Power Rangers Review: The Power Holds up After 25 Years
Full Disclosure: I am the quintessential nostalgic audience the Power Rangers reboot is targeting. I was five years old with the original Mighty Morphin series debuted and was an unapologetic and dedicated fan until around age eight. Looking back, I realize the show isn’t per say “good” on a character or narrative level, but then again, the show is meant for kids. That being said, the series did have values and messages throughout. Teamwork, acceptance, becoming more than what people see of you are all important themes that stand the test of time. Saban was just smart enough to disguise these messages with super-sentai footage, colorful costumes, and some pretty great kung-fu sequences to boot. When I first heard of this reboot, I was terrified. I have been a fan of many things over many years, but nothing came close to my love of the Power Rangers, which I still revisit to this day for some fun, cheesy fun.
The 2017 Power Rangers movie takes its roots from the original saga. Five ordinary teens must become something extraordinary when they learn that their small town of Angel Grove – and the world – is on the verge of being obliterated by Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). Chosen by destiny, our heroes are brought together by some coincidental scenarios. There’s the leader of the pact, Jason Scott, (Dacre Montgomery) a once high school football all-star, who is now under house arrest after an incident with a cow (you’ll know when you see it.) In detention, he meets Billy Cranston, (RJ Cyler) who is both brilliant and bullied, Billy doesn’t have many friends, and once Jason stands up to a bully for him, Billy latches onto him instantly, hoping for not just protection, but friendship.
They also make friends with Kimberly, (Naomi Scott) an ex-cheerleader who did something terrible, causing her “friends” to disown her. Once the three are in the caves together, they run into an exuberant and carefree teenager named Zack (Ludi Lin). Zack likes to be the center of attention, usually thinking he’s funnier than he is. Finally, we round up the quintet with Trini, ( Becky G.) a new girl at school that doesn’t get along with her family, or anyone for that matter.
The acting from the Rangers, for the most part, is surprisingly impressive. The characters do fall into the typical high-school cliches a la The Breakfast Club, which eventually becomes essential to each of the Rangers character arc. The standouts of them all are Cyler, Montgomery, and Naomi Scott. I was terribly worried they would make Jason, the leader of the bunch, a stereotypical jock with bland screen presence. Instead, we feel empathy towards him, and somewhat understand the reasoning for his current reckless behavior. Kimberly is no longer the damsel in distress from the original series; instead, she is a strong-willed, independent and not always perfect. To avoid spoilers, her action that caused her to go to detention are severely wrong, and to the film’s credit, she never quite gets redeemed from this heinous act. Quite a significant change from the perfectly pretty and “can do no wrong,” Pink Ranger from its predecessor.
Unfortunately, Zack and Trini (Black and Yellow Ranger) aren’t on screen enough to give off a presence. Zack, for the most part, is just a reckless teen who “sometimes” goes to school. However, once the Rangers start to bond and get to know each other, you understand why Zack is the way he is. The same can’t be said about Trini, sadly. Becky G’s performance is bland throughout the movie and doesn’t even have many lines. What’s painful about this is that Trini and Rita share the best scene in the film together, which was remarkable on a technical level.
Speaking of Rita, Elizabeth Banks relishes in the role. Her scenes in the first 90 or so minutes of the film are wonderfully creepy, giving off a horror vibe that I did not expect.
The two weak links for me were Zordon (Bryan Cranston) and Alpha 5 (Bill Hader). The opening scene of Power Rangers gives some great backstory to Zordon, showing him in a way that’s never been done before. Once we meet Zordon in his underground spaceship, (or Command Center for us fans), he is not the wise mentor you’d expect. He’s kind of a Dick. His reasoning for wanting the Power Rangers to form are selfish, and when the inevitable time comes for him to be an actual mentor, I didn’t buy it.
Hader’s Alpha 5 was a typical exposition machine, lacking the humor and charm the character is known for. It also doesn’t help that this robot was around for 65 million years, but looks like a brand new prototype out of Microsoft Store.
Once the teens find their colored coins and begin to discover what they are capable of, Power Rangers is a fun, fast-paced ride to the end. The training montages are a blast, well shot and it’s apparent that these actors did a lot of their stunts. When it comes to a more young-adult genre, it’s nice not to see shakey camera movements and the action be fluid and real.
What surprised me the most is that every member of the Rangers had their arc to them, even if some of the members get lost in the shuffle. There is a scene that takes place at a bonfire, where each of the teens opens up to get to know each other. The scene had a John Hughes vibe to it, and a surprising amount of heart as well.
When it becomes “morphin time,” it feels earned. I can see most being upset because it takes 90-minutes to see the Rangers in their new shiny armor, but I felt it was necessary. If they simply found the coins and immodesty become the Power Rangers, it wouldn’t have the weight required to make us care about them as an audience.
From Jason saying the iconic morphin phrase, until the end of the film, it’s an absolute joy to witness. The first time we see all of the Rangers walking in unison brought chills down my spine. At this point in my career, I can put fandom aside and critique a film properly. That being said, when you first see them assembled in full armor, I went “That is the Power Rangers.” I believed it, it was earned, and the situations that the team got though together made them a unit.
When the Rangers bust out the Zords and take on the mighty Goldar, we are treated to some seriously fun robot action. The CGI was a bit too obvious at times when the individual Zords we’re in the heat of action, but the use of all of the Zords was unique. Each team member had a purpose, and when they form the Megazord, the control of this gigantic super robot was equally as unique and required teamwork.
Some may see this and consider it as a cash grab, a way to bring a universe back into the present and sell toys and lunch boxes. However, you can’t deny the genuine passion and respect for character development in the script. Power Rangers on the outside looking in, is mindless popcorn fun. Beneath the colors, catch phrases, and cheesiness, is a story about five characters looking to make their lives meaningful. This is a story of relationships, friendships, and becoming something that’s always been inside you.
This is, “The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.”
Power Rangers comes out on March 24th, 2017.