Time to buckle in and everyone make sure you have your nostalgia goggles on, because today we’re talking about Power Rangers! Okay, we’re talking about the new Power Rangers film that just hit theaters this weekend. Is it good? Is it bad? Will by childhood be forever ruined by this abomination of a film? That’s what we’re here to tackle today! So read on! As usual, this will be absolutely spoiler-free so you can read without fear. Let’s get started.
First off, as I usually do with reviews, I’ll give you the quick background of my history with the franchise.
As anyone who reads my reviews has probably gathered by now, I grew up on a healthy diet of late-80’s, early-90’s properties that are all now hitting that nostalgia sweet-spot and are making comebacks. Power Rangers is no exception. Mighty Morphin’ was my series, and just like fans talk about who ‘their’ Doctor is (Nine, by the way), so is the first American incarnation of the series my Rangers. Upon reflection, it is probably the thing that made me a fan of Suitmation as well.
So there is it, I’m showing my bias early and am doing my best not to let that color my reaction to this film. My kids have watched other incarnations of the show and have had a lot of fun with them, so they were looking to see how this would pan out as well. I’m going to do this a little differently than usual. I’m going to talk about the things I liked first, and then the things I didn’t like, second and then wrap it up at the end. So let’s do it.
First, let’s talk the positives. The Rangers in this movie actually looked and acted more like teenagers than in the original show (not like any of them are actually teenagers for the most part). They also don’t come ready with martial arts skills like a few of the original team did, and have to learn to fight once they get their powers. This made it more like normal kids put in an extraordinary situation. The acting from them was really good overall and you could buy that they were teenagers with teenager problems, and the film went with a less goody-goody group of kids this time. As we saw in the trailers, they’re in detention for one reason or another, hence the Breakfast Club comparisons I heard a lot of. These reasons run the gamut from fairly inoffensive to one particular character ending up there for doing something that is actually really awful. There was a good diversity to them as well, both in background and in personality that added to the whole ‘initially unwilling team-up’ thing. So I guess we got ‘teenagers with attitude’ this time.
In the more fantastical characters you get the more well-known actors. Bryan Cranston as Zordon was really cool as a casting and as a reference. I mean, he’s great no matter what and he brought something a bit different to the character we didn’t get in the show. I also really liked his redesign, it was actually a nice step forward from the floating ghost-head thing. And if you weren’t a fan of Alpha 5 in the show, he’s a lot less irritating this time around. I think Bill Hader did a really good job of bringing the character to life without being that annoying character all over again. He was actually a bit snarky and his redesign looked better in the film than I thought based on the concept art. It really worked. Finally, we have Rita Repulsa as played by Elizabeth Banks. She’s definitely a creepier, more psychotic, and less cheesy than her TV counterpart and her backstory with Zordon showed briefly in the film kind of made me want to see that movie and how all that went down. You can tell Elizabeth Banks was having a ton of fun with this role and again, despite the naysayers on the costume design, she really brought it.
Speaking of character designs, there were some things I really liked in this movie. As I said above, the designs for Zordon, Alpha, and Rita all had updated designs that looked worked well for the movie. As far as the Rangers themselves go, I really did like the helmet part of the suits. They were nice updates to the originals while still maintaining the iconic appearance. I also thought that of all the zords, surprisingly, the Megazord looked the best. Based on toys and concepts and quick shots from the trailer I was not impressed, but it really did look cool in context, even if I would’ve rather seen a dude in a suit than a big CG construct. As far as individual zords go, the T. rex zord was the best looking of the bunch. The CG itself was overall good, nothing really wowing you as being phenomenal, but nothing glaringly Gods of Egypt bad either. Totally serviceable. The wirework in at least one scene was quite obviously wirework, but it was kind of one of those cheesier moments that kind of brought you back to the original, so I can’t really put it as a con. As far as the original goes, there were a number of nods and easter eggs for anyone like me watching to pick up on. Some were pretty obvious and some were quite subtle. I did like that (not really a spoiler) that at one part the Rangers were fighting putties in a quarry/mine area, cause you can’t have Power Rangers without a quarry fight! Actually, one of these nods was the thing that made me sit up and just grin because it was unexpected and amazing (you’ll know if you see it!).
Okay, now for the other stuff. The stuff that wasn’t as good. Sigh. I knew we’d get into this rotten stuff soon enough. Okay, without spoiling, there’s something right at the beginning that made me go ‘hey, wait a minute!’. Maybe that’s just me nitpicking for accuracy, but I would’ve picked something different to call it. But let’s get right into the meat of this, because there are some issues with this movie I need to talk about if I’m going to give you an honest review. First off, I was talking about designs up above, and I gotta talk about the ones that weren’t good as well. I didn’t like the Ranger suits. They went so far out of their way to make them modern and different but they feel like Tony Stark’s castoffs. Considering the tone of the film, these feel kind of cheesy (they even look make the otherwise well-made toys look cheap and chintzy) and I hate boobplate on female characters so much. This carries over into the zord designs, which they also really tried to modernize as well. But they’re overdone to the point where you can’t tell what they’re supposed to be outside of the red zord. I knew what they were only because I know what each zord is already, not because you could tell from the film. Although, the prize for worst design is Goldar, who we see in the trailer as the giant, hulking gold monster. His design is awful, there is nothing to distinguish him as a character or as any… thing really. Had he not been called by name, you could have assumed he was just another of Rita’s creatures just on a larger scale. This is bad enough, but there really isn’t much to him, either. He’s more a plot device than a character, which is sad because Goldar is an iconic character in the original and it would have been nice to see him get some real love.
Let’s talk about the film itself, and not just my opinions on aesthetics. The action was overall good but there were a few shots where I just wanted them to pull that camera back a little wider so we could see better. Not as bad as Transformers, but it definitely was there a couple of times. As for the action, there wasn’t enough of it. Even the big finale is kind of… short. At the very least we should have gotten more action/fight scenes peppered throughout the film to keep the pace going, especially in the second act. It took way too long for it to really amp up and get exciting. Let’s not forget this is Power Rangers, you need that in there, no matter how much else you change.
Before I get into plot and characters, I just want to mention the music. The music was really all over the place. There were some musical cues that I can only describe as weird. They do play the theme song, but its placement is so out-of-nowhere and sudden that it really threw me off a little. I personally would have put it elsewhere, and for both instances used only the instrumental. I’m not necessarily going to take issue with the other songs used, just because it isn’t my cup of tea doesn’t mean it isn’t someone else’s. It’s how they are used that was the weird part. It was just odd and pulled me out of the movie a couple of times.
Okay, let’s talk plot. The plot itself is fine. The characters are fine. How they put it all together… that’s where we run into problems. There is a lot to focus on, especially in greatly changing a world people are already familiar with. You’re going to need to give that background, I get that. But it really felt like with all the stuff they had to talk about, they just focused on the wrong things. They spent so much time telling us this kids were outcasts and screw-ups that we never really got to delve into the reasons why. The movie focuses mostly on Jason, then Billy and Kimberly. While I really like what they did with Billy and it was great to see his character at such a forefront, our time with Zack and Trini really suffered for it. And that really sucks, because their backstories were arguably the most interesting and I would’ve like to see more of them as opposed to constant Jason and Kimberly. It’s not even a show-don’t-tell problem, it’s a ‘they gave us actions, but not motives’ problem. They gave us the result, but not enough of the cause to really care about said result. It was overall a rather serious take on the franchise, which in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. As I said before, I loved the short ‘bootleg universe’ film that was done with the characters a couple of years ago. It was just when this film got too self-serious and lost its self-awareness that I just wanted it to lighten up on the melodrama already.
So, to sum up, what did I think of Power Rangers? It was okay. It wasn’t the mind-blowing revival that blew me out of my seat, but nor was it the abomination that destroyed something I loved as a child. It was totally….fine. And you know what, I hope it does well. I hope it does well enough that they can go forward with the idea from the mid-credits stinger (stay for that, by the way!) and make another one. Now that they’ve established these characters and we have that out of the way, let’s see the next one do something really fun with them, something big and loud and awesome and cool. Because there is potential here to make something good that old and new and young and old fans could really get behind. I didn’t outline all of these cons because I hated the film, but because I want to make the next potential film better. And I hope it is. Hope springs eternal, I guess.