In a world where every IP is getting either a reboot, a connected universe, or both, it was simply a matter of time before the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers franchise made its way back to the big screen. The new installment serves as an introduction for new fans, and a nostalgia laden trip for those who grew up on the show. Power Rangers serves as a total reboot, with new actors filling the roles of the iconic multicolored heroes, but tells a new story, not connected to anything that has come before.
The film tells the story of five seemingly unconnected teenagers, and if you were not sure they are teenagers, there is a long back and forth conversation that points it out to you, all from the same small town, who stumble onto a downed spaceship, and are bestowed superpowers. This is more or less the concept from the original series, though the kids chosen before were all friends, and they were not given the superpowers, they were just given the costumes. The change from friends to acquaintances and strangers works for the origin story, as the heroes need to come and put aside their differences to actually become the power rangers. The film is more or less a by the book origin story, it has a team coming together, after lots of infighting, it has the individual members learning who they are, and who they want to be, and it does a good enough job of explaining what power rangers are, and why they are important. The generic nature of the plot is effective because there is a lot that needs to be covered in terms of building the lore this franchise is going to implement. The film actually starts out with a prologue, that give some exposition to what is to come, which was a nice touch. The actual story is a bit silly though, as power rangers stories tend to be, because it is simply the Evil Rita Repulsa(Elizabeth Banks) is trying to get a crystal to take over the universe and destroy the planet. The newly minted rangers must of course learn to be a team to take her down, while overcoming their own teenage problems along the way.
The first half to three-quarters of the film are actually mostly about their teenage problems, the characterizations fit more inside a John Hughes movies, than they do a superhero one. There is a strong Breakfast Club feel to the non ranger parts of the story, including most of the heroes meeting in saturday detention. The direction was a smart one to take it, though the amount of time spent learning how to be even decent people takes a bit too long, as it does not leave very much time for them to do power ranger things. While this films serves as the perfect set up to a string of sequels, it doesn’t feature nearly enough fighting, and could have used several other fight sequences. The story is developed in such a way where the kids need to earn being morphed, but even when not morphed in previous incarnations, those rangers still had fights with the bad guys, where these kids tend to just argue a lot.
As with most adaptations of Power Rangers, the acting is hit or miss, though this one isn’t as bad as previous film version of these characters. The rangers are all ok, though they tend to overemphasize their archetypes a little too much. Even thinking now about it, each of the rangers basically is a character from The Breakfast Club, and they do not shy away from it. Dacre Montgomery is Jason the Red Ranger, who is given the bulk of the story, he was the star of the football team who lost it all after a car accident following a prank gone wrong. He is the leader of the team, and of course needs to learn how to be a leader, all why catching heat from his dad about his screwups. It’s a little bit surprising that they didn’t just go for it and have him get in trouble for taping Larry Lester’s butt cheeks together. Naomi Scott is Kimberly the Pink Ranger, she is the former cheerleader who is kicked off the squad and is now really angsty about it. Her character arc is weird because they hint at what she does to get detention, and draw the ire of her former friends, but the hint implies that she is actually a pretty terrible person, and only a line of dialogue from Jason is meant to redeem her, but it doesn’t really. Ludi Lin is Zack the Black Ranger, he is loner who skips school all the time, though he has a pretty good reason for it, as he is dealing with his own issue, which are touched upon, though he isn’t really given much screen time. Becky G. is Trini the Yellow Ranger, she is the quirky weird one. They too hint at her larger teenage issues, but not in a meaningful way, as it boils down to she is misunderstood, and doesn’t fit into traditional labels. RJ Cyler is Billy the Blue Rangers, who falls on the Autism Spectrum, and is bullied as a result. His story is compelling, as there are many facets to it, and the fact that he is on the spectrum never feels like it is being beaten over the audience’s head, which is good, as it doesn’t feel forced. All of the actors do a fine job, they feel like teenagers in high school, and it is clear that they were the priority here, since the adults are not nearly as good. Bryan Cranston is the ranger’s mentor Zordon, once a ranger himself, who is now confined to the matrix of the ship. He was a weak point, which is surprising given how much an actor of his caliber should have been great in this role. The character just comes off as a jerk, and is played just like another authority figure in their lives, which of course these kids reject. Elizabeth Banks’ Rita is also not great, as she is way too over the top with her character. While normally in a Power Rangers movie that wouldn’t stand out as much, it does here given the more grounded approach. She is also tasked with the worst product placement in a movie, which is still cringe worthy to think about.
The film does enough right that it was actually a surprise that it wasn’t a complete train wreck. The costumes all look cool once they are finally introduced, though there should have been more of it. The Ranger Zords look much better in motion than they did in still photographs, which was a relief. The final design of the Megazord still isn’t great, but the fight between it, and the entirely made of gold Goldar was fun. That is ultimately what this movie boiled down to being, a lot of fun. It is far from perfect, though it is much better than previous Ranger films, but it is an enjoyable fun time at the movies. It won’t win over new fans above a certain age, but for those who watched Power Rangers, or those who like fun action movies, this film hits all the marks, without too many detractors to make it unwatchable.