Since Netflix made the decision to be a studio that creates films and not just acquire completed films at the various festivals, it has been interesting to see where and how they have sunk their budget. In 2017, they dedicated a substantial amount of resources to acquiring the spec script from writer Mattson Tomlin, they quickly partnered him with directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost to bring the superpowers based Project Power to the screen.
$85.1 dollars later and acquiring some stellar actors and actresses for the show along the way, the finished product was released via their service to the public last week. So, is it any good or did they waste their money?
First off, taking a risk in the superpowered people genre isn’t exactly a huge risk. Marvel keeps releasing billion dollar blockbuster films and DC keeps cashing checks from the terrible drudge that they release. Even lesser known comics like Old Guard get picked up. But, if it is outside the two big two superhero universes, it is a risk. And in Tomlin’s script, there are no ties to a bigger universe.
So, you have to ask if the powers come across in a real way. And in this case, the powers do work in a genuine way that left me surprised and thankful. Without spoiling some of the end of the movie, which gives you more of the science involved, the reality is that there suddenly exists a pill that when taken unleashes the inner power within you for a limited amount of time.
Now, this pill and its power is showing up in only certain cities and locations, and in the seedy underground of those areas. Which in this case gives us a great setting in New Orleans, a city that is always remembered for its tragedies. And there are the scars of the city on the characters of Project Power.
Joseph Gordon Levitz plays Frank, a police detective who somehow has discovered Robin, played by the wonderful Dominique Fishback, a teenage girl who is dealing the power pills and they both know the history of New Orleans.
Robin is both a child and living as the provider for her family, trying to help her mom deal with her diabetic condition while not on medical insurance. Frank has a strong sense of justice, even when it runs against the police department procedures. And while we never get the back story of his first pill, Frank’s ability to withstand injuries proves helpful when he breaks up a bank robbery where the guilty person involved has chameleon powers.
The two together make a kind of 9th Ward Batman and, well, Robin. And the third major actor is Jaime Foxx, playing Art aka “The Major” who has a history with the creators of the pill and a strong reason for wanting to connect with them again. Eventually, they all get tangled together and we get some great sequences of action and adventure, all in the dark streets of New Orleans.
Now, that isn’t to say that Project Power isn’t guilty of some really goofy stunt casting. You get a mix of odd hip-hop “stars” and YouTube celebrities that I guess were supposed to help the movie have a built in audience. It doesn’t seem to be very successful in that but, thankfully, they don’t distract too much from the overall film.
Spoilers in this paragraph if you haven’t seen the movie: The hand wavy science about how and why each person gets a unique, specific power is fairly smart. It moves the powers into the realm of DNA and evolution and determines who gets what. The sequences after the explanations, where we get to see some of the odder mutations show themselves does make for some compelling action scenes. But if I am honest, some comedic scenes where some folks got a useless superpower or a silly superpower would have been fun. Imagine if you grew giant rabbit teeth or a marsupial pouch that lasts for 5 minutes. What do you do with those? End of Spoilers.
Overall, this is a really good superhero/superpower movie that is anchored in the real world. The core trio of characters are really complex, well developed and fit into the film really well. The story has a good conclusion that also would seem to leave some potential for sequels, because it is evidently against the rules of nature to not give yourself a sequel attempt tie-in at the end of any superpowered movie.
So, if you’ve seen it, what powers or scenes stood out to you? Did you believe how different people would react to different powers? And what power do you think you would get from taking the power pill?