Directed by Dean Israelite
Starring: Dacre Montgomery, RJ Cyler, Naomi Scott, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks, Ludi Lin, Becky G
“Power Rangers” is Safeway brand “Breakfast Club” with super powers; a run of the mill teenage angst drama with space aliens and giant robots for children.
Luckily that’s about the worst that can be said about this movie.
Considering Hollywood’s long history of turning campy kids’ Saturday morning TV shows into noisy, irritating, “edgy” big screen reboots side eyes “Transformers” this could have been muuuuch worse.
It ain’t perfect but then again, given its source material, it’s a better than average effort from a Hollywood blockbuster.
(It’s a metaphor for how Michael Bay likes to treat his audiences.)
“Power Rangers” takes place in the north western harbor town of Angel Grove where the lives of five teenagers’ with attitude (Jason, Kimberly, Billy, Zack and Trini) suddenly become intertwined after stumbling upon an ancient alien space ship at a mining site (what a coincidence!). Upon this discovery the five angsty teens retrieve five mysterious coins that give them extraordinary powers and upon returning to site discover that it is in fact an ancient Alien space ship. Then an alien named Zordon…ahhh you know the rest if you were born in the 90s.
Make no mistake going into this film; this is a movie for kids (teenagers at most), just as the original series was as well. Anyone looking for deep story-telling and compelling movie direction should look elsewhere.
This said, it’s a pretty painless movie for the older crowd to sit through and damn near borders on sincere homage for millenials, like myself, who grew up on the show as kids.
(Admittedly geeked out a little when that classic theme song started playing. Shit’s still a catchy earworm.)
What makes “Power Rangers” effective is its completely subdued story as compared to the adrenaline, ADD, neurotic-fueled, craziness of the “Transformers” franchise. It trusts that audiences, children specifically in this manner, don’t need to be barraged with noisy CGI action and archetypical “everyone is the comic relief” characters to be entertained.
The film takes the time to build each character up and form relationships with the others in mostly organic ways before plunging them into the cheese of CGI fight scenes and giant robots. In fact ( slight spoiler) keeping the main meat of action back until the last quarter of the film was a damn near brilliant move on the part of director Dean Israelite.
Most of these characters are teenage archetypes we’ve seen in other movies before, often better than this but at least they’re entertaining and even endearing at times.
Darce Montgomery is believable as the altruistic team leader in Jason. Ludi Lin is a humorous bad boy type who loves his momma in Zack. Becky G is decent as Trini showing how rough coming out can be for some people and Naomi Scott is fun as kind of a girl next door type with spunk.
(Can’t put my finger on what else I liked about her though…not a clue…#PinkRangerTho)
The real standout actor, however, is RJ Cyler who wonderfully portrays Billy as autistic in this version of the character (a first in super hero cinema) and ends up being the most important Ranger of the five. He’s the naïve but kind-hearted glue that holds them all together and his enthusiasm as the character and portrayal of autism really humanizes the condition for audience members (specifically the children) who may not fully understand what it means to have it.
This cast of five really do work well together and the chemistry is strong between them all, even excelling at times above the average script and though there are some cringe-worthy dialogue exchanges here and there none of it completely derails the film either. Its solid character development for a film like this and I was genuinely shocked.
(I mean look at these assholes being all cool with each other and shit!)
This all said, the movie is about as cheesy as they come in terms of kids movies.
Bryan Cranston’s Zordon looks visibly disinterested in a “I went from ‘Breaking Bad’ to THIS!?” kind of way in each scene he’s in and Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa delivers a hammy performance on par with Raul Julia’s M. Bison.
Even when the zords and the Power Rangers super suits finally do show up its arguably the weakest point in the film as the film just goes into full schlocke mode, not to mention the grossest use of product placement conveniently disguised as a plot device ever.
(Well played Krispy Kreme, well played….)
This all said, “Power Rangers” may not rise up above its source material but it doesn’t hurt it either and at the very least isn’t irritating like its Hollywood predecessors. Its kids schlocke but its watchable kids schlocke and that’s just fine.
Definitely not recommended for anyone besides children and maybe hardcore millennial fans but as long as you keep your expectations low and understand fully that this is just some dumb kids movie based on a dumb 90s kids TV show based on a dumb kids TV show from Japan its not the worst thing you could see in theaters this weekend.
Just tap into your inner 90s nostalgia, maybe lace it with some alcohol if you need it and you’ll more than get through this dumb but enjoyable trip down childhood lane.
Anyone above the age of 30 need not apply.
2.5 out of 5
Shit’s about to get real though in the sequel…