Courtesy IMDb: High school outcasts stumble upon an old alien ship, where they acquire superpowers and are dubbed the Power Rangers. Learning that an old enemy of the previous generation has returned to exact vengeance, the group must harness their powers and use them to work together and save the world.
Viewed with your Nostalgia Goggles on and paired with an open mind, Power Rangers is cheesy, goofy, surprising, fun.
I was in the twilight of my childhood when the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers phenomenon took off but I was fortunately still immature enough to enjoy the show for a little while. Looking back, the show was so weird and campy that I’m surprised it even worked in the first place. Japanese stock footage was infused with horribly written plots and terrible American actors. Every show was the same, Rita Repulsa sends a monster to destroy the worlds most unfortunate town Angel Grove, the monster then grows to giant proportions and the Rangers are forced to fight as one with the Megazord against said monster. Between that is sandwiched some arbitrary side story, a fight scene with Rita Repulsa’s endless army of Puttys and the cheesiest of dialogue. Not to mention backflips, copious amounts of unesscarry back flips.
So for this new 2017 cinematic reboot I didn’t know what to expect. If they forced a complex and impactful narrative into Power Rangers it could come across as contrived and completely ruin the spirit of the source material. If they went all out with cheesy, mindless action than… well it would kinda suck. Despite the additions of Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks to the cast of unknowns playing the Rangers, I was still very skeptical. Actually I expected it to be horrible.
Boy was I wrong…
The Power Rangers:
This movie reminded me a little of a lesser quality version of The Force Awakens. There’s the sense that the creative minds behind this film are trying to both reboot something and create something brand new simultaneously. Much like in TFA, that is done by leaving the plot on the back burner and focusing more of the creative energy on the characters. Not to say these characters are in any way cinematic masterpieces but certainly more than adequate for this film and far superior than the characters from the show. The comparisons of the new Power Rangers to The Breakfast Club was noted after the first trailers. Troublesome teens from different walks of life belonging to separate cliques are thrown together in Saturday School .
Dacre Montgomery plays Jason, who eventually becomes the Red Ranger. This is the jock of the group, with a capacity for greatness and a overbearing father with perhaps unrealistic expectations of his son. Despite his desire to ruin his promising Quarterback future and become the next Johnny Manziel, Jason shows flashes of great leadership qualities. While the most beloved character from this film may be a separate Ranger, Dacre to me gives the best performance of this film. While the other young actors in this film show promise, Dacre possesses the most immediate qualities of a star.
For most this was the standout character of the film and it’s understandable why, Billy is not only the comedic relief of this film but has the most memorable moments. The obligatory tech guy, Billy is, well, odd. Very eccentric. Sometimes his quirkiness and rambling gets a little tiresome, even annoying. But most of his jokes land and he’s overall very likable. One could argue he’s the heart of the film. His fathers death still weighs on him and even motivates him. Much of this serves as the catalyst that drives the plot forward.
One part Molly Ringwald, other part Mean Girl. This Pink Ranger is a much stronger character than Amy Jo Johnson’s from the TV show. Still, this version of the Pink Ranger is given the most injustice by the plot. Her struggles aren’t clarified until late in the film. Also the manner in which she rebels against the troubles that lands her in Saturday school with the other teenagers with attitude is confusing. It seems the writers wanted to convey this character has an edge, but it comes across as forced at times. Nonetheless, this is a minor nitpick overall. Naomi Scott delivers a great performance which adds another layer of badassery to the ‘sweetheart’ Pink Ranger.
Much like Jason, Zack has a chip on his shoulder. He’s stubborn, pigheaded and brash. Obviously these characteristics clash with Jason, who is pinned as the leader early on. My main issue with Zack is that he’s the most forgettable character for much of the movie. However as the film progresses he plays a more integral role in the story. Like the other Rangers, his character is likable and by the end of the film you are excited to see what’s in store for him next. Hopefully in the eventual sequel his the Black Ranger gets more love. Ludi Lin who plays the character does a fantastic job and helps propel the Black Ranger from obscurity.
I saved the Black and Yellow Rangers for last, because that’s exactly what the film does. Halfway through, it kind of felt like the Red, Blue and Pink Rangers were main characters and the Black and Yellow Ranger were just there for continuity sake. However, the narratives of the Yellow and Black Rangers play out midway through the film and Trini turns out to be one of the strongest characters. I’ll leave Trini’s story out of this review but Becky G. does a great job portraying this character. For reasons you’ll see in the film, Trini is very standoffish and even rude to the other Rangers, especially Kimberly. This gets frustrating at times but all is forgiven when Trini opens up to the group. There is a campfire scene towards the end of the film that ties these separate narratives together, and Trini is the best part of that scene.
Zordon and Alpha 5
You can count me amongst the group of Millenials obsessed with Brian Cranston. I of course fell in love with Cranston via his role as Walter White in Breaking Bad and the studio making Power Rangers was certainly aware that many of those millenials in the Cranston fan club probably grew up with the Power Rangers as well. Furthermore, hardcore Power Rangers fans probably know that Cranston actually voiced a few villains in the original show. All things considered, it was an obvious choice to cast Cranston as Zordon. Granted, Cranstons talents are a little wasted as a floating, digitized, talking head. However the depth of the character Zordon and his dynamic with the Power Rangers was significantly better than what I remember from the original TV show. In fact their are some big reveals regarding the origin of Zordons character.
Zordons robotic sidekick Alpha 5 was perhaps the most annoying element of the original show and that’s saying something. This Alpha 5 was voiced by Bill Heder in this version and has a dramatically retooled look. In this film Alpha 5 was a standout, he’s no BB-8 but he certainly stands head and shoulders above his 90’s counterpart.
Elizabeth Banks’s role of Rita Repulsa, the central antagonist of this film, has been perhaps the most polarizing. Some say the overwhelming cheesiness of her character which is conjured from the original Rita in the 90’s show, is out of place in this film. I personally disagree, in fact I thought it was one of the films strong suits. Her appearance and dialogue are over the top, sometimes laced with innuendo that will fly over the younger audiences head. She is a much more face to face antagonist in this movie which is quite different than her role from the TV show as a distant threat on the moon and this makes her quite honestly the best villain the Rangers have faced in any form of media yet. Like Zordon, elements are added to her backstory that not only gives the character more depth but more motive for her hate of the Rangers.
For every two adequate elements of story making in Power Rangers their is another element which makes you shake your head.
As I mentioned before the bulk of the creativity surrounding this film centers on the characters. The filmmakers spend a lot of time introducing us to the teenagers who will be donning the new Power Ranger suits. Mainly because its evident this film is meant to set up a franchise and viewers will be more likely to go back again and again to theaters if they care more about the characters. The most controversial way of doing this is by not letting us see the teens actually become Power Rangers until the end of the movie. The Story mostly centers around their journey of not only overcoming their personal challenges but becoming worthy enough to be the Rangers. You get just enough glimpse of Ranger action throughout to keep your butts in the seat, not to mention world building oohs and ahhhs keep the entertainment value high.
I’m fine with a delayed reveal of the Rangers and the Zords/ Megazord but what bothered me was the action. The fight scene against Rita’s Putty army was way to short and honestly quite lackluster. As expected, a giant monster, this time old show favorite Goldar attacks the Rangers home town of Angel Grove. That’s not a problem, but the action in the climactic scene is also very bland. The Rangers form their Megazord and engage with Goldar in a predictable, boring battle. However a few of the moments in these scenes work well enough for the whole thing not to be a waste and make for a solid ending.
My biggest issue with the movie was teased above, and that was how they handled the intros to the Black and Yellow Rangers. The other three Rangers are given well developed intros early in the film while we don’t get properly introduced to the other two Rangers until the second half. They do make up for this by giving both Black and Yellow Rangers quality narratives. However I still feel like they are the backup Rangers in a way. In fairness, that’s not too different than how the original TV show was as well. Overall I loved the characters and this is just a minor gripe.
The overall mythos and world building to the Power Rangers franchise is dramatically improved by this film and it gives filmmakers much more to work with as this franchise hopefully continues on.
I not only thought I would hate Power Rangers, I kinda wanted to. Instead I left the theater on a high note. I was very impressed with how they gave us a quality film based on campy, cheesy source material and still didn’t compromise the spirit of the original. Nostalgia and fun are both found in bulk throughout.
My final score is 7 out of 10