It’s over twenty years ago now that the world first caught sight of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, with it unbeknownst that the origins of the show would spawn no less than 20 iterations of these acrobatic, dinosaur-driving heroes. With the series still ever-present on television even to this day, 2017 now presents to us a full-scale cinematic version of Saban’s greatest entity, promising a wholly up-to-date representation of the Power Rangers and quite possibly a whole new big screen franchise to captivate audiences.
Following the fall of Zordon (Bryan Cranston) and his own group of Power Rangers, the morphing crystals that once bestowed heroic abilities upon his team are sent to Earth, with an unwitting group of teenagers set for a whole new life to be bestowed upon them. When the evil Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) returns to Angel Grove to once and for all rule supreme, a new band of individuals consisting of Angel Grove students Jason (Dacre Montgomery), Kimberly (Naomi Scott), Zack (Ludi Lin), Billy (RJ Cyler) and Trini (Becky G.) must embrace new powers and become the new Power Rangers.
For a property that is over twenty years old, Power Rangers was always going to be a difficult one to transfer to the big screen in this day and age. Essentially a show that was over-the-top and cheesy in every which way, director Dean Israelite had a tough task on his hands but actually comes out with more positives than negatives.
At its heart Power Rangers is defined as a coming-of-age teen drama and that’s where the majority of its strengths lie. For a film about heroes in costumes that ride around in mechanical dinosaurs to take down a maniacal woman with a sceptre, Power Rangers actually doesn’t focus on the action a whole lot. In fact, for a good two thirds of the film we have ourselves a strong character study, building up the relationships between our future Rangers and really giving them their fair share of depth. Parents and young children may be hindered by the lack of excitement as a result of this, but in fact Israelite’s movie thrives in its character moments and in representing the various struggles the core characters are experiencing in life.
In essence, Power Rangers is an origin story and a decent one to boot. Few films such as these have the bravery to come out and really solidify each and every one of its heroes with a level of depth and ingenuity. From Jason’s failed football career, Kimberly riddled by a mistake she made via social media, the highlighting of Billy’s diagnosis, Zack’s struggles with his ailing mother and Trini’s family’s inability to accept her sexuality, we have five individuals we can ultimately root for by the close of the movie. It’s bold and unexpected from such a film and certainly makes for a compelling watch – at least for the majority.
Where the film itself is let down – somewhat surprisingly – is when the tonal shifts come and it is no exaggeration to say that Power Rangers would have been a much more impressive experience should there have been no villain or action whatsoever. Whenever Banks makes her appearance as Rita she feels more pantomime villain than unsettling queen of pain, Bill Hader’s Alpha 5, much like in the television show, is painfully annoying and jokes about emasculating cows all feel so misplaced. Then there’s the use of major product placement as a key plot device. All of these feel like they should exist in a completely different entity and rather hamper the overall experience.
With such a focus on the emotional aspect of these characters, Power Rangers turns into a bit of a slog come its final third and the obligatory big action sequence. There’s little to deny that the new designs of the suits and the Zords themselves look impressive – the overall design of the film looks great – but this feels simply tacked on because it has to be there. In the moment where the Power Rangers theme starts playing out it almost sends you into a state of confusion as just a few moments earlier we were in deep emotional territory, and that’s an issue that crops up in moments throughout.
That being said, as an overall picture, Power Rangers is a commendable effort at updating and keeping relevant a television property that, when revisited is cheese personified. Bold decisions in its character’s stories and a real determination to create truly worthy individuals within the core, Dean Israelite’s movie works perfectly as a coming-of-age entry but ultimately lets itself down with mixed tone and a desire to force the action down our throats. Inevitably there will be a sequel (don’t forget to stay a little longer for that post-credits scene) and in fairness it will be of great interest to see where the Rangers go from here. Go Go Teen Angst!
Power Rangers is out in cinemas now.