Film Review – Power Rangers
As a kid, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers television show existed as a means to distract myself during its thirty-minute timeslot. I didn’t commit to watching it whenever it came on. Sometimes I would stop to catch it while flipping channels. I didn’t have a deep love for it as many other people my age did. Even as a youth, I was fully aware that this was a very silly show. You really can’t take a program about teenagers dressed in colorful outfits battling monsters with giant animal robots too seriously.
And that’s where my mindset was walking into Power Rangers (2017). Continuing the endless parade of studios banking on nostalgia and brand recognition, this latest reboot/remake/reimagining is pretty much exactly what you would expect it to be. It’s a very silly movie based on a very silly show. If you came into this expecting something else, well, you only have yourself to blame.
If there’s anything that really hurts this latest iteration of the franchise the most, it’s the fact that the production (headed by director Dean Israelite/screenplay by John Gatins) didn’t love it enough. Advertisements and posters promised an action packed adventure filled with martial arts, cool weapons, and giant robots. Unfortunately, we don’t get any of that fun stuff until the last twenty minutes of the movie! The narrative teases us by never allowing our protagonists to even wear the recognizable costumes or ride their vehicles (or “Zords” as they’re called) until the last possible moment.
So what do we get for the other 90 minutes beforehand? We get a very drawn out story about a bunch of knucklehead kids coming together and learning to become a “family.” We have the ex-star high school quarterback (Dacre Montgomery) who comes off as a rebel but who’s really a softy on the inside. There’s the bad boy (Ludi Lin) who never comes to class, but skips only to take care of his sick mother. The nerdy kid (RJ Cyler) gets picked on by bullies, but in reality he’s the smartest of the bunch, which automatically makes him the most interesting. There’s the tough girl (Naomi Scott), who has skeletons in her closet and shows how wild she is by cutting her hair above her shoulders (gasp!). And then there’s the other bad girl (Becky G.) who…well, she doesn’t have much of a character because everyone else has used up the usual character tropes.
For one reason or another, these kids came together under the belief that they’re outsiders to the rest of their small town. Little do they know that their destinies will place them as the souls responsible for saving the world. Through a series of contrived occurrences, the kids stumble upon a buried spaceship. Within the spaceship lies the soul of Zordon (Bryan Cranston), an ancient warrior who now lives within the walls of the spaceship. His face is depicted like one of those steel pin impression molds that everyone used to have back in the day. There’s also Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader), a talking robot that acts as the spaceship’s housekeeper. Zordon explains to the kids that they’ve been chosen to become the Power Rangers, defenders of Earth, and that they must learn to work together to stop the evil Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) who has returned from death to seek out her revenge on all living creatures.
This is all hokey stuff, and a lot of credit has to go to the cast for playing their roles with sincerity. Amongst the kids, RJ Cyler’s performance was the most genuine. While the other four play up the “us against the world” persona, Billy looks and acts like an actual person. Elizabeth Banks is clearly having fun hamming it up as Rita Repulsa. Sporting heavy makeup, a gold staff, and a green outfit that looks way too uncomfortable to wear, Banks chews scenery with glee, injecting some life whenever she’s on screen. The production should also be commended for picking a multi-racial cast. It’s nice to see a bunch of kids from different backgrounds and ethnicities coming together. Even better, the film never even makes it a point to mention the diversity – it just lets it be what it is.
But man, does it take forever to get to some action. When I looked at my watch (never a good sign), we were well over halfway through the run time and the kids were still talking about how they “never had any friends” or “we need to work together.” It’s as though the filmmakers were more interested in making this a rip off of The Breakfast Club (1985) than a Power Rangers movie. Even more coincidental: most of these kids meet during detention, whaddya know! If this was only about a bunch of kids learning to respect each other, then that would’ve made a promising movie. But this is Power Rangers, why does it take so long to get to some power ranging?
When we do get to the action, it’s the usual CGI light show that we’ve seen from just about every other movie of its kind. Rita’s monster, Goldar, is a yellow-winged eyesore, a far cry from its TV counterpart. The same can also be said about the Megazord, the powerful robot made up of the Rangers’ Zords interlocked together (insert metaphor here). The design of the Megazord looks like rejected Transformers concept art. The epic battle between Goldar and the Megazord wasn’t really epic at all. One of the few pleasures of the Power Rangers television show was the superficiality of the robot battles. We clearly knew those were people in costumes fighting in the middle of a cardboard city. Here, seeing it portrayed through digitized pixels resulted in the whole thing feeling kind of bland.
And that’s where I come down with this film. Power Rangers did nothing for me. It wasn’t exciting, or fun, or very memorable. It’s a movie made by strategists to get the biggest financial gain possible. No doubt this will be successful and spawn countless sequels. Is name recognition so powerful that we’ll embrace anything that reminds us of our childhood? It says a lot about a movie where the Krispy Kreme product placements left more of an impact than any of the character building or action set pieces. But let’s be real – this whole thing was one big toy commercial to begin with.