I was quite sure this was one of those time travel movies that was made to put itself to shame in this particular genre. I decided to watch anyway. Project Almanac does not disappoint. It misses the mark.
I will take you through why in a bit. I don’t think there are any major cribs based on acting capabilities in the film. There are three guys and two girls in the gang of time travellers. Both girls are very suitable eye candy material. Their existence is not inconsequential to the plot, well one of them at least. They each do a decent job on their parts. But this is a time travel movie, which means the rules of the time travel would drive the story. Breaking those rules, breaks the story.
Let’s start from top. David and Christina are siblings. Their two friends Adam and Quinn are helping David make a video to get an admit into MIT. They are all geeks but the sister isn’t and she’s hot. She makes statements like “English Please” in conversations that are slightly science oriented. She gets to hold the camera for many parts in the movie. (yeah it’s one of those annoying hand-held-see-the-whole-film-through-the-eyes-of-the-camera type movies). Not stereotypical at all.
When David doesn’t get a scholarship, his mom decides to sell the frikkin’ house because, you know, if it’s not MIT then it’s off to a 3rd world country to beg at the signals. But David decides to check the basement out for any tech stuff that his dad may have partially worked on before he died. Oh yeah, David’s dad is dead and has been since his 7th birthday.
When David and Christina are looking they find an old video camera. As they start to play it they see a recording of David’s 7th birthday party. My super-smart phone’s battery barely lasts a whole day when fully charged and sitting on a table. This video camera has been lying in a basement for 10 bloody years and it simply starts playing when turned on. Could I have those batteries please, I’d like to use it to solve the world’s energy crisis in general.
The Time Machine
They watch the video to notice that David in his current age, look and clothes is in the video of this 7th birthday. The 4 of them begin to search the basement for more dope and they find a hidden compartment with a strange device left by David’s dad. They begin to read the notes to understand that it’s a time machine.
So they begin constructing the time machine. At school, David’s bag gets accidentally swapped with Jessie’s, the 5th member of the group to form and the 2nd eye candy. David returns her bag and mumbles a conversation with her and leaves.
Time Travel: Trial On Toy Car
When the group of 4 need more battery power, they decide to get Jessie’s car into their parking and connect it to the time device. Jessie who is there in the area to attend a party across the road is more than happy to park at David’s. They connect the car to the time travel device with a calculated risk that the car could explode. Yes, explode. But instead the time travel machine appears to begin working. Jessie joins the gang in the basement and watches their first test object – a toy car with a camera being sent back in time. This blows the fuse to the whole neighborhood. The toy car is found fused with the wall, when they play back the camera on the car they see the events of two hours prior recorded on it. Looks like the time travel caused the camera to sit there and record two hours before they sent it back in time. Since it was way up on the wall, they didn’t notice it. Fair enough. This part makes sense. This proves to them that time travel works.
Time Travel : Self Trials
Then, Jessie, who knows squat about time travel or advanced science in general, suggests that the next obvious move is to test it on themselves. Girl, that car went back in time and fused itself with a wall. Do you understand how pretty you would continue to look if one half of you was fused with a bathtub? But that doesn’t seem to affect our 5 friends. They try it on themselves. They go back 24hrs. Being the dumbasses that they are, the first thing they do is go to Quinn’s house, find the sleeping Quinn from that timeline and draw a smiley on the sleeping Quinn’s neck. They have a blast doing this. Seriously? These guys can invent the time machine and the very first thing they do is endanger their existence? As one would expect the sleeping Quinn wakes up and starts spazzing along with the time traveller Quinn and flickers out of existence. The group breaks the Quinn’s eye contact and leave. They are happy that they are now in yesterday. Before they can head back a dog joins them back to their original timeline. When they get back, they see posters of “Missing Dog” because it jumped a whole day with them and went missing for a 24hr period. No consequence of this though. It is shown to express the butterfly effect on messing with the past.
They next come up with time travel rules. The obvious rule you’d expect is – don’t screw around with the past. But nope, the first rule they agree upon is to never travel in time alone. Yeah they decide that all 5 of them will always go back in time together to screw around with the past. Always using the camera is another rule. By now the viewers’ eyes are crying for mercy, this rule tells your cornea to shut it with the complaining. A few more idiotic, irrelevant rules later they start making changes to their past.
First off, they help themselves win a lottery. They note a winning number and go back in time to buy the ticket. They goof up with the number and win a million plus instead of 300 million. Christina gets her revenge on one of the girls who throws soda on her. What is clearly established so far is – when they travel back in time there are two instances of them. One from the original timeline and the other the time traveller. This makes sense. But when they go back in time to that same point in time a second time, they replace their previous time traveller self.
Repeating time travel to the same time magically removes and replaces the past time travels and their effects. So we’re just going to have to assume that in this type of time travel, the earlier time travel simply gets replaced by the later time travel. This explains how they can keep returning to the Chemistry test, to help Quinn pass, without running into their prior attempts.
The gang then travel back 3 months to the Lollapalooza festival that they missed out on. David gets backstage used passes off ebay before travelling back in time. The gang has a blast. David has a moment with Jessie but blows it by not kissing her. For the sake of bedding a hottie, he breaks the one stupid rule of traveling back in time without the group. He goes back to Lollapalooza and this time around kisses Jessie. Here too his second trip back in time replaces himself from the first trip back in time.
When he returns, Jessie is in a towel in his house, they are now seeing each other. The gang lives happily for a short while and becomes famous too. However they now realize that there has been a plane crash killing a whole bunch of people. They also start seeing news about a bunch of other accidents and calamities that they don’t remember from their original timeline. They start suggesting that the reason this has happened is because of their trip to Lollapalooza. David doesn’t agree with them because he will lose Jessie if they undo the Lollapalooza trip.
The pilot of the plane was the star basketball player’s dad. Somehow the time travel may have caused the basketball player to meet with the accident that results in him breaking his leg. This causes the team to not make the finals. Given many don’t attend the finals, that gives rise to certain catastrophes. Including, the star basketball player’s dad flying the plane instead of watching the finals and eventually causing the plane to crash.
After some thinking David figures out what changed the events to lead to the plane crash. That it was his fault. He tells Adam that he jumped alone and that caused it. What does David do right after? He jumps to the night of the blackout they cause by sending the toy car back 2 hours. There he runs and leaps at the star basketball player getting him away from the car that would have otherwise hit him. People start cheering and David gets back. This event of the blackout has nothing to do with Lollapalooza. This involved the whole gang. David makes no sense talking about him jumping back in time alone causing the plane crash. He didn’t have to travel back alone at all. It was the whole gang’s fault and has nothing to do with the festival 3 months ago.
When David returns, the events of the plane crash and other calamities seem to be reverted back. Everyone is fine except that Adam is now critical in the hospital. They don’t know what actually causes it. Looks like this is another butterfly effect that saving the basketball player has caused. David has no clue how to undo the last one with Adam’s fate. He tries to calculate the string of events and decides he’s going back to Tuesday, presumably the day of the basketball game. This time Jessie intercepts him and enters the warp and travels back with David. David admits that he has been jumping alone and that he also jumped back to Lollapalooza another time to kiss Jessie. While Jessie starts to get mad she also runs into her past self and flickers and gets erased from existence.
David realizes that he has messed too many things up and now needs to go all the way back and destroy the timemachine. David tells Quinn his plans while the cops are out looking for him.
The cops are looking for David as he’s Jessie’s (who is now missing) boyfriend. Again if Jessie went missing before their first experiment with the toy car, she should have never met David and the group and travelled in time with them. Jessie can’t have gone back with the group to Lollapalooza and therefore never became David’s girlfriend. Yet somehow, the cops are looking for David.
David, who has run out of fuel for a time travel back, breaks into the school and fuels up and jumps all the way back to his 7th birthday. Here he ends up being in the mirror reflection which is captured by the video camera which is filming the birthday party. This is the same video camera that David and Christina find in the basement. David confronts his dad and explains to him why the time machine is a bad idea. After his dad leaves, he collects all the blueprints, the time device and burns it. This causes David to flicker out from that timeline.
If David destroys the timemachine in the past, he creates an alternate universe where the group never finds the time device. This means they don’t travel in time and as a result David in the basement of the house on his 7th birthday disappears. Fair enough (ignoring the grandfather paradox). But his bad and his own camera should have disappeared too. After all he brought them back with him though time. Somehow the camera alone decides to stay.
Now back in the future, the film goes back to the scene where David and Christina find the old camera. While Christina finds the camera with the birthday party, David finds the camera his alternate time-travelling-self leaves as he flickers out of existence.
Why is it that when two instances of the same person see each other, they spazz out and disappear from existence while two cameras that find themselves next to each other don’t give a damn? Does it happen only to people? Monkeys are good or do they get messed up too? We will never know because the spazzing thing doesn’t make any sense anyways.
David plays the content of this second camera and we can hear the conversations from the alternate timeline – the conversation where David and Christina find only one camera. Let’s jump back to that scene when they find the camera and play the birthday footage. Those scenes are captured by a whole other camera that Christina owns, it is not captured in their dad’s old camera. Recollect that Christina has been shooting the MIT prep footage right from the beginning. Let’s call that camera Christina’s camera (perhaps her phone). Using that camera she films the footage in the basement where they find Christina’s dad’s camera. She switches to using Christina’s dad’s camera after that for the remaining movie. This is the camera that gets left behind by the flickering-out David. It could never possibly have the footage of them finding the camera. That would be in Christina’s camera. Yet the camera magically plays a footage that it never shot. In fact the camera magically plays a footage of itself being found.
Project Almanac Ending Explained
The premise now is that the gang has seen the entire footage in Christina’s dad’s camera. They are now aware of the various inventions and travels through time. David walks up to Jessie to return her bag and instead of mumbling, begins to say Jessie’s lines (because that is not creepy at all). After this he tells her that they are about to change the world. Some people basically never learn.
In all, the movie stopped caring about any of the paradoxical effects of time travel. The stupid camera shots makes your eye power increase and the consistency in the number of cameras are also ignored. While the movie starts of promisingly, it simply spirals from one flaw into another all the way down to the core where it pretty much self-destructs. Sigh.
This is how a time travel film should be made. Your mind will be blown. Click below to read the explanation of Predestination: