Spoilers!

The Adam Project ending, explained: What are the rules of time travel?

Ryan Reynold’s new sci-fi movie goes deep into the weeds of time travel. Let’s clear a few things up.

Time travel is a funny thing. The more you try to explain it, the more complicated it can become. This is perhaps the biggest issue in The Adam Project, a new Ryan Reynolds sci-fi adventure now streaming on Netflix that tries to bludgeon you over the head with quantum mechanics and time travel mumbo jumbo. As a result, the movie’s ending may need to be explained. Lucky for you, that’s why we’re here.

Warning! Spoilers for the ending of The Adam Project follow.

The Adam Project plot explained

The basic premise of The Adam Project is that in the not-so-distant future, time travel is discovered and the woman who discovered it (Maya Sorian, played by Catherine Keener) becomes very rich in the process. As we’re told (but never actually shown), Sorian also uses her power to make the future a terrible place. That’s where Adam (Ryan Reynolds) comes in.

Adam is a pilot for one of Sorian’s time-traveling jetplanes. He’s also the son of Sorian’s old business partner, who passed away when he was still a kid. After Adam’s wife (Laura, played by Zoe Saldana) disappears under mysterious circumstances, he travels back in time to try to save her. A lot more stuff happens, including Adam trying to help his younger self confront a school bully and even more time travel, but ultimately, they discover a few critical truths:

  • Despite claiming that she wants to keep the natural timeline intact, Sorian has already traveled back in time to give her younger self stock tips and ensure she becomes rich.
  • Sorian is probably responsible for the demise of Adam’s dad (played by Mark Ruffalo), who actually invented time travel.

In the end, Adam, young Adam, and Adam’s dad realize the only way to save the future is by destroying the experiment before time travel can ever exist. The only problem? This will change the future timeline, meaning Adam will never meet his wife.

While discussing this dilemma, Laura wonders if some echo of their memories can travel across timelines and bring them back together. Turns out, she was right.

The Adam Project ending explained

Adam meets his younger self in The Adam Project.Netflix

Once Adam blows up the time travel machine in the past, he and his younger self both disappear back into their correct places in this new timeline. The movie could have ended right there, but it provides audiences with two short epilogues.

First, we see young Adam give his mom a hug, confirming that the newfound empathy he picked up during this adventure carried over into the new timeline. Second, we see Adam and Laura meet again in the future. They don’t recognize each other, but they quickly strike up a flirtatious conversation. It’s almost like something intangible is drawing them together.

In the end, we get a happy ending that seems to bend the rules of The Adam Project’s own time travel system. But then again, all the best time travel movies do.

The Adam Project is streaming now on Netflix.