In the deep and murky sea of super-hero and super-powered cinema and television, one does not have to look far to find some truly great stories. Old ones that never go away like The Avengers and Batman, they come every few years to showcase the newest computer graphics and star power. Then there are the new ones not associated with any other IP that have made a big impact like The Incredibles or Unbreakable. The idea of making a super powered world has moved beyond comic book adaptations and audiences are turning out for them.
Because of this huge shift in pop culture there has been an oversaturation of stories and story arch’s. Even the blockbuster juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not impervious, having a few lackluster outings themselves. What have they fallen prey to? There are a few things that will trip up a superhero film from becoming a cash cow, the worst offenders are tired storylines and uninspired writing. So, when a brand-new property comes out with a stellar cast and a promising story, the mood is set.
Project Power is a superhero movie with a twist, anyone can have superhuman abilities. The catch, it only lasts five minutes – oh and you might explode.
Directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost (Catfish, Nerve) have delivered an action thriller that is somewhat superhero adjacent. There is a new drug on the market – the supplier movies into New Orleans, sets up distribution through the local dealers, and sits back to watch what happens. The drug is called Power – a small capsule that you twist to activate, then it’s down the hatch. Once ingested a random power will take over you, it could be turning invisible, defying the laws of thermodynamics, or you could simply blow up. The target audience for this drug are desperate, leading to a spike in crime.
The three leads are dynamic and a lot of fun to watch. The brightest among them in relative newcomer Dominique Fishback (The Duece) who grounds the story and brings humanity front and center as a young girl named Robin who is hustling Power to make enough money to afford a procedure for her mother. Stuck between the powerful company in charge of Power, and a man named Art (Jamie Foxx) who will stop at nothing to bring it down. The moral grey in which she navigates is engaging. The moral distortion does not stop with her, NOPD officer Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is doing all he can to keep up with the new super charged population. As a means of fighting back, he uses Robin as an informant of sorts – as well as pocketing some Power for himself – how else is one supposed to fight fire?
That is the setup – a local young girl trying to survive, a cop trying to make sense of it all, and a man with a mysterious past leaving a bloody wake behind him. The story and the characters are there in spades. Unfortunately, the execution is lacking in some departments. Visually there is a lot to take in, the super powered fight scenes are very fun. The directing duo are playing with their propensities as directors and showing us range, particularly with action. There are two set pieces centered around some heavy action scenes that really stand out, one involving a young woman trying to regulate her new found thermo power inside of a glass case. The violence can be a bit brutal at times, I guess it’s another trick of trying to set themselves apart.
The supporting cast dup in Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt bring credibility to their roles. Both of them are very reliable and are well suited in their roles. The best idea the film has is also its downfall. The first half of the film is fun and engaging, watching the city implode and all the fighting that ensues, but they do not focus on that. Instead they focus just on the character’s plights and not the larger world they inhabit. A missed opportunity for fun world building and different powers to be seen. This film could use a sequel that delves more into that world but writer Mattson Tomlin will be in high demand once his The Batman gets in front of audiences. It may be better to leave this property alone. While all is not lost and there is some fun to be had, there are better examples of this type of film out there.
3 out of 5