It has been twenty (!) years since the Power Rangers has been on the big screen, but the spandex ninja series is still going strong on television since debuting in 1993. I’d be willing to bet there are some of you reading this who have been alive for fewer years than Power Rangers has been on TV. It obviously has its fan base – are they going to be happy with this new big budget adaptation?
Lionsgate brings together a cast of relative unknowns to fill the shoes of the brightly colored morphing heroes in this “gritty reboot.” Along for the ride are the talented Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks, and Bill Hader as a big talking head, a screeching villainess, and a distressed robot, respectively. If you paid attention to the series back in the day you know who I’m talking about, otherwise, that’s really all you need to know.
The film starts out with a bang, giving Zordon (Cranston) and Rita Repulsa (Banks) a more interesting backstory and setting up a more promising mythology in five minutes than many bigger blockbusters manage to do in two and a half hours. So it’s got that going for it.
Essentially rebooting the series with this film (something the series will no doubt ignore), Saban’s Power Rangers is an origin story, and we spend a good portion of it just getting to know the highschoolers who are going to end up as the Power Rangers. Luckily they’re pretty fun to get to know – especially Billy, the Blue Ranger, played by RJ Cyler who is best known for his award worthy role as Earl in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. The whole “you have to learn to be a team” coupled with requisite training montages does drag out a tad too long, but there’s a surprising amount of meat to the story (relatively speaking), especially given the source material.
Not nearly as dark and gritty as the unofficial R rated Rangers short film that made its rounds a little while back, or even as much as the likes of Nolan‘s Dark Knight trilogy, Power Rangers stays on the soft side of PG-13. Its actually a fairly grounded character drama – at least as much as can be, given the circumstances. There is still plenty of cheese, giant kaiju-esque battles, guitar riffs, and acrobatic ninjas in bright, color coordinating, costumes. You know, the fun stuff.
Elizabeth Banks is obviously relishing the chance to be an outlandish villain here and is downright creepy as all getout before she hams it up as a somewhat more traditional version of the Rangers classic foe. This, I think is a good example of the movie overall. It’s like two different things. On one hand you have an imperfect but interesting mashup of a John Hughes flick and Chronicle into a small town drama. On the other hand you have an updated but still fairly ridiculous version of Power Rangers. And they actually come together fairly well but I can’t help but wonder whether those two movies could have been better off if they had been allowed to be fully realized on their own.
Still, I couldn’t help but enjoy myself for pretty much the entirety of this movie. The diverse – if somewhat underdeveloped – set of characters is refreshing. They somehow come off as more believable and less forced than something like Beauty and the Beast that tried so so hard the be progressive that it made a Disney masterpiece seem less genuine than a Power Rangers movie. Let that sink in for a moment. The callbacks to the original series are fun and not overdone to the point of nausea. There is a fairly interesting franchise being set up here and I’m actually looking forward to the next installment (keep an eye out for a mid-credits stinger).
Listen, it’s not fine cinema. It’s not even a great movie. But it’s fun and does a good job being what it is. The only thing I don’t quite get is the who the audience is supposed to be. Even if it’s on the soft side of PG-13 there is still enough adult-ish content (and seriously Rita is super creepy) that it’s probably not appropriate for the younger crowd, and the young teen age group it seems to be going after is probably also at the age where they think Power Rangers is lame. I don’t think there are enough twenty/thirty somethings with nostalgia for the 90’s show to drive the box office on this one either. Maybe I’m wrong and it will find its niche, but rather than being a bad/dumb movie I think the real detriment here is that it too carefully straddles the line of serious and goofy for most people to care.
Mrs. Hamster says:
“I thought it was the right mix of epic and the cheesiness you remember from your childhood.”
Brother Hamster says:
“I don’t know who decided we needed an hour and 15 minutes of backstory and explanation of how the Power Rangers work and only ten minutes of fighting but they got it backwards. It was more like Mighty Morphin’ Breakfast Club. Seriously, how do you make a Power Rangers movie with ONE FIGHT in it?!?”
My rating: Three out of five hats
Saban’s Power Rangers morphs into 3,693 theaters March 24