Director: Dean Israelite
Starring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin, Bill Hader, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks
Go Go Power Rangers! Yep, the Might Morphin Power Rangers have finally been brought to the big screen. I’m unashamed to admit that I was a big fan of the original TV show when I was wide-eyed youngster, spending far too many hours in front of my family television screen, and going into the screening of the newly rebooted Power Rangers 2017 movie, I was slightly trepidatious.
We’ve been privy – I use the word ironically – to quite a few 90s TV shows big screen adaptions in recent years, and they’ve all ended up being a little bit rubbish. However, I’m pleased to report that Power Rangers was infinitely better than both Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies put together. I actually quite enjoyed Power Rangers and felt that it did a good job in blending the ‘campness’ of the original television show, with a touch of what people like to refer to as ‘grit’, to the mix. That sounds like I’m damning it with faint praise, but I’m actually serious, I enjoyed the film.
This is your destiny… This is your time.
Power Rangers starts off in the distant past, when dinosaurs ruled the earth, yet we see the red Ranger crawling through the mud. Turns out that Zordon, played by Brain Cranston, who was the voice of Power Rangers’ mentor in the original TV show, was actually the first red Ranger. He manages to hide the remaining ‘Power’ stones (the stones that give the Rangers their powers) from Rita Repulsa, who incidentally was the original green Ranger. She’s looking for something called the Zeo Crystal, which will allow her to control the universe. There’s then an explosion, Zordon dies and Rita’s jettisoned into the ocean.
Cut to the present day, and we are introduced to the young teenagers who’ll eventually become the new Rangers: Jason, Kimberly, Billy, Zane and Trini. It’s up to them to work out how to successfully ‘morph’ into their suits, and become the true heroes they were meant to be by protecting Angel Grove from a rather cranky Rita, who’s turned back from the dead with a hunger for gold, and desperate to find the location of the crystal that has eluded her for so many years.
The answer to what is happening to you is here. You five are the Power Rangers.
As I mentioned above, where Power Rangers succeeds is in its ability to recapture the camp tone of the original TV show, whilst adding a certain dark quality. It reminded me somewhat of Josh Trank’s Chronicle. There are also echoes of Trank’s inferior Fantastic Four, yet Power Rangers is infinitely better, and doesn’t feature an ominous sky beam, which seemed to be very popular with 90s comic book movies… and Suicide Squad…
Another one of the film’s highlights were the Power Rangers themselves. They’re a likeable bunch of adolescents, and watching them getting to know one another brought to mind certain scenes from John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club, especially when they’re all in detention. It does take a while for them to finally become the Rangers, yet I didn’t really mind since I was far more invested in their characters rather than watching them jump around in colourful suits. That said, when they do finally morph, they do look good in their Iron Man-esque outfits. Much like the film as a whole, they embody the spirit of the 90s TV show, whilst having a modern twist.
I’ll show you mine, if you’ll show me yours!
Then you have the film’s big guns: Brian Cranston and Elizabeth Banks. The fact that Cranston agreed to return as the voice of Zordon gives him a huge gold star in my book. Not only that, but he gets to do quite a bit of acting, and I enjoyed learning more about Zordon’s backstory. Making him the original red Ranger was an novel twist, one which I really appreciated since it gave the character a bit more heft than just being a big bald head on a wall. Moreover, you actually get to see Cranston do a bit of acting at the beginning, which is always a good thing.
Then there’s Elizabeth Banks as Rita Replusa, who’s character deviates quite drastically from the TV show’s original. Firstly, she’s the first green Ranger, which explains her verdant attire, and secondly, she’s genuinely creepy, as opposed to just being very cackly, which was the case with the TV show’s Rita. Banks decided to go all out with this villain, and it really worked for me. She’s very witch-like in her movement, and Banks gives her a sinister quality that would scare a lot of children. This is by no means a children’s film. Having been given a 12A rating from the BBFC might have already suggested this. Banks’ Rita is enough to give even the braves children nightmares.
I’ve killed Rangers before.
Some have deemed Banks’ performance as being slightly misjudged, but I could disagree more. I feel that the character would have fallen flat if it hadn’t been for Banks’ over-the-top take on Rita. She dominates the screen whenever she’s in shot, and I wanted to see more of her. Unfortunately, she’s done a disservice by the film’s rather lacklustre final battle sequence, but despite Power Rangers’ tepid finale, Rita is a villain to be proud of, and I really hope the movie does well enough to warrant a sequel, just so that you get to see her on the moon with her even creepier looking sidekick, Zorg.
I did enjoy Power Rangers as a whole, yet I was left disappointed by it’s final act. As mentioned previously, the film’s final third ended up bei… well… just think of something with an unpleasant aroma that rhymes with ‘third’, and there you have it. It was all a bit of a CGI mess. I remember loving the moments in the series when the Power Rangers thought they’d finally beaten the villain, only for it to come back to life and grow as tall as a skyscraper. They tried something similar here, but it didn’t really work. It would have been fun to have seen a call-back to the original show by somehow incorporating miniatures into this sequence, but maybe it was just too much to ask.
You can listen to us discuss Power Rangers in the latest episode of our podcast, Small Screen’s Film Club.