Growing up, Power Rangers was my favourite TV show. Yes it’s terrible in terms of acting, story and effects (all of which are essential elements in production) but it is undeniably fun to watch, and I would happily watch an episode on the TV now. So when I heard that a darker and grittier take on the original Mighty Morphin team was coming to the big screen, I was incredibly excited and extremely intrigued. And whilst this film is far from perfect with some obvious flaw, some major, Power Rangers is an enjoyable two hours, catering to fans of the original show.
The film tells the story of Jason, Billy, Zack, Trini and Kimberly, five troubled teenagers in a Breakfast Club situation at the beginning of the film who stumble across five mysterious glowing coins in a quarry. Soon after, the five realise that they are physically superior to everyone around them, reminding me of the situation of Chronicle. From then on, the teens embark on an adventure to discover the truth behind their new found powers, uncovering a buried spaceship containing the alien Zordon. From this incredible being, the five must learn the importance of teamwork to become the mighty warriors, the Power Rangers, who must defend the Earth from the villainous Rita Repulsa.
So, the first point to discuss, and this may be considered a spoiler, is that there is about 20 minutes of Power Rangers in the entirety of the film. By that, I mean that the first hour and a half is a coming of age teen drama with a couple of action scenes sprinkled throughout. All five teenagers are explored throughout; aiming to be empathetic figures for teenage audiences, before an obvious juxtaposition occurs within the film’s finale where an explosive final battle occurs that is emblematic of the original show. And what’s most surprising is that the teen drama is actually more engaging and heart-warming than I initially assumed. The performances by the five relatively unknown leads are commendable, with all five giving it their all in their first major role. What is also appreciated is the racial diversity of the team, as well as the variety of socially relevant topics addressed, from autism to bisexuality (RJ Cyler as Billy was definitely the standout). Introducing these concepts is a bold choice and one that I believe pays off. Some of them are flawed, making awful decisions that make them more relatable than one may expect from a Power Rangers film. Not only that, there is genuine heart to the team’s bonding, especially a standout bonfire scene that provides some rich character development, as well as a surprisingly sad moment in the second act.
Bryan Cranston as Zordon was also one of the film’s better performances (a nice piece of trivia is that Cranston voiced some villains in the original Power Rangers show), bringing a sense of harshness to the character who was the archetypal calm and wise character in the original show. Bill Hader also provided a decent voice performer as Alpha 5, a robot who aids the teens in their training. However, Alpha 5 never really worked for me as a character due to his annoying nature, and that problem remains. So despite the incredible effort offered by the leads, Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa really didn’t click for me. Whereas the rest of the cast seemed to be transitioning towards a darker tone of the film, Banks played Rita as if she was ripped straight from an episode of the TV show. She was incredibly over the top, with awful dialogue that took me out of the more realistic tone the filmmakers were aiming for. The dialogue in general is notably bland throughout, yet the strong performances of the leads disguise the scripts flaws to a greater extent than the comical exaggerated performance of Banks.
With all that being said, there was one thing I wanted Director Dean Israelite to get right. The actual morphed Rangers. Like I said, there isn’t much screentime to examine. What there is however I must say is a little disappointing. The suits themselves are awesome in design, as well as the Rangers respective Zords. But the actual fighting itself when fighting Rita’s minions is totally dull with little to no tension throughout. There’s no pain or sense of danger, which there should be to maintain the grittier tone of the film. In fact, the last 20 minutes feels like a completely different film to the rest of the story. The Zords in action fared better, with a Pacific Rim vibe to the climactic battle. Therefore, the action isn’t terrible but is also forgettable. The visuals are impressive however throughout the film, with some impressive camerawork and a well fitted soundtrack. The film’s technicality is a mixed bag to say the least. Moreover, as a side note, there is an insane use of product placement in the form of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, to the degree of being insultingly distracting from the film’s action packed set pieces.
So overall, Power Rangers was…ok. To be honest, that’s a pleasant surprise for me, probably for most people. When this film was announced to be in production, there was a bombardment of negativity concerning what the film’s quality would be. Nonetheless, the fact that I can say that this film is average is in large contrast to audience’s initial reactions. If you are a Power Rangers fan, then you have to see this film, with some excellent references with some awesome cameos. If not, then you won’t hate this film, but you won’t love it either. It’s enjoyable at best, which hopefully paves the way for some interesting sequels, despite the disappointing box office performance. Not an essential watch, but by no means an insulting one.
I give Power Rangers 6 out of 10
Oh and stay for the middle of the credits with an interesting tease for a potential sequel.