Ever wondered what you would do with a time machine? Ever thought what might have happened if you had done things differently, or said something else? How much do our actions affect the world around us?
Director Dean Israelite attempts to answer these questions in Project Almanac, a teen sci-fi about a group of nerdy high-schoolers who construct the world’s first ever time machine. It all begins when brother and sister, David (Jonny Weston) and Chris (Virginia Gardener), find old footage of David’s 7th birthday party in the attic amongst their deceased father’s belongings. Noticing something isn’t quite right with the footage, the pair enlist the help of David’s friends Quinn (Sam Lerner), Adam (Allen Evangelista) and his crush Jessie (Sofia Black-D’Elia) to search through their Dad’s old science projects, looking for something that might explain the strange video. What they find is beyond any of their imaginations: the blueprints to build a time machine.
After getting the machine up and running, the high-schoolers use their new power for all the small, predictable things: to pass tests, to get back at bullies, and to win the lottery. But with each “jump”, the future is changing, and it isn’t long before they step on the wrong butterfly. But are they willing to give up what they’ve gained if it means setting the future right?
While the concept could have been great, there are just too many things wrong with this movie – the first and foremost being the way it is filmed. Found footage, whereby the action plays out on recordings and video made or discovered by characters in the film, is a growing trend in this modern world where teens spend more time filming their lives than actually living it. Project Almanac utilises found footage for its entire duration, where the characters take turns in filming the events as a means of documenting the scientific process. This hand-held affect can be nauseating even when held relatively still, let alone when the camera is being thrown around with the reverberations and chaos each jump through time brings. There were also gaping holes in some scenes, where no other character was actually present to film the action playing out, and other times it simply didn’t make sense for someone to be whipping out their camera. By the end of this film, you’re going to be desperate for some normal still shots and stable camera angles, and I think Project Almanac would have benefited wildly if it had been filmed without found footage.
The acting from these little known up-and-comers varies throughout the film, and while supporting cast members Sam Lerner and Allen Evangelista were charismatic and comedic, Jonny West and Sofia Black-D’Elia fell flat in the leading roles. However, I will point to the special effects as one of the highlights of this low-budget film, and the scenes where the group is constructing the device and making jumps through time are engaging and visually awesome to watch.
I think teens will find some merit in this sci-fi thriller, but for the rest of us, Project Almanac brings nothing new to the time travelling sub-genre. With mediocre writing and a filming style that will make the weak of stomach a little queasy, there’s just not quite enough there to lift this one off the ground.
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