When the villainous Rita Repulsa returns after 65 million years, it’s up to the five chosen by the power coins to become the Power Rangers to stop her. Unfortunately, the coins chose five high-schoolers, with a lot of issues, to be their wielders. Can these ‘teenagers with attitude’ come together as a team and save the Earth? Can Dean Israelite take a low budget 90’s kids show and turn it into a decent movie?
Let’s dive in.
Back in 1995, I sat in the cinema with my younger cousin and uncle, watching the original ‘Power Rangers the movie’. As the movie began, I was so excited my leg was actually trembling. The Power Rangers franchise was at the height of its popularity. This was fortunate because, for anyone who wasn’t ten years or younger, it wasn’t a very good movie. Since then, the franchise has quietly rumbled on in the background, with a new team of rangers each season.
The new movie, however, reboots the original ‘Mighty Morphin’ team and returns us to the peaceful town of Angel Grove. In the TV series, the ‘so-called’ teenagers with attitude were actually a bunch of goody two shoes who were all best friends, spent their free time doing charity work and had never had a detention (seriously). Their movie counterparts, not so much.
The movie opens with Jason (the future red ranger) sneaking a cow into the school at night for a prank. After a surprisingly unsubtle joke regarding Jason’s friend and the cow, the police respond to the break in and Jason’s attempt to escape results in him getting caught. One criminal record and ruined football aspiration later, Jason finds himself in permanent Saturday detention. Kimberly (Pink Ranger) is estranged from her cheerleading friends due to the fallout of something extremely mean spirited she did. Billy (Blue Ranger) has no friends due to his autism making him an easy target for bullies. Zack (Black Ranger) lives in a trailer with his very sick mother and masks his insecurities with a loud-mouthed, confident façade. Trini (yellow ranger) is very reclusive due to moving around so much for her mother’s job. As a result, most of the student body have only just started to notice her presence in spite of her having been there a year.
The rangers aren’t the only ones who have changed from their TV incarnations. Zordon, the ranger’s alien mentor, is now a former Power Ranger whose team was wiped out by a traitor; Rita Repulsa herself. His mind now uploaded to his buried ship’s computer banks, he is rather impatient and demanding of the fledgeling ranger team, rather than the generically wise mentor he was on TV.
All of the above, along with the more serious looking ranger armour, had critics and internet commentators complaining about the movie being ‘darker and edgier. However, when you watch the actual movie instead of just the trailers, you realise that this isn’t nearly as true as people thought. Yes, the characters have troubles and flaws, but the core of the movie’s plot is about them rising above these problems. It’s established that, in this continuity, a ranger team can’t morph until they trust each other like family. At the start of the movie, the five of them are all outcasts to some extent. By the end, the rangers have found friendship and acceptance in each other, showing the deep optimism that drives the movie’s plot. And when the Ranger’s finally manage to morph, the action is everything you bought your ticket hoping to see.
That’s not to say that the movie is perfect; with so much of the runtime devoted the emotional journey of the rangers, other elements feel a little neglected. The ranger action we get is brilliant, but it doesn’t come until well into the final act. If you chose this movie to see armoured superheroes fight monsters in giant robots, you’d better get comfortable. Certain plot elements are also rushed over due to so much runtime being focused on the heroes’ personal journeys. For example, early on, our heroes survive a deadly car crash due to their newly gained powers. They wake up in their own beds, the next morning, unable to remember how they got back to their homes. This doesn’t get explained.
Also, the goal of Rita is to extract Earth’s ‘Zeo Crystal’ which is a powerful gem that sustains all life on the planet. If it gets removed, all life on Earth will die. Rita wants to use its power to conquer the universe and, apparently, every planet that has life has its own Zeo crystal. We don’t get an explanation of why Rita, and future enemies, is so fixated on Earth’s Zeo crystal. Is it more powerful than other crystals? Is there another reason? Don’t expect an answer.
Power Rangers is not a perfect movie by any stretch of the imagination. Nevertheless, what it does right, it does really well. The action scenes are really well done and the character development is amazing. Furthermore, it handles sensitive issues really well. Trini is revealed to be LGBT, making her the first queer main character in a major superhero movie. Billy being autistic is also handled very realistically and he’s no less of a hero than the rest of the team.
If you hate Power Rangers, this movie won’t change your mind, but it’s a solid movie that’s better than it has any right to be, given the source material.
Director: Dean Israelite
Starring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin, Bill Hader, Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks
Running Time: 124 minutes
Release Date: March 24th, 2017