George Lucas’ Star Wars, the original one and not all of its spinoffs, remains one of the most influential films of all time. You’d run out of fingers and toes trying to count classic movies that owe their existence to Star Wars. To that list, you can now add Netflix’s Project Power, a thriller from co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman.
Not that Project Power takes place in a galaxy far, far away. It’s set in our world, but in a not-so-distant future where criminals take pills that give them superpowers for five minutes (and only five minutes). But when we spoke with Jamie Foxx about what a superpowered thriller like this needs to have in its script before he signs on, he explained:
Before it becomes supernatural, it has to have the natural. … When I look at Star Wars, which to me is a case study of movies, the reason that Star Wars was great is not because of the lightsabers. It’s because of Luke Skywalker. It was because of Han Solo. It was because of this band of people – Princess Leia – that you, even if they were ordering food, it would still be interesting.
Now, to be fair, I’m not sure Star Wars would be the seminal film that many consider it to be if Lucas spent the bulk of A New Hope filming Luke, Han and Leia ordering food. That’s more like Kevin Smith’s Star Wars, or maybe even Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Richard Linklater’s Before Star Wars.
But I get Jamie Foxx’s point. It’s all about characterization. You have to build these thrillers from the inside out, and give us characters that the audience will care for, so that we will invest in them as they plunge down amazing avenues. I’ve never heard it phrased the way that he put it, with the “natural” coming before the “supernatural,” but that’s a fantastic way to illustrate the importance of emphasizing story and character over special effects.
Here’s Jamie Foxx talking what drew him to Project Power.
The concept behind Project Power is a winner. Yes, it’s cool that there is an illegal drug on the streets of New Orleans that gives users five minutes of uninterrupted superpower. But the characters that Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon Levitt play are equally compelling. The former plays a former soldier trying to track his kidnapped daughter. The latter plays a police officer who wants to use the Power drug in order to stop criminals who are overdosing on it.