Review - 'Power Rangers'
Go Go Gadget...Wait, nope, wrong IP. My bad. Anyways, it’s been twenty years since the last Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film hits theaters. Wait, that’s wrong too. Moon Prism Power? No. Gotta Catch ‘Em All? No. Something like transform and rollout? Close...It’s Morphin’ Time! There we go!
It’s been twenty years since the last Might Morphin’ Power Rangers film hit theaters but the franchise has been alive and kicking on television, still expanding upon the original show’s characters and lore. In an attempt to revitalize the series, production company Saban undertook bringing the original rainbow flavors back to the big screen for a new generation with a fresh coat of paint. New actors, new suits, and a new story are all here but so are the hokey effects and the heart of the original show.
Power Rangers follows the story of five teenagers from Angel Grove: Jason, Kimberly, Billy, Trini, and Zack who happen upon five coins at a dig site that empower them with superhuman strength and agility. After they return to the site, they discover a strange alien fortress underground harboring an ancient alien consciousness known as Zordon, who died protecting Earth eons ago from the evil Rita Repulsa. Zordon recruits the young soldiers and with the aid of his AI companion, Alpha 5, trains them as the new defenders of their world. However, before they can stop Rita, they must work in unison, not just as a team, but as friends.
I went into Power Rangers with little expectation and came out pleasantly surprised. The film isn’t without its faults though. The visual effects are borderline horrendous in scenes, especially during the final act when the Zords come into play. Somehow, the first Transformers film looks better than what I saw and that was ten years ago. I know they were working on a smaller budget than most blockbusters, nevertheless it still shows. The Zords were always my favorite part of the original show and while I did get goosebumps at seeing them all again, I just wish they had been better rendered instead of looking like the last PS2 game.
The cinematography is a little uncanny. The dutch tilt is used many times, and a cool three-sixty shot that circles the cab of Jason’s pickup truck is shown off in the beginning of the film; however, by the second time they used it, it felt overdone. There were some minor moments where editing was questionable, specifically a bike riding sequence where the ground would cut from pavement to grass to gravel in order to show time progression. While it’s understandable in the film, I don’t understand why it was necessary to show these different techniques and never follow up on it with any other sequences like it. Who knows, maybe the filmmakers were throwing out ideas to see if they stuck.
The film also shifts tonally right before the third act. The first hour and a half are a grounded superhero film with our heroes learning not only of their abilities but of each other. Channeling The Breakfast Club and Chronicle, the characters are fun and lighthearted among some darker themes you might not expect from Power Rangers. Minor spoiler: In order to obtain the classic colored armor from the series, they must work in sync with one another, similar to the same level a team would need to use a Jaeger in Pacific Rim. There is some good character development as a result of this as they practice together and interact outside of their headquarters. They even learn each other’s darkest secrets though there’s never a moment explaining why they should be friends, other than the fact that they’re just screw ups. Sound familiar? There’s some real tension and heartfelt emotion when they do build towards that moment until some omnipotent being realized there were only twenty minutes left in the runtime so they hit the fast forward button and got to all the silly action we know and love from the show. The teenagers accept their responsibility, they’re suddenly best friends, and they’re all now Power Rangers. Okay, I’m not sure how I feel about that but I’ll roll with it.
And that’s how I felt while watching this movie. I was never disappointed or angry, I was having a good time; I was having fun. The special effects were bad yet I couldn’t help but harken back to the television show and how it was basically duct-taped together with stock footage along with newly filmed footage. There’s a specific scene where the Rangers fight the Putty Patrollers and instead of the Putties being practical, they’re all CGI and don’t look good, at all, but I had no issue with it. Was the scene particularly well choreographed? No. Was it well edited? Not really. Would the effects hold up within a year? Ha! They wouldn’t hold up within a day. Was it fun? I don’t know how, but yes. Yes, I had fun while watching this dumb scene that I’ve seen in what feels like every superhero film where they fight some lame inhuman enemy. Looking at you, Avengers with your Chitauri and Ultron robots. Maybe it's because this is Power Rangers and that's who they always fought or maybe because the Rangers had earned the right to wear the suits, I felt that this silly battle was earned and so was even the sillier final battle with Rita Repulsa.
Can we talk about Rita Repulsa for a second? I really enjoyed Elizabeth Banks’s portrayal of the character and I was smiling and laughing any time she was hamming it up on screen. Some of the effects they used for when she’s on screen I felt were a little silly, trying to make her seem like Samara from The Ring but when she’s fighting the Rangers, she is a force to be reckoned with.
The Rangers themselves I thought all really brought something to the film. Dacre Montgomery as Jason was stoic and troubled and immediately likable from the first Saturday Detention scene. Naomi Scott, who looks almost identical to Amy Jo Johnson, was a more punk rock take on Kimberly. Ludi Lin as Zack is the wild child of the bunch, always taking risks. Becky G as Trini is probably the character that stands out the least, due to her being more of a loner though we get backstory as to why. Then there’s RJ Cyler as Billy Cranston, the heart and soul of this movie. I always related to Billy as a kid because he was the geek with guts and it still holds true here. RJ is the glue holding the Rangers together, not only in the story but also the film.
Power Rangers has heart and that’s what I enjoyed most about it. I was ready to cast it off except the filmmakers captured the essence and character of the original show without diverging too much from what makes it special. Much like its legacy, it stumbles, maybe twists an ankle, yet never breaks. If they can heal up, fix some of the effects and pacing, this could be a movie franchise to look forward to.