Power Rangers Review: It’s Franchise Fred Approvin’ Time!
My history with Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is limited but no less nostalgic. I didn’t watch the TV show, but the movie opened when I was working at a movie theater in high school. I also went to a press screening in DC (yes I went to press screenings as a high school critic) because I was interested in the phenomenon of Power Rangers. The 1995 movie was great fun with a campy villain and great soundtrack, so it was a joy to pop in during breaks in my shift. I never even saw Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie which I guess is a violation of Franchise Fred rules, but it was a different cast, so I had no attachment. The new Power Rangers made me happy that kids in 2017 have a modern group of heroes to get to know and be introduced to the fun of morphin.
My only reservation is how long Power Rangers takes to let them become Power Rangers. I get that they want the characters to really earn it. Batman Begins took an hour to get Bruce Wayne in the bat suit, but that was a compelling story of a lost violent billionaire regardless of its franchise. Power Rangers takes even longer and it’s really only about becoming Power Rangers.
It gives you plenty of action and training. They even introduce Zords before the Morphin suits. So it’s not boring, and it’s maybe intentional to make you feel the characters’ frustrations. It’s not an issue of giving the actors face time outside of the suits because they still have face plates that come off so you can see them. Perhaps it also makes sense because this time there’s no TV show to introduce these actors and characters first. They really have to do it all in the movie (but still, most movies only designate the first 30 minutes to this).
It is so perfect for kids to have honest, relatable heroes to look up to. Billy (RJ Cyler) is openly on the spectrum. Trini (Becky G.)’s parents don’t accept her sexuality or personality. But not all the Rangers have clear labels for kids to identify, and that’s the point. There are infinite nuances to identity struggles growing up, and this microcosm of five shows kids they are not alone and not defined by them. Anyone could be involved in social media bullying (on either end), taking care of a sick parent or just plain making mistakes that feel unredeemable.
The most regressive aspect is that Jason (Dacre Montgomery) needs to rise to the challenge of leadership, but I think it’s clear he sees leadership in his four friends, and it’s Zordon (Bryan Cranston)’s old paradigm that doesn’t work.
Power Rangers is sincere and serious, but it’s not afraid to do fan service. It takes its characters seriously but doesn’t take itself too seriously. I mean, the villain’s name is Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). That’s not Ivan Ooze, but still, no one acts like that sounds like it comes from a kids’ TV show. If a movie can teach the selfie generation that life is bigger than yourself and human connection matters, that’s doing good for the world.
The finale is the second best robot fighting monster movie of the year. The best opens next month, but it’s still great to see modern CGI action that incorporates the team aspects of the show. And, it’s good destruction porn. I wish it embraced the color more, considering the Rangers are specifically identified by five distinct colors, but since they’ve committed to the modern muted color look it holds up.
This may be entirely coincidental, but this Power Rangers seems to approach its soundtrack the same way the 1995 film did too. Maybe there aren’t any catalog hits on this soundtrack, but there are lots of covers. The only difference is the 2017 approach to covers is to make them all gloomy, but it’s representative of the times. The music choices are very smart when it’s a heavy instrumental score like a Michael Bay or Christopher Nolan movie, or if the moment calls for a needle drop.
Perhaps the most ‘90s thing about Power Rangers is the joke about milking a male cow. That’s so ‘90s it was already in another comedy in the ‘90s. But Power Rangers is for the children of 2017 and I would be happy to bring children to meet the new Power Rangers.