Powder is a 1995 film about what would happen if someone with the powers of a God walked among the citizens of a small western American town. It feels weird to break this guy down in terms of a superpowered being (to give you some idea of what he’s like), but if I had to, I’d say he’s basically Magneto with the intelligence of Reed Richards.
I must admit that when I heard the name, I thought it was going to be one of those Brit-Pics along the lines of Pure (average flick, featured Keira Knightley in an early appearance). I was pleasantly surprised. The name of the film comes from the fact that for his albino complexion, the main character of the film is nicknamed ‘Powder’. His actual name is Jeremy Reed.
The powers he has came about because of a lightning strike that hit his mother when she was up the duff with him. Said lightning strike happened to look like she was being beamed up during one of the Trek crews’ jaunts to the 20th century, but that’s neither here nor there. She died in hospital but he survived to develop the highest intelligence on the planet, is telepathic and possesses a permanent electromagnetic charge. As anyone who is quite intelligent knows, it can single you out as a target for hostility and aggression. The film concentrates on showing how he copes with all of the above.
Two faces that I recognise from elsewhere are Jeff Goldblum as the high school physics teacher who recognises Powder’s amazing potential (it would’ve been nice to reference his character in Jurassic Park somehow, but then we can’t have everything) and the time travelling mother of Doc. Emmett Brown’s children, Mary Steenburgen. Both characters are used well here, and both follow his journey to realise just how bad people are(which is nothing new; people have been writing ‘humans are dicks’ stories since time immemmorial) and are present at the end.
As the film goes on, you find yourself sympathising with the protagonist and thinking of the other characters as dickweeds, which was the intention of the writer.This is one of the better films that I have seen, with powerful writing and direction serving the story well. The film reminds me of the 1963 novel, “The Man Who Fell To Earth”, apart from the fact that the protagonist of that work is an alien. Both have remarkable intellects, and could use what they know to change the world. Only in this movie the plot goes a different way with it, showing the others’ hostility to him rather than what he does (since he doesn’t actually have any otherworldly knowledge to use).
However, you should probably not show this film to impressionable children, since they could interpret the film’s message as ‘Lightning gives you a super intellect and lets you become Magneto!’ While this is always a fine message for a film to have, it’s not one that you want whippersnappers to pick up. Anyone else, however, would be picking up an excellent film, and one that I truly recommend.