Power Rangers Movie Review
You know, of all the pop culture that came out of the 90s, it’s kind of amazing that one of the ones that’s actually still going strong is Power Rangers. What began as a mishmash of Saved by the Bell and Voltron, Power Rangers is still going strong more than 24 years and a dozen incarnations later, and aside from maybe Pokemon, one of the few 90s media franchises that’s still ubiquitous today. Power Rangers spawned a media and merchandising empire, made creator Haim Saban a multi-billionaire, former cast members are to my generation what Star Trek cast members were to my parent’s generation, and I’ve even written about it in newspapers.
Given Hollywood is so desperate for franchises that studios are doing desperate movie adaptations of long dead TV shows like CHiPS and Baywatch, and superhero movies are worth billions, I’m not surprised that we’re getting a big budget blockbuster adaptation of Power Rangers, I’m just surprised it took Hollywood this long to think of making one. I’m even more pleasantly surprised that the Power Rangers adaptation that we got is a pretty good one at that.
In the town of Angel Grove, a group of misfit teens are drawn together at first by their troubles, and soon by a startling discovery: that they are the heirs to the powers of an intergalactic peacekeeping force known as the Power Rangers. They’ll need to learn to use their newfound powers and abilities quickly though – an ancient enemy of the Power Rangers, Rita Repulsa, has also returned, and these five teenagers with attitude – and superpowers and transforming robots – are all that stand between Rita and global extinction.
At first glance, I was worried that the more serious tone of the Power Rangers movie might become an issue – grimderp peaked sometime around the time Superman drowned in an ocean of human skulls, and part of the appeal of Power Rangers has always been the camp and cheesy goodness. Thankfully, it’s balanced out by a fairly solid sense of humor and some great jokes throughout the movie, even if not all of them manage to stick the landing. The other thing is that, aside from efforts to lay out some continuity/sequel hooks, Power Rangers plays the core concept relatively straight – this is a movie about five teenagers who are granted superpowers and giant robots in order to save their hometown and the world from an alien witch, and the movie makes no apologies or explanations for it.
The one area where Power Rangers absolutely sticks the landing is with the casting, especially with the five new Power Rangers, no small feat given the choice to go with relative unknowns. Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin have superb chemistry together, and are likeable and memorable enough to stand out individually. The best performance of the five probably comes from RJ Cyler, who plays Billy Cranston the Blue Ranger, who is portrayed as autistic, while my favorite of the bunch is Ludi Lin as Zach Taylor the Black Ranger, though that might just be because he lucks out in playing the rebel with a heart of gold.
As for the rest of the cast, Bryan Cranston is solid as Zordon, while Bill Hader is a hoot as Alpha 5. Elizabeth Banks steals the show as Rita Repulsa however, who when she isn’t stealing gold or trying to destroy the world, makes a gallant attempt to chew every inch of scenery that she can.
Honestly, the worst thing I have to say about Power Rangers is probably the style and direction of the movie. Director Dean Israelite’s last movie was Project Almanac, a blatant Chronicle rip off produced by his mentor Michael Bay, and for both good and ill, you can see the fingerprints of both all over Power Rangers. At times, Israelite is capable, especially with scenes centered on our teenagers with attitude coming to terms with their duty. Less so when dealing with any action scenes, and the climax of the movie is crippled somewhat from being a muddled mess.
Power Rangers is not helped by the horrendous art design of the zords, monsters and ranger suits, which sadly, are not much improved by more screentime in the movie. There is absolutely zero reason that a movie that cost more than $100 million should leave me yearning for the days of stop motion and Japanese stock footage. Seriously, whoever did the art design for this movie needs to be taken behind the chemical sheds and shot.
There are little nods to Power Rangers continuity for the fans – a word here, some cameos there. At times it probably should have gone farther – the audience broke out in cheers for the brief few seconds the original theme song kicked in, only to groan when it cuts off and returns to the completely forgettable score from Brian Tyler.
If the mid-credits scene is any sign, there are hopes and plans for a Power Rangers movie franchise, and for the most part, Power Rangers is good enough I’d like to see that happen, even in spite of some glaring and at times frustrating flaws. The movie is fun and the cast is charming, and I’d like to see more of them in the future. Maybe have the zords be a little more ‘Mighty Morphin’ and a little less Michael Bay though.