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Movie Review: Power Rangers

The Power Returns with Power Rangers. Image used from teaser-trailer.com

I’ve been a fan of Power Rangers ever since I was a little kid. It was one of the biggest staples of my childhood and something that had grown into a weekly routine for me.  Every Friday and Saturday I had to watch at least one episode, no exceptions. Even as my 25th birthday draws closer I find myself more attached to the show then I ever was before. But the new film had me worried. It was going to have a darker tone and a monstrous budget.  It was going to be everything that Hollywood has gotten wrong so many times in the previous decade. Surprisingly, Power Rangers managed to take me by complete surprise in the end.

 

The story for Power Rangers is actually quite decent. It takes many liberties with how the show had initially played out and creates new story ideas to give itself it’s own identity. The backstories of Zordon and Rita Repulsa are changed to give them a more personal connection that honestly does work, in fact I found myself more interested in their past then what was happening in the present. The Rangers have changed from five perfect pillars of their community as they’ve always been portrayed into a group of outcasts and delinquents which again works. It is interesting to see our heroes having flaws and exactly being the type of people to step up to save the day. The story itself is structured nicely with the film establishing the Rangers, what they’re lives are like and how they grow together all while the threat of Rita looms closer and closer and even with no action I still found myself engaged and at times entertained enough to not notice. Granted it does take a long time for the Ranger to finally morph, an hour and half to be exact, and many critics have stated that this is a massive problem. I disagree. The film feels very reminiscent of the first Iron Man film, taking it’s time with the main character, choosing to show the character training and perfecting their abilities before finally becoming the titular super hero for the final act. That’s exactly how Power Rangers plays out and that was the right decision, get to know our characters before having them morph. The tone of the film, which I thought was going to be it’s downfall, actually wasn’t too bad. The darker elements of course are always present with our angsty teenagers and their real life problems, sociopath bullies and the biggest, darkest shocker of them all: People dying. Believe me when you grew up with a show that stated people weren’t dying in the giant monster battles because they took place in the “abandoned buildings district” it can be very shocking to see Rita physically murder someone! But even with all that the film never forgets it’s roots and actually manages to find the time to be silly, make jokes and have hammy dialogue, acting and out of place moments that make it feel like Power Rangers. However the film still does have it’s share of problems. The film seems to copy other films most notably Michael Bay’s Transformers, so much so that the first joke in the film is a vulgar and juvenile one. It’s short, it’s unpleasant and it stays with you for the whole film it was that bad. The setting is rather bland turning Angel Grove from a city and a suburb into a small, dying fishing/mining town. Not only does this make the setting unimpressive but it takes a lot away from the final Zord battle, it just ins’t that exciting without skyscrapers to crash into. Lastly many characters from the show were left out most notably series bullies/wonderful comic relief Bulk and Skull. Granted there wouldn’t have been enough time to dedicate to those missing characters and even they would have felt out of place at times but nevertheless their presence was still missed.

 

Characters for Power Rangers tended to be pretty interesting

 

Of the five Rangers the ones I found to be the least interesting were Jason, Kimberly and Zack. Jason, being the leader, gets a good portion of the attention and I must admit this film actually does show why Jason is the best choice to be the leader. But he is just so unpleasant for most of the film. he starts the film by breaking into his high school to leave a bull there and proceeds to not only cause thousands of dollars in property damage but nearly kills himself in a car crash, ruining his knee and ending his promising college career. His response to all this? Lash out at everyone, treat his father like the enemy and act as if he’s the victim in all this! I must admit even in the beginning he does show good qualities such as sticking up for Billy when he’s being bullied but even so he doesn’t become a good character until the third act. Kimberly is made into something of a bully. Initially it seems like she’s the victim of bullying but as the film goes on we learn that she did something truly bad though at least it’s something she feels guilt over. Zack is easily the strongest of these three. Though mostly stand offish as we learn more about him he becomes a more sympathetic and interesting character but similar to the former two it happens further in the film.

 

Billy and Trini are by far the most interesting. The biggest thing that makes Billy so great, to me of course, is that he’s autistic! Two autistic action heroes in six months? This is fantastic! Billy’s autism is represented well with ticks, speech patterns, a dislike of touch and a difficulty of making connections to people as well as not grasping sarcasm. But Billy is not just his autism, he’s more of the emotional force of the film the one great unifier of the team and from start to finish he remains the most interesting, engaging and important character in the film. Trini spends most of the film as an outsider of the group, not wanting to make any kind of connection to the team. We soon learn that Trini has a difficult time connecting to people because her parents make it difficult, wanting her to seem perfect and normal. And why is this? Because Trini is gay. That’s right, the first openly gay super hero in film and her representation is  done well. It’s ironic that Saban of all people was the first to do it. Of course the team doesn’t work if the characters aren’t one and honestly the group dynamic is done very well in Power Rangers. They have good conlficts and grow together nicely, culminating in an excellent camp fire scene which changes all the characters for the best and that wonderful drama stays until the very end.

 

Zordon and Alpha 5 are vastly different here but are done pretty well. Zordon is more commanding and tends to look down on the Rangers rather then being a caring and helpful mentor. He does have his reasons and this makes for some good conflict throughout the film. Alpha, while still a comic relief, is not the same lovable fully functioning automaton we all know but is slightly more serious and is the one character of all people who teaches the Rangers how to fight. It’s an interesting take on the character and this version is still very enjoyable.

 

Rita Repulsa is very different from what she used to be but still manages to be a good villain. She’s the living definition of this film’s tone: Being incredibly violent and cruel but is immensely over the top and intentionally humorous. There are aspects of her character that are very clever and in quite ingenious such as her previously being a Ranger herself and whatever her past was with Zordon is something that’s hopefully explored in future films. However, concerning her character I utterly despised what they did with Goldar. Instead of being her top general, a great character in his own right, they instead turned him into her giant Zord. Gone is the intimidating and often times incompetently funny Goldar, replaced instead with a  horrible gelatinous blob.

 

Acting for Power Rangers is pretty good

 

Dacre Montgomery and Naomi Scott are both decent as Jason and Kimberly. Neither is truly outstanding but they do manage to get the job done. And hey, that’s the beauty of hiring young, unknown actors and actresses for Power Rangers to see them not so good at first while they grow throughout the series into something more.

 

Ludi Lin does well as Zack. Lin has a certain charm to him that makes him enjoyable throughout but it’s that camp fire scene where he stood out the best, delivering an exceptionally strong performance but for a brief moment.

 

Becky G. is alright as Trini. The problem with her performance is that Trini is so quiet most of the time so she doesn’t get a real chance to show her acting chops.

 

Of course my favorite is RJ Cyler as Billy. Cyler gives a phenomenal performance, managing to be very believable as an autistic character. Cyler also gives the most emotionally powerful performance in the entire film and was utterly fantastic from start to finish.

 

Bryan Cranston sure has come a very long way from giving two silly performances as monsters on the original show. Now he’s the big guy himself and does a pretty good job coming off as commanding and powerful and making the character of Zordon his own rather then imitating David Fielding.

 

Bill Hader gives a delightful performance as Alpha 5. Hader is very humorous and works well with the cast. I was worried, like so many other aspects of the film, that Hader wouldn’t have come off as Alpha, I feared I would have preferred the Brooklyn accent of Alpha 6 over him. But Hader proved he could do well as the character, even his Aye Yi Yi was on point.

 

Elizabeth Banks gives a wonderful performance as Rita. Though intimidating at many points in the film Banks still knows what she’s in and where it came from and manages to find the time to truly ham it up, stealing the show whenever possible.

 

The action for Power Rangers is flawed but passable

 

Of course a film that focuses more on training the team and building them as characters wasn’t going to have a ton of action but I was still a little disappointed with what we got. The Rangers only briefly show off their martial arts prowess and the one scene they do it in doesn’t have particularity good cinematography or editing. I chalk this up to director Dean Israelite not having any experience outside of a low budget found footage film, in fact most of the film is shot as such with lots of dutch angles and the camera constantly moving as if an invisible character is recording everything. It’s a shame because the fight choreography isn’t bad. But you know what? I can let that slide. I’ve seen worse fight scenes in the earliest episodes of power rangers so this was no big deal. The final battle with “Goldar” wasn’t bad in fact it did have some entertaining moments but along with Israelite’s inexperience it does feel like it took too many notes from the Transformers films and felt more like that then Power Rangers.

 

The effects and costumes for Power Rangers are rather mixed

 

The effects used in Power Rangers tended to be good and bad. Some things like Alpha and Zordon were rendered nicely and looked very good while other things like the Putty Patrol and the Zord battles weren’t done well enough. The Putties were obvious CG and didn’t have good designs, it’s one of those instances where a bunch of guys in cheap rubber costumes would have looked better and the designs of the Zords was strange (the Mastodon looked more like a giant spider) and the final deign of the Megazord was just bland and uninspired. and of course the molten gold design of Goldar was just infuriating. Still some sets were well made such as the command center, the armor of the Rangers was well made being similar to the original designs while looking different and every now and again the film has some pretty shots.

 

Final Thoughts: Power Rangers has it’s far share of flaws with designs, some effects and directing. But even with all that I still found plenty of enjoyment with this film. It tipped it’s hat to the fans every now and again while still having something of it’s own identity, some characters are stronger then others but as a group they work well, we have a good villain, some truly good acting and on a whole it is a genuinely fun movie. If you’re like me and you still love Power Rangers and watch it as often as you can you will enjoy this film and it isn’t due to nostalgia it’s just well made. For those of you who didn’t watch Power Rangers I doubt you’ll enjoy it. It truly is a morphenomonal experience for fans only, warts and all.

 

Verdict: 3/5

 

 

About the Author

Good day to you, my name is Jonathan Gonzalez. For years I’ve loved movies and have been reviewing them for years, ever since I first saw Roger Ebert on Ebert and Roeper during my freshman year of high school for the first time. I am a graduate of Mercy College with a Bachelor’s in Journalism and I have Asperger’s Syndrome, something I am truly proud of.

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