Time travel is a difficult concept to pull off in a film to the point that there are only a handful of films in the genre that make the concept work. There’s a reason why the genre has a lot of volumes but the high water marks few and far between. Putting a Top 10 list together of the genre is difficult because a huge chunk of the genre relies on a number of cheats; bending the rules in time travel is easy and serves as a screenwriting cheat in a lot of cases. It’s rare to get a film like Primer; mainly we get films like Project Almanac or a Back to the Future sequel.
Time travel is a tricky concept to pull off as a story-telling device because the rules fluctuate according to the whims of the person penning the film. It allows for cheats and happy endings more effectively.
Thus explains why Project Almanac ultimately fails as a film despite having so much working for it. Simple premise. A bunch of teenagers figure out how to change history by creating a time machine, traveling back to do things like win the lottery and set up their lives to be better. When they keep going back further and further they wind up changing the present for the worse, leading them into trouble as the rules of time & space screw everything up for them. And they have to find a way to fix it.
The film gets a number of things right, mainly in how a handful of teenagers would treat something as wondrous as time travel. They’d most likely use it for their own personal gain, as would most people. As much as we’d like to think that the person who discovers time travel would use it for the good of mankind … the more likely scenario is that someone will use it to alter the future for their benefit. And it’s very rare for a teenager to have the sort of “betterment of humanity” judgment for something like time travel; Peter Parker is the ideal but not the norm, unfortunately.
The found footage concept also lends it to a much more intriguing film than it otherwise would be. It has the same sort of vibe, and quality, that Chronicle had. This film is going for that same vibe, of the power of something beyond our means put into the hands of those perhaps the least equipped to handle it, and for the majority of the film it works on a similar level as Chronicle did. It goes into a dark place slowly and it feels like the film is going to go into a certain place before an ending that feels completely against what the film was going for comes into play.
The problem with the film, one that keeps it from that Primer level territory, comes with the film’s ending. To try and get out of what looks like a fairly dark ending about the dangers of time travel it winds up giving us a happy ending when the dark one would do. It feels out of place, as if it was changed at the last minute so that the audience can walk away happy and/or a sequel could be made.
There’s an alternate opening and ending as well as deleted scenes.
Paramount presents Project Almanac. Directed by Dean Israelite. Written by Jason Harry Pagan, Andrew Deutschman. Starring Jonny Weston, Sofia Black-D’Elia, Sam Lerner, Allen Evangelista, Ginny Gardner. Run Time: 106 minutes Rated PG-13. Released on DVD: 6.9.2015
Tags: Allen Evangelista, Ginny Gardner, Jonny Weston, Project Almanac, Sam Lerner, Sofia Black-D'Elia