Superheroes and superpowers are more prevalent and popular today than ever before. Even if you put the content of the MCU and DCEU aside, there’s still enough content in that genre to choke ten donkeys; and I’m not talking strictly or even primarily about print.
Movies and television shows in the superhero/superpower genre are growing in number thanks to the success of the Big Two’s ventures, but also entirely separate from them. Most recently Netflix’s Project Power burst onto the scene, and if you dug that title like we did, I’ve got a couple of other movies in the genre streaming today on Netflix that you might want to check out.
Freaks: You’re One of Us
Freaks: You’re One of Us is a German Netflix original movie that released on September 2nd of this year. In it, an unstated but incredibly small population of people are born with powers. The government identifies them and keeps their powers in check with drugs prescribed under mental health facades.
Wendy, a fry cook struggling to keep her family’s head above water financially, is told by a homeless man that the pills she takes suppress who she really is – her powers. She is understandably unconvinced until the man throws himself from a bridge and gets hit by a truck, only to show up at her place of work unharmed the next day.
Curiosity gets the better of her so she stops taking the pills, and when she’s assaulted by a gang of men she discovers that she’s incredibly strong as she sends them flying hundreds of feet with single blows. She breaks into her psychiatrist’s office and discovers that her coworker, Elmar, also has powers.
Elmar is a comic book nerd who immediately adopts a superhero name and costume upon discovering he has electricity powers and wants to live out that power fantasy to its fullest. He expresses his love to Wendy and asks her to leave her family and run off to do the superhero thing with him. When he’s rejected, he decides to remove the obstacle between him and Wendy: her husband and young son.
Freaks: You’re One of Us is definitely a lower-budget affair, but I thought it delivered a decent movie despite that. I particularly enjoyed watching what Wendy did with her newly discovered powers because they were very human things, really. Things like threatening her abusive boss and twisting up the bikes of some kids who were bullying her son. She also breaks into an ATM to prevent foreclosure on her family’s home, but that is her first and last foray into anything resembling villainy.
The contrasts made among Wendy, Marek, and Elmar are a big reason why I give this movie a recommendation. There is some really solid character work done on them, for sure. Superpowers aren’t the star in this movie either, which I found interesting. They’re a part of the setting and plot obviously, but if you’re looking for a movie that puts a bunch of different superpowers on display or shows really creative uses for them, Freaks: You’re One of Us isn’t the movie for you. But the next movie just might be!
Code 8 was originally a 10-minute short film put out on YouTube back in 2016 before getting the feature film glam-up in 2018. The setting of the film also has a small percentage of the population discovering powers. Initially they were celebrated as they revolutionized means of production. But later came automation, so Powers (as they’re called pejoratively) become obsolete and even despised. This drove them to crime which lead to legislation requiring registration, discussions about outright bans of power usage, and robotic police drones for enforcement.
Connor, who has an electric type power, struggles to find work to pay bills. His mother, Mary, has a cold-based power that, due to a growing brain tumor that threatens her life, is spiraling out of control.
In order to try and make more money than working as a scab construction worker allows, Connor falls in with Garret, a telekinetic, who works with the city’s biggest drug dealer. They sell Psyke, a liquid derived from the spinal fluid of Powers that is applied with a dropper to the eye. The police have been cracking down on their Psyke farms, so when the crime syndicate The Trust comes calling for their cut of the sales, the criminals grow increasingly desperate.
Connor uses his power to spring a bank vault door only to find a fraction of the money they’d expected within. During their escape, he zaps a police drone out of the sky. This puts the police on his trail as there aren’t many electric types in the city with that kind of fire power.
After being questioned and released, Connor concocts a plan to rob the police of millions of dollars worth of confiscated Psyke when they transport it for destruction. He’ll help the criminals get their money in exchange for Nia, who has rare healing powers that the drug dealer’s been using to keep himself alive. Connor’s hope is that she can save his mom, but not everything goes to plan.
Code 8 is an excellent watch! There are a host of powers on display and each has their own police-assigned title like Electric, Cryo, Braun (strength), Pyro, TK (telekinetic), Reader (telepathy), etc. You get to see them all leveraged in really creative (and sometimes brutal) ways as the various crimes are committed.
The Amell brothers both do a superb job with their parts, but really there isn’t a bad performance in the bunch. It is very high action, but there is more than a little drama in the mix. Most of it is centered around how far Connor is willing to go to save his mom, even against her wishes. Those elements, I’d argue, are handled with the same level of adeptness as the action and flare are, which keeps this from being a one-trick pony kind of movie.
So while we continue to wait for Black Widow, why not sit down and scratch that superpower itch with either one or both of these flicks? Plus they both involve someone lighting up a light bulb with their hands, and who doesn’t love those kinds of magic tricks?