Ending Explained is a recurring series in which we explore the finales, secrets, and themes of interesting movies and shows, both new and old. This time, we dig into the ending of Project Power.
How awkward is it when a movie teases the possibility of a sequel, and that sequel never happens? Netflix’s sci-fi original Project Power doesn’t have that problem, even though some plot points are left open-ended. “We wanted to design it as a fully enclosed, satisfying, entertaining story,” said Henry Joost, one of the movie’s directors, to Digital Spy. “I think that there are definitely many more directions the story could go, and the concept is so much fun, and you could imagine it.”
Joost and his directing partner, Ariel Schulman, admit they’re open to a follow-up and have some ideas. Plus, there is the matter of the few loose ends, including the fate of the woman known as the Matriarch (Rose Bianco). She escapes the massacre in the speakeasy underneath the check-cashing place along with some Power, the pills that give users some sort of special ability for five minutes (unless the power is to immediately self-destruct). Did she make it back to South America to distribute the drug among the cartels?
Also, what became of the Genesis? The man on the radio starting off a brand new day, at the end, claims the ship disappeared, and neither the Coast Guard nor the New Orleans Police Department has any other details. And what about those mysterious secret agents and the likelihood that there are plenty of other baddies at Teleios just waiting to show off their specific drug-induced, animal-inspired power (we haven’t yet seen — but did hear about — super-speed) against one or more of the movie’s heroes? Meanwhile, have we seen just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Tracy’s abilities?
Because Project Power is not adapted from comic books, even though it seems like it is, there are no pages to look at for answers to what, if anything, comes next. My only guess is that Jamie Foxx won’t be returning. As the Oscar-winner says, in character as The Major, when asked if this is really over, “For me, it is.” It’s not that Foxx couldn’t use a franchise, but this franchise no longer has any use for him. Aside from what a bummer it would have been right after reuniting with his daughter, Tracy, The Major might as well have stayed dead after obliterating the baddies with his pistol shrimp power.
In another movie or story, The Major would not have found his daughter. Revenge would have been his driving force as he found a new daughter-figure in the form of Robin (Dominique Fishback), served as her paternalistic mentor, sacrificed himself, and died. And Robin, who steals the show in this movie anyway, would be left alone to rise in hero status for any future installments or journeys. The Major would not have ridden off into the distance. He would not have been able to acknowledge that this is the end of his story. And he would not have been able to deliver his most important line.
Not so late in the film anyway. What line am I referring to? The one that sums up the meaning of the movie, of course. The one that confirms why Project Power is indeed best accepted as a “fully enclosed, satisfying, entertaining story.” An ending explained as being a closed book, no matter all the loose threads. The line that The Major says to Robin as they’re hugging goodbye. After he reminds her to check the trunk of his truck for something special.
“There’s something great inside of you, Robin. Use it.”
We can interpret that line in two different ways. The Major could be talking about Robin’s skills as a rapper. That’s her future. That’s her power. That’s what we hear as being the next step for her as the credits begin and the DJ on the radio introduces the brand new MC Robin Reilly. That’s what we see Robin doing in the last shot, under the credits, is writing rhymes. She’s got the money to make her start and she’s got the talent, if only she unleashes it for more people to hear. She can freestyle with prompts as difficult as “seismograph” and “antibiotic.” The Major had told her to take down the system with that power.
The other way he could have meant the line is that she’s got a lot of heart. Cheesier, for sure, but also it’s the truth. Just about every other character took Power at some point and showed a super ability that fit who they really are or needed to be. If you watched the movie expecting Robin to eventually pop a pill and reveal her five-minute endowment, you should have known that the real power was the love all these characters found along the way. Seriously, though, within the plot of Project Power, Robin’s true strength was her heart and how it led her to help everyone else to succeed in saving the day.
She didn’t need to be a hero. She was just trying to survive, slinging Power to make some money to help her mother and nobody else. She even kept her rap to herself and was something of a loner. A Clint Eastwood type. But the Eastwood she knew was the lover, the tough-looking but sensitive male lead of his 1995 romantic drama The Bridges of Madison County. She may have formed a partnership with Detective Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) because he buys from her and brings her gifts from the impound. And she may have been forced to team up with The Major after he kidnapped her and put her life in jeopardy. But ultimately, she came to love them and want to be their sidekick, their lookout, their man in the chair, for that reason, not for her own personal gain.
Focusing on the one character without powers in a story of great and abundant powers is not that common in movies (see the human protagonists of the Transformers franchise or the main kid in Sky High, though he ultimately discovers his powers), but it’s an interesting perspective to follow. Robin never having a superpower makes her special in that uniqueness. That and how much she cares. But it’s curious that Project Power is actually about a hero without superhuman power given that its writer, Mattson Tomlin, also co-wrote the next Batman movie, about the most famous power-free comic book superhero of all time.
Of course, her name also serves as a shoutout to Batman’s sidekick (she also explicitly references the dynamic duo in case it’s not obvious enough), and sidekicks tend to be associated with more virtuous traits like loyalty. They’re lacking in superpowers but serve heroically with what’s naturally inside of them: heart, guts, spirit. The Robin of Project Power isn’t just a supporting player, though. She certainly won’t be, going forward. But what’s next? That’s for us to imagine, most likely she becomes a rap star. And not just for the money, for her and her mom. Rather, to make the world a better place for all.