There is something odd about a premise that can be quite magnificent, but it not only chooses a path of most same-y and also the path of least creativity.
In essence, Project Power has great ideas, but its lackluster implementation of its ideas, such as lack of commentary on drug use, or the how corporations, shady dealings and the police and other government arms often work hand in hand for very dangerous experiments.
The premise of the film is that there is a pill that grants 5-minute powers, but each individual has different powers, and the users have no idea what it will be. Repeated use of this ‘power pill’ yields the same results; Overdosing on these pills is also possible, resulting in grisly deaths.
This is allegorically quite on the nose, and the message is clear: “Don’t do drugs, but make it sci-fi”
The movie is pretty ambitious in its scope; the setting is a post- Katrina New Orleans amidst reconstruction and an opoid crisis. The movie’s early scenes capture decrepit infrastructure, poverty and general dilapidation amongst brand-new housing projects, overshadowed by graffiti.
Structural racism is touched up on, with the quote – “You’re a young, black woman, the system is designed to swallow you up,” Art tells Robin. Robin’s mother, Irene, suffers due to the shortcomings of American healthcare. However, these concepts are not really explored, hence being only skin deep in their place.
It feels like the movie has a good, and even fun, premise but it doesn’t fully explore its potential. For example, there are not enough powers showcased themselves- the anticipation and thrill of a character popping a pill is there but so few sequences exist that it feels just lacking. This is especially true for the middle, where no pills are used. The premise seems to have been forgotten halfway through. The third act does remedy this, but the problem is that it is an afterthought.
Slow-Motion shots add to the thrill, capturing heat, bullets crashing against diamond hard skill, chameleon effects, ice crackling with chimes, fires burning, etc. all are done well, with camera shots going for the “microscopic” level to show the development of powers.
The cinematic magnificence was such that I felt like going back to the cinema- the TV just wasn’t cutting it. It’s a similar feeling to watching other high-end movies like Extraction and The Old Guard. The TV is also just too small to capture the action; it felt like Project power could do with a larger screen.
Humour is not the movie’s strong suit; it is, however, squeezed into the third act like an afterthought of sprinkles. This addition of ‘funny’ lines doesn’t really gel with the serious tone of the film. The films is very relevant to our times, because shady corporations, crooked cops, and horrible experiments done on unwilling are not only part of American history, but also a reality. Health insurance runs on some of the most insidious mechanisms, and the drug business has had many a youth killed, incarcerated and wasted away in dead end life paths.
This humour just doesn’t work, and ends up looking like a poor imitation of Marvel humour, which doesn’t suit its style at all.
Often times, while the film often does tick the boxes for what makes a super hero film, it does little else. At times, it was as if it was just trying to fullfil requirements and little else. As a result, the gore, jokes, moral questions, commentary on American society, drugs etc. all fit very oddly together, like puzzle pieces made with the right specifications… with no idea what the big picture would look like.
The movie is redeemed with its action sequences, and for this reason we recommend this movie for a good time, and not much more.