The Power Rangers franchise traces its roots back to the early nineties Saturday morning kids show about a group of five teenagers that were given the power to “morph” or change into a team of super-powered martial arts warriors. Their task? To defend the planet Earth from intergalactic baddies that wanted to conquer it of course – and thus the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers were born! Twenty-four years later, after multiple seasons and a couple of feature films under the franchise’s belt, the reboot we’ve all be waiting for has finally arrived.
The story for Power Rangers really picks up after a series of shenanigans lure Jason (Dacre Montgomery), Kimberly (Naomi Scott), Billy (RJ Cyler), Zack (Ludi Lin), and Trini (Becky G) to discovering the five Power Coins, ancient artifacts lost for over 65 million years, that imbue their users with enhanced strength and durability. Furthermore, their discovery leads the teens to a hidden alien spaceship where they meet their mentor, and former Power Ranger, Zordon (Bryan Cranston) and his assistant Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader). Zordon informs the teens that they must set aside their differences and work as a group in order to defeat the evil Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks).
For a film that runs just a hair over two hours in length, Power Rangers had a lot of ground to cover in order to sell the concept of a group teenagers getting powers and being the only force standing in the way of global destruction. Did it succeed? Yes! … and no. Probably Power Rangers‘ biggest strength is that a good portion of the film followed the the archetypal “origin story” concept – this time for a group of people instead of just one superhero a la Ant-Man or Iron Man. Learning about the teens, watching them uncover new clues, and trying to figure out their situation before the big reveal of their destiny to become Rangers was a very fun movie. It’s the last half of the film, the prime offender being the third act, when the group is fully functioning as the Power Rangers where the movie began to lose its steam. While bits and pieces of fun were sprinkled throughout, the magic and allure the film had in the beginning had wore off and the film devolved into fast-paced, CGI robot destruction porn that would make a Transformers fan proud.
The teens were well cast in this modern update of the five “teenagers with attitude.” The real standout was Dacre Montgomery who made a good stand-up leader with just enough of an edge that gave him an edge to be the best kid for the job. RJ Cyler also was a scene stealer in a role obviously drawn up to serve as the heart of the team. Naomi Scott and Becky G fell somewhere in the middle, whereas it felt like Ludi Lin was only there to be the team jester. The real travesty with the cast had to be Elizabeth Banks’ Rita Repulsa, not in that she was poorly cast – just poorly written. Rita Repulsa never really had anyone to work off of in her scenes and whenever she wasn’t confronting the Rangers she was practically acting alone! It really was a waste of such a good actress and a very interesting character.
The direction of Power Rangers was interesting. Dark, but not too dark. Funny, but not too campy. Director Dean Isrealite definitely had an odd habit of using dutch angles that was incredibly annoying but it became part of the overall aesthetic of the film (whether you liked it or not). One particular car sequence in the opening of the film was incredibly well choreographed and fun to watch as well. As mentioned before, the whole “meet the teens” and “powers discovery” phase of the film was fantastic and fun. Then the film became a cliché action movie that was pre-processed and tailor-made to fare well in Asian markets. Not saying the action was horrible. It was just all-too-familiar and very reminiscent to the action sequences in Transformers where you had a hard time telling what the hell you are looking at. There were definite nods and homages to the original TV show that were welcome (and even humorous at times). If you go into Power Rangers not expecting anything new but something that can keep your attention then you’ll be all right.
Ultimately Power Rangers boils down to this: Upon watching this film there was a father who had taken his son and daughter to see the film. His kids had to be no older than seven and eight years old. He told them about how he used to watch Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers when he was younger and even took it a step further to tell them about an old cartoon he used to watch that was very similar called Voltron. That’s when you realize that this movie is for the kids. While Power Rangers may not be as overly kiddified as say Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, it knows its audience. And it serves them well.
Power Rangers is a decent action film for all youths that the more mature movie-goers can at least follow along without wanting to gouge their eyes out. Power Rangers is fun. May this film usher in a new era of fans, films, and toys. You can’t forget the toys!
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