Are we ever going to see a day when superhero movies don’t dominate the release schedule? It seems as if a new one materialises every week. If it’s not the latest cookie-cutter Marvel movie or yet another DC extended universe disaster, then it’s a tedious new standalone project promising to ‘put a dark spin on the genre’ or ‘take it in a new direction’.
Now I’m not saying all superhero films are bad, in fact, I have enjoyed a great deal of them over the years. Whether it be Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy or the MCU’s Infinity saga, the genre has undoubtedly peppered the cinematic landscape with some truly great moments over the past two decades. But when will it end? How much more juice can we squeeze out of this thoroughly dehydrated lemon?
This brings us nicely to Netflix’s Project Power. Like an investment banker down on his luck, spending his last dime on a suspect pyramid scheme in a desperate attempt to turn his fortunes around, Netflix has piled on to the ever waning wave of superhero hype in an attempt to boost the success of its independent film productions.
The result? A middle of the road action movie that begs, borrows, and steals from previous genre entries in a wild and frenzied attempt at cultivating a meagre surface-level veneer of originality. Trust me when I say though, there’s nothing new on show when it comes to Mattson Tomlin’s film; the plot is generic, the superhero powers are tried and tested, and the character arcs all fall firmly under the bracket of ‘seen it all before’.
Sure, you could argue that the mechanism by which our characters are granted superpowers is original – the inhabitants of our alternate reality New Orleans ingest a pill that grants 5 minutes of supercharged abilities – but that’s not really saying much. It is the smallest crumb of originality in what is otherwise a fairly standard X-men knockoff, and even then, the concept of temporary powers is never fully utilised or explored.
There’s also some contrived nonsense in there about the power we receive being a result of our species’ genetic history, but it’s such underdeveloped drivel that I won’t bother going into too much detail. Suffice to say, Project Power serves up a level of nonsensical pseudo bollocks so absurd that it makes the scientific theory behind Jurassic Park look like a PHD thesis.
So, is Project Power a bad film? After a 6 paragraph condemnation of the superhero genre, you’ll probably be fairly surprised to hear me say that, no, it isn’t actually all that bad. Yes, the plot, the world and the sci-fi elements are all tedious and generic, but the film is carried quite effectively by some wonderful performances from its cast.
Jamie Foxx does a stellar job with his performance as Art, we get to see a really charming break through performance from Dominique Fishback as Robin, and it’s really great to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt return to a leading role after a couple of years away from the mainstream. Despite the fact that all the three characters are fairly one dimensional, our trio of actors really do manage to make the most of the material that is given to them.
This is also helped by a humorous and rewarding script, which provides some real moments of laughter between characters whose interpersonal relationships onscreen obviously benefited from some genuine cast chemistry.
Also worthy of note is Joseph Trapanese’s hypnotic, trancey original score. As I always say, a great soundtrack can elevate a film from good to great. Sure, this isn’t the case here, the material is too stale for the soundtrack to truly elevate the film, but it certainly has a good crack at it. in fact, I would go as far to say that the soundtrack does more of the heavy lifting than the plot itself does when it comes to world building and tone setting.
In terms of the story, I’m not going to bore you with the finer details, instead, I want you to try an experiment for me if you haven’t already seen Project Power. Grab a pen and paper and write out a superhero film plot of your own – it doesn’t need to be complicated, maybe just 4 or 5 bullet points laying out the story beats – I guarantee, in your absent minded scribbling, you’ve probably predicted the plot of Netflix’s Project Power before having even seen it.
There we have it, another week passes, and yet another dreary, copy and paste superhero squib is served up on the sacrificial plinth of genre fatigue. But don’t be too sad if you’ve seen Project Power and you’re after another generic superhero movie to bash your head against. 20th Century Studios’ latest pile of X-men excrement, The New Mutants, should be showing at a cinema near you right now – after all, at any given moment, you’re never more than 10 feet away from the latest MCU rip off you know.