2017’s Power Rangers takes concepts from a goofy and cheesy 90’s show and morphs it into a darker, grittier, teenage angst superhero flick that’s unforgivably light on the action and weighted down by over-the-top drama. Five teenagers with attitude come together to fight an evil space witch, and that’s all well and good, but when they’re not fighting it’s just a damned boring movie. If you take a lesser version of The Breakfast Club and throw it in a blender with one of the early 2000’s Marvel movies, that’s pretty much what you’d get. Is it good? Well, no…but it’s not exactly a disaster either.
Despite its misguided focus on teen problems, the cast does a wonderful job. We have Red Ranger Jason (played by Dacre Montgomery) as a former jock turned school prankster rebelling against his Dad. We don’t ever learn why he’s being a douche who’s content with ruining his future, but at least he’s good-natured and charismatic. Billy (played by RJ Cyler) is a loveable autistic nerd with a penchant for blowing shit up; he serves as the heart of the team, and I found him easily the best character of the film. Then there’s Kimberly and Trini (played by Naomi Scott and Becky G. respectively), Kimberly is ostracized after taking racy pictures from her friends phone and spreading them all around school and Trini is a lesbian whose parents give her guff over her sexuality. Aside from a few moments where the character of Kimberly is absolutely deplorable, both actresses do well with their parts. Ludi Lin plays Black Ranger Zack as an adrenaline junky; he’s reckless and quirky, but I enjoyed the character despite the fact he’s given the least to do out of the five. As a fan of the original 1993 Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series, these characters barely resemble their original counterparts; about the only things they have in common are Jason is the leader and Billy is the nerd. I think it would have been better to establish a new team and not reference the past if you’re going to basically ignore it.
“…take a lesser version of The Breakfast Club and throw it in a blender with one of the early 2000s Marvel movies, that’s pretty much what you’d get.”
Elizabeth Banks’ take on main villain Rita Repulsa is simply mind-blowing. She’s insanely terrifying, and it’s obvious she’s having a blast playing a role that’s so outside her norm. It’s a complete update on the character, and it works. Some of her scenes are straight out of a horror film; brutal and violent with masterful editing that reminded me of Sadako from Ringu. Her goal is to locate the Zeo crystal and retrieve it so she can blah blah blah, -insert evil villainous plan here-. Bryan Cranston takes on the role as Zordon, a giant disembodied head that comes out of the walls of Rangers headquarters. It looks like Cranston literally just stuck his face through one of those Spencer’s Gifts Pin Art Boards. Aesthetics aside, Zordon is a severely flawed character; he’s just a dick who pushes the team well beyond their limits and we don’t see him even attempt to teach them anything about what it means to be a Power Ranger, or how they access their powers. There’s also a subplot that paints him out to be an even bigger asshole, and by the time he gets his third act redemption it’s too little and far too late; he’s beyond redeemable. I honestly don’t blame Cranston, it’s not his acting, it’s just the way the character was written; he’s a drill sergeant and Zordon should needs to be a kind-hearted mentor. Bill Hader voices Alpha 5, Zordon’s robot sidekick. The spunky robot gave me a few genuine laughs; Hader plays the character like a goofy cheerleader who hilariously shouts things out like “Yeah! Go Rangers! Let’s do it!” while Zordon is trying to exposit babble about morphing grids and power coins in an overtly serious manner. When we finally get to fully morphed action, it’s in the last 20 minutes of the film. Once the teens find their power coins, it’s like an hour and 40 minutes of those scenes in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man where Peter Parker tests out his newfound powers. They super jump over ravines, break sinks, super jump over more stuff, high dive off of exceptionally tall cliffs, and it’s all terribly boring. As a Power Rangers fan, I wanted to see them, you know, fight some monsters or something. There are training sequences where they battle holograms, but it’s nothing substantial or impressive.
“This film lacks that nostalgic charm, but if I was a kid and this was my first exposure to the franchise, I’m sure I’d be hooked.”
The film’s giant robot battle climax makes for an enjoyable action sequence, and surprisingly the CG isn’t too bad. The action moves slow enough that you can actually see what’s going on, unlike the robot fights in The Transformers franchise the Zords (Giant Robot Dinosaurs for the uninitiated) are unfairly being compared to. The Megazord and the Rita’s giant monster Goldar battle like slow and lumbering kaiju, and I respect that decision; it’d be way too easy to ramp up the speed and be needlessly flashy.
Overall, the strong cast and the climactic action scene makes this film at least tolerable. As a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers fan since it’s 1993 premiere, I feel like this film just doesn’t have enough in it to satisfy me. Power Rangers was this amazing phenomenon that featured giant robots fighting giant monsters with the magic of karate and corny tales of morality, and I’d watch it every morning before I went to school. As an adult, I appreciate the way the show was produced from a mix of Japan’s Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger and American footage featuring a cast of 20-somethings hilariously trying to pass as teenagers. I can laugh at the hysterically bad dialogue, and the epically dated special effects. This film lacks that nostalgic charm, but if I was a kid and this was my first exposure to the franchise, I’m sure I’d be hooked. For everyone else, this just doesn’t have enough power.
Power Rangers (2017) Directed by: Dean Israelite. Written by: John Gatins, Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Michele Mulroney, Kieran Mulroney. Starring: Dacre Montgomery, RJ Cyler, Becky G., Naomi Scott, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks, Bill Hader, David Denman.
6 out of 10