This article contains Project Power spoilers. You can read our spoiler-free review here.
Netflix’s new superhero movie, Project Power, merges historical abuses of power in science and medicine, and melds them with an action-packed crime movie centered around a new street drug that gives its users powers. Robin (Dominique Fishback) is our hero, a young girl forced to sell Power to pay for her mother’s medical care; through her career she befriends a cop, Frank, (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who takes the drug to “even the playing field.” Before long they’re both caught up in a nationwide conspiracy that can only be stopped by Jamie Foxx‘s forlorn father, Art.
Written by The Batman co-writer Mattson Tomlin and directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, Project Power aims to take superheroes to the proverbial streets. Now that you’ve checked it out, let’s break down that big third act finale and how it could set up a sequel.
What is Power?
Here’s the movie’s biggest twist: While we’re at first supposed to believe that Power is a drug from some kind of criminal element, it’s quickly revealed that the drug is in fact a compound created by Telios, a group that Art calls a “defense contractor.” Power’s ultimate purpose is rather unclear but we do discover that the drug is being tested on the inhabitants of New Orleans, echoing real life medical exploitation of Black people like the Tuskegee Experiments.
Robin, Art, and Frank head to the docks where the organization is holding Art’s daughter, who is essentially patient zero of Power. Although the film never explicitly states it, we can assume Telios was planning to roll the drug out in different cities, and seeing as the crew escaped and didn’t destroy Telios’ base, that could still arguably happen. But with Art’s daughter Tracy on the run, the shadowy Powers-That-Be might not be able to create any more of the drug. After all, it was implied that she was the source, or at least a new source, for Power..
Who is Art?
Robin might be at the center of our story, but the big mysteries all center around the enigmatic military man, Art. When we first meet him, Art’s a violent threat who kidnaps Robin, but the pair soon come to an understanding. Power isn’t what it seems. Frank is set on Art’s path when his lieutenant tells him that the ex-soldier is the man behind the drug ravaging their city. But as we find out, he’s actually on a quest for revenge, trying to find the daughter that was stolen from him after he was used as a test subject to create the drug.
Taking aim at real life American military crimes and experimentation like the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, Project Power reveals that the U.S. military allowed the private defense contractor to try and make superheroes out of soldiers. During that trial they apparently gave Art even stronger powers, which are triggered by using Power. “Pumping the test subjects full of radiation… they cracked the code… and messed with their genes.”
A few years later his daughter Tracy was born with natural powers, making her a target for Telios, which wanted to harness what they see as the next evolutionary step. Tracy is at the heart of Art’s mission and why he eventually allows himself to be taken in by Frank as part of his greater plan.
When we see him take Power at the end to see Robin, his powers far outstrip anything we’ve seen earlier in the movie. It establishes his connection to the drug before opening the door for us to see Tracy’s unique skill set. She can heal, literally bringing people back to life, which explains why the government is so eager to keep their hands on her.
What Happens Next?
While Netflix has not yet announced a sequel to the film, there’s plenty of places that a Project Power follow-up could go. Art and Tracy leave, and even though Art states that his mission is over, the film implies that for Frank and Robin there might be more to do. With Tracy and Art on the run, there’s the obvious potential for a sequel that sees Telios try to hunt down their subjects and exploit them again, but there are less linear options too.
During the film we only get to see a couple of examples of what Power can really do and in a world where superpowers exist there are plenty of avenues to explore. New films could explore singular people who take the drug and the impact it has. They could look at the impact of the drug when it reaches a national level. Or we could follow Frank as he tries to get rid of the drug and stop production of it. You could even just focus on the science behind it. With Tomlin busy writing The Batman, it’s unlikely he’ll be back anytime soon, but if the movie does well for the streamer then there’s a high likelihood we could see another entry in the superhero series.
You can watch Project Power on Netflix now.