By transporting the narrative from a common day modern setting to a universe where anything is possible and new foundations for proper societal living are fundamentally obscured and changed, science fiction allows the audience to question their own ambiguous handling of impossible scenarios safely without ever having to worry about being in the same unfathomable predicament. Dean Israelite’s Project Almanac (2014) scrapes the surface of contemplating how much is personal gain worth when the reaction of one decision is detrimentally consequential for the greater good, but loses its overall point more than once with unneeded extended party scenes.
There’s a divide between wanting to be a mature and well thought out sci-fi movie and wanting to appeal to the broadest audience base possible within MTV’s demographic. In Project Almanac, resident boy genius David Raskin (Jonny Weston) and his two best friends Quinn Goldberg (Sam Lerner) and Adam Le (Adam Evangelista) stumble upon directions to build a time machine left by David’s dead father ten years ago. The trio, whom are quite frankly far too intelligent and curious to be left without any kind of parental supervision, manage to collect all the pieces of apparatus to actually build the machine all while David’s younger sister Christina (Virginia Gardner) films their entire process. Once it’s built, the four decide to finally test their theoretical device.
After a terrible mishap, the gang are forced to initiate high school bombshell and David’s current crush Jessie Pierce (Sofia Black D’Elia) into their group. At first the five have the time of their lives, using the time machine to resolve personal problems and further their own achievements, but when they start to realise their direct actions have cataclysmic reactions, it all goes awry. Project Almanac uses just enough science and technology to make the more mundane moments including the unbelievably boring romantic arc between David and Jessie bearable, but the best part of the movie is the interesting use of camerawork. The handheld quasi documentary style fluctuates between speeding up events to create an overwhelming feeling of claustrophobic chaos and rapidly slowed moments to allow the audience to focus on what’s happening during the team’s jump in time.
The handiwork of the camerawork gets muddled down with cheesy neon coloured glitches whenever something goes wrong, but overall it’s pretty impressive how they were able to blend the natural feel of a documentary with obvious cinematic effects. Project Almanac’s exuberance for the scientific aspect of time travel, unique use of handheld camerawork, and allusion to allegorical decisions makes for a fun watch, even if the overwhelming teen feel to the film detracts from being taken too seriously. With references to other sci-fi films, however, it’s obvious Project Almanac is aware of its genre clichés, strengths, and faults, and that makes for a genuinely fun time for film buffs.