young Adam's DNA, both Adams jump to 2018, recruit their father on their mission by convincing him that everything has gone wrong with his work on time travel. While Louis initially can't believe Maya would betray him knowing the consequences of changing the past, the presence of two versions of his son ultimately shows him how dire the situation is. The trio infiltrates Maya's HQ, coming face-to-face with the 2018 and 2050 versions of Maya. In an attempt to kill them, Maya shoots her younger self, erasing her future self and allowing the Reeds to complete their mission.

Adam's future impacts the past

When Adam is 10 years old in 2020, he loses his father to a car crash. He spends the following two years getting bullied for being too small for his age and suspended from school for having a smart mouth. He makes his mother's life infinitely more difficult, often not realizing the weight of some of the cruel things he says to his mother.

After his most recent suspension, young Adam crosses paths with a future version of himself after he crash-lands in 2022. The pair bond over their shared experience of losing their father, with the now 12-year-old Adam still grieving and the 40-year-old Adam still wrestling with the effects of burying those feelings under a shell of bitterness. While stuck in 2022, older Adam also has a heartwarming interaction with his mother (unbeknownst to her) and, in their discussion about the unruliness of teenage boys, offers her an apology masked as advice about young Adam's behavior.

Older Adam never reveals to younger Adam that he is arrested in 2027 for something that causes him to lose his college scholarship in his freshman year. While this is undoubtedly devastating, it ultimately leads him to join the Air Force and become the best pilot in the time-travel program. This also leads him on the path of another big moment in his future. Sometime in the 2030s, Adam meets his future wife, Laura, when she mistakenly walks into the wrong lecture hall. He guides her to where she is supposed to be and begins their future together. They build a love strong enough to convince him to steal a ship and break every time travel rule to save her in 2050.