Imagine a world where heroes with powers patrol the skies bringing down bad guys with their laser vision and super strength. Now imagine that same world within our own, filled with photo calls, social media accounts and merchandising and sponsorship deals. It’s a world where battles are waged at the behest of publicists in order to raise profiles, and the job of bringing down the low-level power-enhanced thugs is left squarely on the shoulders of the Powers Taskforce.
Within the ranks of this un-powered police unit is Christian Walker (Sharlto Copley), a former superhero who had his powers stripped away by the cannibalistic supervillain known only as Wolfe (Eddie Izzard). Now, reluctantly he finds himself grounded as a homicide detective within the unit, but dreams of having the power he once had to truly become the hero he always hoped he would be.
It’s this singular dream which punctuates the story as Walker discovers his old super-friend turned super-villain Johnny Royalle (Noah Taylor) isn’t as dead as he thought he was. Not only that, but the drugs that Royalle is peddling to young Powers could put Walker face to face again with Wolfe and the chance at getting his power back.
On paper this all sounds pretty good (a fact to which the successful comic book series is a testament to) but on screen it really doesn’t work well at all.
First of all, this looks cheap. At a time where series like Westworld and Game of Thrones (and to a lesser extent The CW’s hero shows) are knocking it out of the park visually, Powers falls flat time and again. Fight scenes are like slow-motion smack-downs and the special effects are largely substandard. Secondly, the writing and plotting is lazy, aimless and repetitive. Time and again you are beaten over the head with F words in an effort to prove to you how clever and grown up it is. It’s not, it’s actually hilarious. There’s a ‘dafuq!’ drinking game just waiting to happen. Finally (and perhaps most importantly) the tone just isn’t right.
Concocting the perfect blend of comic book and stark realism in order to base superheroes in the real world is an incredibly difficult genre to get right. And for all of Powers’ growling heroic voices, chest puffing and satirical cleverness, the show just can’t find its stride. It’s incredibly dark (think Heroes meets Ash vs Evil Dead) in places, while other moments are peppered with colourful heroes and teen romance.
Powers may have wanted to be the Watchmen of the small screen, but instead it’s more Ben Affleck’s Daredevil. It’s a huge shame and missed opportunity, which perhaps the inexplicable second season might be able to put right.
No extra features are included on the DVD and the episodes themselves don’t even have chapters!
POWERS: SEASON ONE / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: SHARLTO COPLEY, SUSAN HEYWARD, EDDIE IZZARD, NOAH TAYLOR, OLESYA RULIN, ADAM GODLEY, MAX FOWLER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW