Synopsis – A group of high-school kids, who are infused with unique superpowers, harness their abilities in order to save the world.
My Take – I’ll be honest; I’m not a Power Rangers fan. Initially as a kid, I was intrigued, but after watching the two films the series spawned – Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (1995) & Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie (1997), I was just confused and seriously offended by its campy load of rubbish, even for its time! Yes, the series wasn’t exactly the sparkling example of quality acting and writing, but I guess none of that really mattered to kids as long as the title heroes, despite the constant change in teams and themes, defeated the monster of the week. So in an age where TV shows are getting the big-screen adaptation treatment, it was only a matter of time before studios would place their eyes on yet another morning fan favorite show. Despite bringing on the original creator Haim Saban for producing duties & to run creative interference, it cannot be denied that the campy nature of the series has created an unfortunate negative perception around the franchise, most importantly, the unimpressive ‘Chronicle‘ – ish trailers just didn’t seem interesting enough to get a non fan like me excited. Right from its inception this Lionsgate reboot seemed like just another franchise out to get a piece from the now degrading superhero pie, plus with price tag of just $100 million, a budget considerably low for a team up superhero film, it’s seemed pretty clear at this point that this Dean Israelite (Project Almanac) directed film is going to be nothing but just divisive. And guess what the film turned out to be a massive surprise. Yes! Despite being often at odds with the silly nature of the concept, the film is hugely entertaining! The film surprisingly captures teen angst in an effective way and offers a certain edge to its characters that lead to some really likable & unexpected moments. What’s more surprising is that the film introduces us to a few current world bold ideas, like the introduction of a LGBT character as a ranger, and another as an Autistic. These new ideas are a reflection of the world that we live in today, gives way to those who are trying to find out who they are the impression that they have someone they can relate to. That in itself gives hope and inspiration while also being fun and nostalgic. Seriously non fans, I do think it’s time we give a chance to this Breakfast Club-esque tale of five teenage misfits whose destiny is weaved together to become a team of friends and also just happened to save the world.
The story takes place in the town of Angel Grove, California and follows Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery), a high school star quarter back with an overbearing father (David Denman), who due to a prank gone wrong is send to a yearlong Saturday detention where he befriends, Kimberly Hart (Naomi Scott), a former popular girl now caught up in sex-ting scandal and ended up breaking her boyfriend’s nose, and the autistic Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler), who is still struggling to grieve the passing of his father and blows up his school locker by accident. In order to show his gratitude for defending him against a bully, Billy helps Jason bypass his ankle bracelet so that the two can go to a mining site to help him find possible fossils. While Billy sets the charges, Jason finds Kimberly hiding away, and the two begin bonding over the idea of running away from their small town. But when the explosives go off successfully, it draws the attention two other teens, a closet lesbian, Trini (Becky G) and the angry caretaker of his sick mother, Zach (Ludi Lin). All five come together and collect five colorful coins, one for each and without realizing it, they awaken the next morning with superhuman strength and durability, and all of them decide to go back to the site to investigate their newfound powers. That’s where they find an alien space ship that holds the spirit of Zordon (Bryan Cranston) and with the help of Alpha 5 (voice of Bill Hader), they begin their training to harness the power to morph into the Power Rangers, a team of warrior sworn to keep the galaxy safe from evil. All the while, Zordon’s sworn enemy, Rita (Elizabeth Banks), an evil entity with a secret past, who after been woken up after 65 million years, is collecting enough gold to resurrect the monstrous Goldar, who will excavate the Zeo crystal, which has the power to destroy Earth if in the wrong hands. The plot ticks all the boxes of the standard origin story. In that sense, there’s nothing new in general, the actual details however are quite intricate and a lot of goofy terminology is introduced to explain the abilities and purpose of the teens. It’s exceptionally silly, but is easily understood. I’ve been told it adheres close to canon, so that should please the die-hards. Yes, an origin story isn’t the most novel idea, but it has become a necessity as of late, especially for a reboot. The Rangers undergo a series of exposition, mainly taking serious direction from other superhero themed film Chronicle, but also translating the corny style from its original television show. It tells both the story of apocalypse and also abundance of jokes, and then it veers into the realm of heavy personal issues and new struggles to deal with. These struggles are a reflection of what kids go through today. All of them feel like an outsider, and all for different reasons. It’s a risky approach and, while John Gatins’ screenplay isn’t lacking in warmth or funny lines, its success here is notably down to the talented cast of relative unknowns playing the troubled teenagers. The film’ faction of screenwriters will be happy to hear it if this mismatched collective reminds you at all of The Breakfast Club, as bonfire talks and parables about the valor of unity serve as the film’s lifeblood from beginning to end. Yes, the stakes are out of this world, but these characters are going through real-world struggles, making it that much more easier to sympathize with them. If anything, the film is more about them coming together as one and realizing that it is okay to be yourself. Interspersed throughout are sequences devoted to the teens’ exploration of their newly acquired abilities—oh, they find a few weird crystals and then get hit by a train and, well, you’re kind of just supposed to figure, “Yeah, that’ll do it”—and training sessions against a legion of computer simulated rock monsters, though even these action-oriented ordeals play in greater service to the notions of friendship and teamwork. Even though it spends about an hour on exposition, the film moves at a nice pace. It is refreshing that it is not inundated by numerous battle scenes, leaving time to explore the characters to some extent.
However, once the plot starts revving up, all focus on characters is tossed aside for a lengthy action sequence. Unfortunately, the action scenes in general feel a little too chaotic. Though the design of the film might leave you a bit wanting, the construction of the film keeps you invested in the over-the-top action. But considering as its budget as I mentioned before, there are times when the visual effects waver substantially, especially the all gold Goldar, who looks right out of an updated edition of Photoshop. Its strongest moments are when the characters are allowed to let loose and really play with their powers like in that epic showdown between Megazord and Goldar. If watching two massive Zords battle each other with swords and classic WWE-style moves doesn’t make you feel like a giddy 10-year-old, I don’t know what will. The film also remembers its nostalgic millennial audience with sweet little nods such as the inclusion of that annoyingly catchy theme, blink-and-you-missed-it cameos from the original crew and that famous line—you know the one I’m talking about (“It’s Morphin time!”). There are some shreds of campiness that reverberate throughout the film. It is, after all, based on a campy TV show and it embraces it with full heart, despite the certain dark tone in the first act. It’s worth mentioning that there’s a joke at the expense of the Transformers films here, that’s an odd decision since the look of this world feels so indebted to Michael Bay‘s robot mega-series. The Zords are metallic tangles of confusion that look just close enough to their progenitors to work, but there is still some serious disconnect going on. The same can be said of the Rangers’ spaceship base and the bizarrely alien Alpha-5. With one distinct difference, this almost feels like it could exist in the Transformers universe. Here, director Dean Israelite has attempted an experimental reverse lobotomy of this proud camp fest franchise. He refits things from the top down and delivers a film that’s aimed at a similar audience, but one which has, over the years, developed the ability to hold on to a basic story thread. As it moves away from its let fight then finish our home works attitude of the original series, every step is towards current demographic-targeted superhero shenanigans, right down to the moment where Billy Cranston questions whether he’s more like Spider-Man or Iron Man. This provides a little bit of bravado and less vanilla than the original show. If anything, they are limited only by the fantasy troupes which may seem predictable or campy, then again this is a film about kids wearing colorful costumes and doing martial arts. Although, it does has one edge over other superhero films; the product placement of one in particular – Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. The trend has been done for years, but this one takes it to the next level. The largely unknown cast is ultimately warm and likeable. Despite, RJ Cyler being the ultimate show-stealer, the remaining four – Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, Ludi Lin and Becky G bring in their own charm and provide a compelling screen presence. Elizabeth Banks is excellent and really sells the cheesiness of Rita, but also adds a few things that make her truly terrifying. Of course, it’s hard not to look away from the combination of beauty and fear when Rita looks like that. Bryan Cranston does a fine job as Zordon and makes the most out of it, while Bill Hader’s Alpha 5 is definitely a joy. On the whole, ‘Power Rangers’ is an exciting superhero film, which despite its over-the-top spirit and flawed visuals is a thoroughly entertaining watch.
Directed – Dean Israelite
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 124 minutes