Power Rangers stumbles here, picks itself up there, and eventually makes its way to providing a semi-decent movie-going experience.
That about sums it up. Honestly. I can go on about how much has changed in terms of story from the 90’s series, and I can go on about how the original MMPR show shaped my childhood (I was a huge dork), and I could tell you that I went in completely bias expecting this film to be a total tragedy of film-making. Well, it wasn’t. Power Rangers was better than I expected but worse than I had hoped and eventually ended up being a worthwhile time in the theater. That said, it has some major flaws. Before we get to those, let’s talk about the plot to catch those up who may not know the backstory.
Five unlikely teenagers from all walks of life come together at a very unique circumstantial event that leads them to finding five strange coins that further lead them to an underground spaceship that is millions of years old and houses two extraterrestrial life forms, one of whom is a witty robot (Bill Hader) and the other is a former Ranger (Zordon). They discover that a previous Ranger (Banks) by the name of Rita, turned on her allies and attempted to steal a powerful energy source on earth to use it to destroy worlds and shape worlds of her own imagining. Clichés around every turn, a few laughs here and there, some decent acting along the way, some absolutely terrible acting as well (we’ll get to that) and finally the eventual ‘Morphin Time’ moment that was all too brief before the good guys face the bad guys in a final showdown at the heart of the teenager’s hometown of Angel Grove.
“Whoa, we just happen to all be wearing outfits that also happen to be the exact same colors as the coins we found. Pretty crazy, right guys?”
Okay, now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about what is good and then we can get right down into what was not-so good.
- Dacre Montgomery plays Jason Scott (Red Ranger) in the film, and delivers one hell of a stand-out performance that will likely put him in the shortlist for many future film projects to come. Going into Power Rangers, Jason’s casting choice was crucial for me personally. I loved MMPR as a kid, and Jason Scott was a role model of sorts for me when I was a young lad. Dacre nails the role. His portrayal of a jock who has a life-altering event before taking on the overwhelming task of leading a group of superheroes in their first battle against Rita Repulsa sounds like it wouldn’t be all too complicated, but the role is just that. And he crushed it. Some of the more emotional moments in the film, and there are maybe a handful, and he knocked it out of the park. Never once did I question the actor’s execution or decision-making and I found myself completely immersed in his take on a character that meant a lot to me growing up. His conviction as Jason Scott never waned once and I can’t give enough praise to his moving performance when he comes to terms with the responsibility of being a hero, and a leader. Montgomery may have a bright future as an actor, and with a relatively short acting resume to his name, though we will see him soon enough as ‘Billy’ in the upcoming second season of the Netflix smash hit, Stranger Things. Now, speaking of Billy…
- RJ Cyler, who plays Billy Cranston (Blue Ranger), had perhaps the most complex role in the entire film. Billy, played by David Yost in the original MMPR series, is a nerd who has a hard time getting the respect of his peers, practically everyone outside of his immediate group of friends (the other Rangers), and that’s kind of how the character has always been. Your typical 90’s dork with a massive brain and an obsession for the Science Fair. However, in this film adaptation, Billy’s role as a geek/nerd is taken to a new area in that he is diagnosed with autism (high-functioning). RJ had to take on a role that he initially had received some harsh comments from fans, due to the character being portrayed as an average white guy in the series, but Cyler’s delivery steals the show and hopefully shut all those ignorant voices down. Where Dacre leads, RJ takes over in supplying the majority of the humor, and pretty much makes the audience immediately fall in love with his take on the character. Billy is bullied, but eventually comes out of his shell and manages to be the front-runner of geeks everywhere who deserves the respect he receives once he gains a little more confidence and makes close friends and allies in his fellow Rangers. The character of Billy Cranston may not seem all that original, and he really isn’t. But RJ Cyler managers to take a rather vanilla-character that has been done countless times before and elevate to a much higher standard by taking on a complicated social disorder and making it a characteristic that doesn’t define him, so much as it does accompany him on a journey that makes him the highlight of the entire movie.
- Bryan Cranston and Bill Hader, the former of whom used to voice some of the villains in the original series (and was the inspiration for Billy’s last name), couldn’t have been more of a delight. Likely the most serious character in the whole movie, Cranston shows that his acting range really doesn’t have any limits. If anything, I wasn’t surprised at how well he executed the role of Zordon, but I was surprised at how much I loved him in the role. Hader is a different story, whereas I really was skeptical about the change in personality I knew he would bring to Alpha-5 coming from such a campy, kind-hearted version in the source material. However, Hader made it his own, made Alpha not only humorous, but witty and downright likable to the core. Never would I have thought that Hader would have made such a stupendous Alpha, but going in with an open-mind really allowed me to appreciate his performance and enjoy both he and Cranston taking on such iconic roles.
Obligatory Superhero Landing
Now that we got what I felt was most enjoyable out of the way, lets talk about the bad.
- The Power Rangers Official Twitter Account – whoever happens to run this social media account ruined the biggest surprise for the film. And if you have been reading other reviews about this movie, or anything at all, you probably already know.
— Power Rangers (@PowerRangers) March 23, 2017
This is absolutely unacceptable. The rumors and theories that Rita was a Ranger was something that I was open to and completely expected to happen, but the day before the film comes out, the @PowerRangers Twitter account completely ruined the moment in the movie where fans would have said “HOLY SHIT, she was a ranger!”. Whether they assumed this was the case or not, I couldn’t believe this spoiler happened when I saw this in my Twitter feed.
NOTE: I would like to point out that while I bring up this spoiler, the change in story that makes Rita a Ranger was actually pretty cool and played well with the film’s plot direction.
- Elizabeth Banks plays Rita Repulsa, a former Ranger who somehow for some reason became power-hungry and her lust for power led her to turning against the other Rangers (who were all lead by Zordon, the Red Ranger millions of years earlier). This creates a unique scenario where Zordon is out for justice not just for her crimes, but also her treachery and betrayal of those who were sworn to protect that which is sacred. I gotta say, when the casting announcement was made and Banks was tied to this film as Rita, I was really excited. I love Banks, she is great in nearly everything she is in and I really enjoy her acting angles… just not in here. Every time she appeared on-screen, I found myself starting to hate the film. Then when she was not on the screen, I started to like it again. All of her dialogue is terrible, which isn’t necessarily on her, but her performance and choice to deliver the dialogue is, and it’s the biggest sin of the entire movie. The way she walked and motioned around the screen was all too familiar (think Cara Delevingne as Enchantress in Suicide Squad). It was laughable to some, but it just made me angry and miserable. Her appearance was under scrutiny since the beginning, and while I was open to the design and costume choice for her role, everything about how she delivered her words, to how she interacted with other characters, to literally everything she did just seemed so forced, awkward and didn’t work for me at all, to the point where I cringed a few times in my seat. Maybe the director was hoping for this effect. Who knows? The one thing I do know, is that it was anything but good, and it nearly ruined the movie for me.
- Zack and Trini were a bit underdeveloped. The two seem to get a little less character progression than the other three Rangers, despite the two of them having equally relate-able issues as well. Zack happens to ditch school to take care of his sick mother, and Trini is just… angry, I guess. Not to sell her role short, the film did that enough, but announcing that Becky G(omez)’s Trini is the first openly gay Ranger is a big deal, in a matter of speaking. It’s just unfortunate that the film brings it up for a split second, just to get it out of the way and seemingly swept it under the rug, then never touches base on it again. Maybe this was what the writers felt was best, as an individual’s sexuality is nobody else’s business but I just couldn’t help but feel like Trini’s struggle with coming to terms was more of a novelty that the writer’s threw in there to say “look what we did!” rather than address the struggles that accompany a teen going through it. It’s a rather touchy subject, which I understand, so let’s just move on.
- Goldar. What a CGI mess. I don’t even want to go into it. Just… F*ck.
I’m pretty sure they sell this candle holder at Bath & Bodyworks.
- The Megazord was a travesty too. The individual Zords were a metallic blob in the posters, and looked pretty awful before the film came out. Aside from the Pink Ranger’s Pterodactyl, and the Red Ranger’s T-Rex, you never really get a great look at the Zords as a whole. They appear on-screen real quick here and there, but the perspectives leave a lot to be desired, considering you never really get a clear picture of what the Zords look like, save for one moment when they are first introduced by Alpha in the underground cavern they are stored in. But even then, they never focus on one too long to show off the flaws in design. But when they all come together as the Megazord, I wanted to die. It was awful. Goldar alone was just a tragedy, and the Megazord kind of suffered the same design interference. It occurred to me that studio involvement may have interfered with a far better look for both of these CGI monstrosities early on in production.
- The Power Ranger’s armor is iconic, and I am not going to lie, I hate the design. But I am going to leave that out because it’s not necessarily terrible, I just don’t particularly like it. But what I did hate, was that after over an hour of dealing with the struggle of coming to terms of being Rangers, and figuring out that teamwork and togetherness is what is needed to Morph (as opposed to actual Morphers like the MMPR series), we only get what seemed like a blink of an eye in their new suits, with less than five minutes of fighting before they hop into their Zords and finish the movie in an extremely underwhelming final climactic showdown against Goldar and Rita. We barely get to see them fight in their suits, then when they get in their Zords, their visors are peeled back so we don’t even get to appreciate what little we see of the helmets. This to me is perhaps one of the larger flaws in the film. It didn’t ruin the movie, but it definitely held it back from reaching its aesthetic potential. Oh, and giving the Pink and Yellow Rangers heels (wedges?) and an armor-boob job? What the hell?
Now that we have finally learned to Morph, let’s immediately peel our masks back for the rest of the film.
Power Rangers is in no way a perfect movie, nor is it even close to great. Fans of the series will be filled to the brim with mixed emotions about what they like and what they do not, but that’s something to expect with any fanboy genre. The film has potential but whoever runs the official Twitter account should be fired without question. One thing is for sure, the end-of-credits scene does happen to please in a sort of minor cliffhanger-esque way, and a couple cameos toward the end are also a pleasant surprise. It’s worth seeing, maybe for the sake of paying homage to a classic series that has touched the hearts of so many, or maybe you just want to enjoy a popcorn-eating flick at the theater for no other reason than not having anything better to do. Regardless of what you feel about the film walking out of the theater, I would be fairly confident in saying you will likely find the scales tipping in favor of more things liked than otherwise. And if not, well, there are talks of a 5 or more potential sequels so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to decide.
Power Rangers came out this past Friday, and stars Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G(omez), Ludi Lin, Bill Hader, Bryan Cranston, and Elizabeth Banks.