Power Rangers | Dean Israelite | March 24, 2017
The Power Rangers television show of the 90’s was never great. I’ll be the first one to admit that it’s downright bad. The fight scenes are cheesy, and splicing American actors into a Japanese television show was an odd choice. Nevertheless, its popularity has endured more than 20 years of success here in the U.S. I grew up with it and even bought the movie on VHS (a.k.a. my parents bought it). I had action figures and often played outside with friends while we all pretended to morph into Power Rangers. It was only a year or two of my life, but Power Rangers still holds a place in my adult heart, despite its overall cheesiness. So I was cautiously optimistic about this film. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually had a lot of fun with this movie. It’s dumb, ridiculous, and cringe-worthy, but it has tons of heart.
The film opens with Bryan Cranston as Zordon, an alien who saves a Cretacious-period Earth from being destroyed by the Power Rangers’ arch nemesis, Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). Zordon is defeated but manages to put Rita in stasis while she sinks into the ocean. The film cuts to present day, millions of years later, and we are introduced to our 5 main high school characters who reside in the seaside town of Angel Grove. There’s Jason (Dacre Montgomery), the football star who gets in trouble with the law; Billy (RJ Cyler), an autistic computer nerd with a heart of gold; Kimberly (Naomi Scott), the self-conscious popular girl; Zack (Ludi Lin), the wise-guy; and Trini (Becky G.), the loner.
For totally different reasons, they all end up at a mining site on the same night and stumble upon five colored coins. The coins give them super-strength, and they soon explore the rest of the mining area. There, they find a spaceship buried underground, where they meet Zordon and his robot companion Alpha 5 (Bill Hader). Zordon’s consciousness is now only able to speak by using a moving wall of bricks. Alpha and Zordon vow to train them so that they can be the next group of Power Rangers and finally defeat Rita. Stop me when this all sounds too ridiculous.
Even with the hammy exposition given by Cranston’s Zordon, there’s a big sense of self-awareness in this Power Rangers film. The characters point out that this is all, indeed, absurd. Elizabeth Banks makes the most out of her cheesy performance as Rita. She never reaches the level of being a formidable villain, but she does just fine and seems to enjoy playing the character. Each of the Rangers actors actually do a more than fine job with the material they are given.
They have good chemistry together, and their bickering actually got quite a few laughs out of me. In order to become the Power Rangers, they need to truly be a team, and the film takes its time to get there. If their personalities weren’t so likable, the training and team bonding moments would have fallen completely flat. By the end of it, though, they actually do feel like a team and have a new respect for one another. I’d say that Billy was probably the best character and Ranger in the film. RJ Cyler has plenty of one-liners, and his interactions with Jason plant the seeds for a very fun bromance.
Granted, the character development happens around a plot where a giant gold monster tries to destroy Angel Grove – and the world along with it. The totally dumb moments are playing more for laughs. The sheer ludicrous fight scenes with the Rangers and Rita’s henchmen also have a definite cheese factor that’s off the charts. Despite all this, though, I still enjoyed this movie quite a bit. I went into it expecting the worst, and was actually pleasantly surprised. The character dialogue is often sharp and feels honest in the smaller moments of their lives. There’s a scene in the first act where Billy is picked on by a bully while they’re both in detention. Jason steps in and tells the bully “Really? You’re going to be the stereotypical bully of detention? How old are you?”
Dean Israelite is a competent director, and most of the visuals are well done, despite some of the special effects being hit or miss. The action, although sparse, is well filmed and earned some cheers from my screening’s audience. The first two acts are pretty solid, but the third has a lot of fan service, and the film suffered a little bit because of it. If you’re expecting a whole movie of Power Rangers action, you might be disappointed. If you’re looking for the fun, dumb popcorn flick before summer hits. This is it (or at least until Fast and Furious 8).