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Powers is a cheesy action romp, but I'll still watch it

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A review of the first three episodes

Powers, an upcoming TV show from Sony, has an interesting debut on the PlayStation Network on March 10 as the PSN's first real foray into original programming. Powers has been in the making since 2001 (one year after the comic series was released), when Sony Pictures first optioned the series. Needless to say, it's taking a big chance with this unique arrangement.

Despite the fact that I'm not familiar with the source material, after watching the first three episodes, I'm interested enough in catching it on a weekly basis -- even if I wouldn't necessarily recommend it.

Described as an "edgy, dramatic series" (I'm a sucker for drama, not so much for the edge if it has to be advertised), Powers focuses on two detectives that investigate crimes of a super-powered nature. The show is going for a Hancock-vibe, where those with powers may not have a propensity for being heroic and are a bit more nuanced. Or in some cases, downright criminal. On paper, Powers has a rather impressive cast.

It's not front-loaded with Hollywood stars, but pretty much everyone involved has a long history in TV.  That said, lead actor Sharlto Copley is no stranger to the big screen -- just look no further than his meek role in District 9 as Wikus, or his domineering turn as Agent Kruger in Elysium. The supporting cast is also fairly impressive, boasting the always great Eddie Izzard as one of Copley's mysterious old associates, or Noah Taylor as chain-smoking teleporter Johnny Royalle. The production pedigree is also enticing, with comic writers Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming at the helm.

Copley plays the role of Christian Walker, a superhero-turned-detective formerly known as "Diamond" who now works to bring down those with abilities who break the law. Much of the narrative is hinged on Walker's struggle to cope with having a normal life due to the loss of his powers, and with Copley's effortless charm, this gimmick mostly works. He has the beginnings of chemistry with partner Deena Pilgrim (Susan Heyward), but I'm far from sold on the longevity of their relationship.

Walker kind of just accepts his new younger partner right off the bat, partially through pure apathy. There's no annoying "you don't understand, rookie" hurdle to cross, but there's also a strong lack of emotional attachment both on and off the screen.  Because of this though there's a distinct lack of a dynamic between them, and any and all conflict stems from Walker's own personal struggle.

Powers may be super, but it does operate under the framework of a police procedural -- though it is thankfully shying away from "villain of the week" for now. Noah Taylor is interesting as chain-smoking teleporter Johnny Royalle, and Izzard's character is central to the overarching plot as well as Walker's hero's journey. As most avid TV-watchers know, dramas often have an underlying hook to keep viewers interested week to week, and the producers have attempted to do that with Calista, played by Olesya Rulin.

As a "wannabe" who thinks she has latent powers, she's stuck between a rock and a hard place with Walker and Royalle, who try to bend her to each of their wills. Copley's character, ultimately, is my hook. Elsewhere in the show though the lore is worth exploring, like the origin of certain character's powers, and the possibility of learning how said powers are granted or "discovered" in the first place.With the source material running for so long, there's plenty of storylines to draw from.

On a macro-level, Powers is also in part a commentary on the current era we live in, from millennial entitlement to the lack of privacy facilitated by the age of handheld technology. Walker notes that "back in his day" growing up with powers, his friends would go on patrol and strive to "be something." Driving through a youth gathering in the present day, he sees them partying and laments the new generation. It's all fairly trite and not particularly "new" given how other programs do it better. The only benefit is the occasional amusing "TMZ-esque" vignette from guest stars like Mario Lopez.

While I'm not a fan of the phrase "edge," there is a fair bit of violence, swearing, and sex to elevate it above what would normally be considered acceptable on network TV -- so giving it a home on the PSN is a smart move. On a technical level the effects are practical, and never really border on the level of cheese that the soap-opera drama sometimes achieves.

Royale's teleportation effect is clean and amusing (complete with a signature "pop" sound), and there's some impressive CG aerial work.  The balance of effects is spot-on as Powers is not keen to overdo it, but gives you enough of a spark to keep you interested. Each episode is roughly 45 minutes in length, and at that runtime it has a propensity to overstay its welcome if it ends up giving us filler -- though I think we're safe for now.

Aging fans of Heroes will have plenty to enjoy with Powers, as they're already used to plenty of soap-storylines. While I wouldn't necessary run out to recommend it to the general public, I will be watching it week to week to see where Copley's character ends up. You can stream the first episode here on March 10, purchase it on the PlayStation Store as each episode debuts, or if you have PlayStation Plus, you'll get it for free as it airs.

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Chris Carter
Chris CarterReviews Director, Co-EIC   gamer profile

Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step, make an account, and start blogging in January of 2009. Now, he's staff! ------------------- T... more + disclosures


 


 



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