Power Rangers Review: Morphs To Delight Old Fans and New
I was ten years old when Mighty Morphin Power Rangers first aired on television. As a kid, I remember watching the show and instantly falling in love with the Rangers as well as the Zords and the Evil Space Aliens. I remember going to various malls near Atlantic City, NJ and trying to track down the Power Rangers action figures. I was obsessed with this show, and honestly the year 1993 pretty much confirmed that I was destined to be a film and television journalist.
After seeing Hollywood poorly reimage a lot of things that I cherished from my childhood including Ninja Turtles, Vacation, and Transformers, I was very nervous about the Power Rangers reboot/remake. Luckily, Power Rangers is made with a lot of love and care. This new film improves on some of the original series shortcomings while bringing the origin story up to date for a whole new generation to enjoy. It was evident from very early on that screenwriter John Gatins was a fan of the original series and wanted to make sure that this new film would appeal to fans of the original while updating the material so that modern audiences could appreciate these characters.
The first thing you should know about Power Rangers is that it is an origin story. About 75% of the film is spent developing the characters and their friendship. Just like the show, there are five lead characters in the movie. Jason played by Dacre Montgomery, Billy played by RJ Cyler, Kimberly played by Naomi Scott, Zachary played by Ludi Lin, and Trini played by Becky G. Each one of these characters is given a background story so that the audience can understand why they have been chosen to become the Power Rangers.
Unlike the show where I felt the characters weren’t developed as much as I would have liked, the film takes the time to give the audience a way to connect with each of characters while also building the friendship between the characters. Jason is high school football player that has gotten himself into quite a bit of trouble with the law and as a result, has jeopardized his football career. Billy is a social outcast with autism that is dealing with the passing of his father. Kimberly is a popular girl that has made some bad moral decisions which as a result have affected a lot of her friendships. Zachary is a rebellious loner that takes care of his sick mother. Trini is one of many siblings with parents that aren’t accepting of her look and sexual orientation.
Out of all the characters, I feel like Jason and Billy were the best developed. For those who aren’t familiar with the original series, Jason becomes the leader of the Power Rangers, so it makes sense that his character is given the most screen time and backstory. Early on in the film, there is a car chase scene where we see Jason fleeing from the cops. We learn throughout the film how this incident has impacted Jason’s life and changed him as a person. Dacre Montgomery does an excellent job playing Jason and making sure that the character is someone that the audience wants to get behind. For a teenager, Jason is given quite a bit of substance and Montgomery realistically showcases the frustration and anger that Jason internally holds onto.
The role of Billy in the original series was one of the weakest characters because he was only portrayed as this smart, dorky guy with no real character development. RJ Cyler’s take on Billy is incredible, and he is without a doubt that strongest actor among the five leads. Cyler portrays Billy as someone that doesn’t feel like a caricature but rather an actual person. He manages to capture what it is like to be a teenager with autism by making it come across as genuine. Cyler amazed me in Me and Earl and The Dying Girl back in 2015 and continued to impress me here. Billy is easily my favorite of the new Rangers, and that is because of how Cyler embraces the material and makes the role his own. Billy is both comedic and charming as a character.
I loved Naomi Scott has Kimberly. She was terrific and was so easy to root for. Kimberly was just so likable as a character even though she does have her own dark past that we learn about briefly in the second act of the film. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I would have liked a bit more backstory on Kimberly especially since Scott is a good actress and has such a vibrant on-screen presence. I thought Ludi Lin was ok as Zachary. He wasn’t bad but he didn’t stand out that much either. And just like Kimberly, he lacked backstory.
While I enjoyed the four other Rangers, I do have to complain about Becky G as Trini. I loved how Gatins wrote Trini as a character but Becky G’s performance is the weakest link of the film. I couldn’t help but feel distracted by her line delivery and her lack of commitment to the character. It was like everyone else in the film became the character they were supposed to play but it felt like Becky G wasn’t even trying. It is a real shame too because this version of Trini has so much more depth than the original character in 1993. I love that Trini was presented as this girl whose family didn’t accept her. I feel like that type of storyline is relevant to so many teenagers today which only makes it even worse that Becky G’s performance felt so incredibly phoned in.
Another thing I was nervous about was Elizabeth Banks playing Rita Repulsa. Surprisingly, I liked what she did with the material. She embraced the campy side of the character from the television series while doing something completely fresh and new with it. Banks is menacing as Rita which given the current state of superhero films and television shows worked in the film’s favor. I must also give credit to whoever came up with the costume design of Rita wardrobe. I loved her look and thought she looked like such a badass especially during the scenes when she used her ornate staff.
Bryan Cranston as Zordon is as great as you probably expected. Cranston has such a powerful and interesting voice that it made him the perfect choice for the role. For those who don’t know, Zordon is a talking floating head that is stuck in a computerized wall. While only hinted upon in the show, I liked that Zordon and Rita are given a backstory in the opening scene of the film. While some could argue that it isn’t nearly enough, I think it’s the perfect amount of introduction needed. There are far too many films that try to over explain things and I think the opening scene was just enough to set up these two characters as one is good, and one is evil.
The character of Alpha 5 is very silly and similar to how the character was portrayed in the original series. While I think Hader embraces the personality of Alpha 5, I struggled with the look. I felt like he looked too modern for a robot that was waiting millions of years to be found. Once again, as a die-hard fan of the original series, I struggled with a lot of the updated character designs. The character Goldar, who in the original series was a guy in a highly detailed costume, is now a CGI monster. The Putty Patrol is now CGI rock monsters instead of guys jumping around in spandex. While I understand why they updated the characters to look the way they did, I can’t help but miss the amazing costume designs found in the original series even if they would look cheesy given today’s technological advancements.
Despite missing the practical costumes, I will admit that the CGI was impressive especially when it came to the scenes with the Zords and the costumes of the Rangers. The film as a whole looks stunning as Dean Israelite proves that he is a talented director with a great eye for detail. He does such a great job handling the visuals while also spending a lot of the time focusing on the characters and giving each of them some personal attention. There are several scenes where you feel as though you are watching a small character-driven indie and then moments later are watching this big special effects visual sequence. Israelite can bounce back and forth between big moments and smaller personal ones with such ease and does this throughout the film. He does such a great job handling the source material and you can tell that he had wanted to keep the spirit of the original series while bringing it up to date for a new generation.
One of the biggest compliments that I want to give Power Rangers is that despite being a well-known franchise, the film can stand on its own. Unlike The Force Awakens, Power Rangers has plenty to offer fans of the original series without relying solely on nostalgia. Sure, there are certain scenes or lines of dialogue that will have fans squealing with delight but you don’t have to be a Power Rangers fan to watch and enjoy this film. I appreciated that while there are plenty of easter eggs and fan moments that Israelite and Gatins placed throughout they didn’t go overboard with it. All these scenes are handled perfectly and never once felt like direct fan service.
After spending about 90 minutes getting to know these characters and seeing them train to become Power Rangers, the final act does not disappoint. I had a huge smile on my face as I was watching what I would label an epic conclusion. The battle sequence that takes place towards the end of the film is on par with a lot of the great fight sequences found in a lot of the Marvel movies. It is exciting and just plain fun to watch. With that being said, I could also point out that there is a mid-credits scene that hints at a sequel so be sure to stay through the credits to see it.
All in all, Power Rangers is the reason why I go to the movies. It is a well-crafted origin story and makes a great first entry in what I can only hope is a multi-film franchise. Power Rangers is the type of film that upon exiting the theater I immediately wanted to watch again. It is a big budget popcorn movie done right with the right amount of story and action. I cannot wait for the sequel and will happily be revisiting this one at least one more time in theaters as well as adding the film to my Blu-Ray collection whenever it comes available.
Scott “Movie Man” Menzel’s rating for Power Rangers is a 8 out of 10.