I really didn’t think I’d be here reviewing the new Power Rangers movie.
But here I am! And here we are!
Power Rangers is the 2017 cinematic reboot of the old kid TV show from the 90s because this is where we are now I guess. Fuck.
In the movie’s prologue sequence, we are 65 million years in the past in which Zordon – the red ranger (Bryan Cranston) has fought a losing battle with green ranger Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). In a last ditch attempt to defeat Rita, Zordon summons a meteor from outer space to hit the earth but not before he can hide the power ranger rings that are the source of his and his former team’s power. The meteroite hits, kills Zordon, flings Rita out to sea and also kills all the dinosaurs as well.
Millions of years later, a group of estranged teens belonging to the sleepy American town of Angel Grove come together to find Zordon’s power coins gaining super human abilities in the process. After discovering a buried alien ship they come into contact with Zordon who informs them they have 11 days before Rita comes back to destroy the world, by obtaining an ancient word building/destroying crystal buried deep beneath a Krispy Kreme (yes). The only way to beat Rita is to harness the power of the power coins and successfully morph into the power rangers, the only way they can morph is by trusting and empathising with themselves individually as a team.
First thing to say about Power Rangers is that it isn’t terrible.
The windup to morphin’ time sure does take a while but ironically, this is where Power Rangers is actually at its strongest.
On the Power Rangers team you have disgraced jock Jason (Dacre Montgomery – the Jean-Ralphio looking guy from Netflix’s Stranger Things), autistic ‘good with nerdy stuff’ Billy (RJ Cyler), mean girl turned nice Kimberly (Naomi Scott), edgy teen outsider Trinni (Becky G – not to be confused with Honey G) and loud and proud lovable rogue Zack (Ludi Lin). The majority of the cast were not old enough to see Jurassic Park when it was released in cinemas for the first time. Which is just depressing. At least it is to me. Not that I should hold it against them with any sense of embitterment.
Each of the kids are grappling with their own problems of being an outsider within their community. Most of them meet up in detention after school which has likened the Power Rangers to the Breakfast Club which is probably the best way to make this kind of teenage coming of age tale. It’s a wisely diverse cast of young people. No longer does the black ranger have to be black, or the yellow ranger have to be of asian descent. Billy may be autistic, but it’s through his activtiy that they find the power coins that gives them their superhuman powers. So it’s nice to see these kind of problems invested in real people used for a positive gain. The cast are all very likeable in their roles, each having a degree of an arc to play with even though at time it can feel a little forced. Imagine my surprise when I found myself actually drawn into this, an actual Power Ranger movie, through a group of likeable stand up teens.
Oh sure, there are plenty of problems, the plot skips along merrily and conveniently so long as you don’t stop to question it. It’s a matter of convenience that Rita is resurrected 65 million years after the fact, coincidentally just as the Rangers find their coins. Some of the lines and character developments feel a little forced and I guess you’ll even laugh or throw your popcorn at the screen in anger when you discover how Krispy Kreme plays into events.
Personally one of my biggest problems with the movie was the cinematography is just too dark and it can be difficult making out what is actually happening. When you think back to the original TV show, as dumb as it was, it was always bright and cheerful, in it’s depiction of Saved by the Bell styled high school interiors and the Toho styled fights between giant robots and monsters.
The movie by comparison seems to exist in this perpetual state of booding overcast skies evoking a moody melancholy to proceedings. Angel Grove is depicted as this classic small blue collar American town stuck in amidst sublime natural surroundings of mountains and acres of forest. This is effective at bringing out the coming of age elements of the story as the disenfranchised teens struggle with their own identity and be understood by the rest of the world – a conceit as old as time itself and the mountains and trees around them.
It’s just a shame that at the 11th hour, when the teens do actually morph into the power rangers, the moment the audience has been waiting for, the visuals and design aren’t exactly on a par with what you’d normally expect from this kind of big franchise movie. All the power ranger stuff – the suits and the zords, are uninspired by design. The giant gold angel they have to fight is also rubbish. It is true that power rangers always looked a bit pants on TV as a show that was created to sell toys, but no kid is going to want the dino-zords from this movie.
Worst of all, the sudden introduction of all the bright coloured Power Rangers ‘stuff’ does not stand out from the film’s aforementioned gloomy tones and together with the sub-par computer graphics the movie never quite coalesces into the big screen spectacle you’d think it should. This is the point in which you would think the movie is going to transcend it’s earthy presentation and finally sing with rays of light of all different colours. It’s when the planets align, all teenage angst dissipates and the power rangers unite to save the world from a giant monster.
There are moments in which you think the movie is going to go this way, such as the ultimate payoff. The Power Rangers must summon their zords to save their home town. The engines powerup and we see the cockpit view as one of the vehicle lurches into action. Alpha 5 is on the ground below directing the reawakened robo-traffic shouting “Go Go Go”! Sure enough the next shot has the dino-zords blazing from right to left whilst accompanied by a rendition of the old power rangers theme song. It’s the moment in the theatre, where everybody clapped and jumped up for joy.
But then it just ends, it’s played a little like a joke and they switch instantly to Kanye West’s Power which… well you’ve heard that song millions of times before. It’s like the film suddenly lost confidence in becoming a power rangers movie. People were always sore when in the 2015 Godzilla movie, the film cuts away from the action just as Godzilla is introduced and does his big roar. The whole movie was leading to this point and then it kind of evaporates into this disappointing final battle that you’ve seen in a dozen other movies. An American urban settlement gets completely destroyed, under the boots of giant robots that are brought to life by crumby CG, it doesn’t quite have the heft or marvel of Pacific Rim – which did the whole Power Rangers thing, in terms of colour and setup, much more effectively.
The payoff is disappointing then. However the Power Rangers movie has it’s heart in the right place. In a world where teenage dystopian movies have been doing the rounds, with the teens at the centre seemingly holding the world on their shoulders, I thought Power Rangers did well to define each of its characters – each a different shade of troubled but at the same time it never lost it’s sense of fun or humour – even with the dark and moody cinematography working against it at every juncture.
Should you go go to the cinema to see Power Rangers then? That depends how much you really like Power Rangers. Personally, it would be fine to watch this movie on a smaller screenThis is perhaps the best Power Rangers movie we could have ever hoped for. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t be interested in a sequel because that means they’ll put the Dragonzord into it. And he is summoned with a flute and can fire rockets out of his chest. He’s pretty cool, y’know.