Project Power. A movie with such a rare capability to strike hard and leave a lasting dent on the increasingly invincible superhero genre; films that were pioneered by the likes of X-Men in the 00’s, and gained momentum each time Marvel Studios or DC Films roll out a new installment. A movie that places a rather ugly conundrum into super-heroic powers, that these special abilities once reserved for the ultra noble or fated individuals in other superhero movies, can now be made available to just about anyone, good or evil.
Blessed with such a rare opportunity and a powerful concept, Project Power is supposed to be the chosen one. Wait, does that sound a little too familiar to you? Anyway, both you and I know what happens next when Obi-Wan says that to Anakin.
The overall story of Project Power orbits around a teenager, Robin Reilly (Dominique Fishback), who picks up a part-time job as an illegal dealer of ‘Power’ (which is illegal anyway), the name given to those mysterious pills which grant its users temporary superpowers. The capability of such pills have been decorating the headlines of local papers with bizarre incidents since they hit the streets of New Orleans months before. It has since drawn the interest of NOPD officer, Frank Shaver (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and a shrouded ex-soldier, Art (Jamie Foxx), who both vow to hunt down the top officials of Project Power, albeit for dissimilar reasons.
If I am to be a Power-dealer, I will pop those pills too. What more can you ask for a pill, if the one you’re biting looks like it has a whole damn nebula trapped in it, and makes a loud, whirring noise as you twist it into activation? And did I mention that it probably tastes like orange syrup, too?
Unbeknownst to many, these touches have made the film more iconic than it can ever be. Because ingesting a capsule can be such a lackadaisical process, and there is a strong need for Project Power to incorporate many of such similar scenes across the plot, giving the process a little more kick does do wonders to the movie.
Beside those catchy pills, I find the introductory section of Project Power to be significantly grappling. In fact, it is overly grappling, and I will reveal the “why” later on. Frank Shaver steps in as an incredibly quick-witted, and instantaneously likable character. Jamie Foxx’s Art, a.k.a. The Major makes his entry with a CGI-heavy face-off scene that is so explosive and tense, it virtually made me fall into addiction and beg Project Power for more of such scenes. It seems that director-duo Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman had planned years and years for this scene alone, and this, is their “Project Power”.
Robin Reilly’s intro? Getting into trouble, and clearly asking for it even before stepping into one. If there is one superpower to pull in trouble from nothingness, there will be no better vessel to harness it than young Ms Reilly. And if there is one character in Project Power that can completely vanish into nothingness and wouldn’t hurt the film even one bit, again, the best candidate would still be Reilly.
To give credit where it is due, the great deal of surrounding mystery and the first act’s unique tendency to surprise and twist around does lend to the events surrounding Reilly to be more energetic than it actually is. Because she has two such powerful characters encircling her presence, with each of them having a momentous entry, Project Power takes off effortlessly into the right direction. With that said, as far as I see it, that is where the issue starts. Because of how significant the first act is, everything that comes after gets trapped in a gradual, downward taper.
I kinda liked how Gordon-Levitt and Foxx’s characters started off as two separate threads of the story, before the isolation eventually ends and they are both sewn into the big picture. So, who is this key character that pulls these two story threads together? You guessed it right, Robin Reilly. She’s the intersection points between those two bigger characters, and whatever chemistry that either one needs to channel towards the other, one has to go through her.
That is perfectly fine if she plays a vital role in the narrative. Of course, the plot will always sell her as an important character, but whether she is convincing enough to be an important character or otherwise, is, ultimately, for the audience to decide.
Once Project Power enters phase two, out of a sudden, the film has so many areas which it needs to attend to. I simply hoped that it would carry on with all the momentum, mystery and intensity that it had built in the first act, but instead of that Project Power opted for a total career change. Going from a professional mastermind of audience’s engagement, the film now becomes a preacher of how everyone has their own ‘powers’ inside them without taking the dreaded capsules, and about 51 more side hustles waiting to be done.
That list includes some pretty nice touches like explaining how the super-abilities within the pills are derived from, but unfortunately, not all explanations that Project Power has to do is as colorful as that one. The film tries to fill the void often left out by superhero films; which is, realistic backstories of the characters and a proper human factor. However mesmerizing Jamie Foxx is as Art, dude’s backstory is the most cliché of clichés, and the bond that the film is trying to build between him and Reilly is as thick as watered-down water.
With all the human factors going limp or MIA, I was wondering how Project Power was going to win the war against the ‘Superheroes’. Yes, if you are still here with me and wants to know if the movie can give you that ‘superhero rush’, I can assure you that it can. It still has plenty of brutal action and explosions that fit into the definition of a superhero movie. In which, Project Power doesn’t restrain itself and risks looking like a series like The Old Guard did. CGI is one word: spectacular; by large the introductory sequence and the finale, though just to witness the one in the finale, you have unintentionally agreed with Project Power to put all physics and logical thinking to rest.
Project Power charges you up a great deal during the first phase and leaves you in a sickly state of addiction that, frankly, never quite heals up. Once the first act’s euphoria has settled down, all that is left is a rather mundane, unintentionally comical, action-loaded or an absurd film, depending on which page you are on. While the idea is clearly juicy and unique, the identity crisis suffered by Project Power prevented the film from competing or standing against the superhero genre in any meaningful way. Ironically, like those shiny pills imagined in the film, Project Power’s might lasts for a disappointingly short period of time, and after that, it remains as an expired Projection of Power.–The Film Addict
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