Turn back into an 8-year-old4/5/2017
“Power Rangers” brings life lessons to the big screen
Even if you didn’t grow up watching the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” during the 1990s, you certainly were aware of their presence. Bold colors, spandex onesies and some of the best monster costume work since the original “Godzilla” brought life lessons and mirth each week on TV. While the updated film still brings the lessons of acceptance, believing in one another and standing up for what’s right, it struggles to decide if it’s a gritty remake or a fun revamp capitalizing on nostalgia.
The film opens 65 million years ago on Earth during the Cenozoic Era. (Technically, that would be the Mesozoic Era, but when you’re OK with mixing Sabretooth Tigers and T-Rexes, how much does scientific accuracy matter?) Zordon (Bryan Cranston) is betrayed by his teammate Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), though not before he hides the Power Rangers power source. In a last-ditch effort, he calls forth an asteroid to destroy Rita — and, in turn, causes Earth’s most popular mass extinction — go figure.
Flash ahead to the present, and we meet our “Breakfast Club”-misfits stuck in detention for various reasons. Jason–Red Ranger (Dacre Montgomery), who was caught recklessly joy-riding from the police and causing untold amounts of property damage; Kimberly–Pink Ranger (Naomi Scott), who is ostensibly guilty of revenge porn; and Billy–Blue Ranger (R.J. Cyler), loveable Billy, who accidentally blew up his lunchbox. Trini (Becky G.) is also in detention, but we never really find out why. And Zack (Ludi Lin) — well, he’s just a great son who’s too busy to go to school because he’s taking care of his ailing mother. That makes five, right?
What’s perhaps most impressive is how these actors manage to make you care about the characters, because on the surface — most are selfish people. After discovering the source of power for the Rangers, this bunch of kids (I’m only reminding you because they never stop reminding us) must learn to work together to get ready for the impending battle with Rita Repulsa.
Easier said than done.
Much time is devoted to the characters’ backstory, which is one of the better aspects, if not unexpected, that makes this movie quite a bit of fun. It’s one thing to be put on a team; it’s something very different to care for those you are working with. This movie explores this idea and does it well, as the audience is shown that physical training only gets you so far if you can’t rely on your team for support.
While there’s a good deal of fun (and one cringe-worthy nod to the original series’ music), there’s a strange amount of scares littered throughout the movie. Always around Rita, these range from jump scares that position audiences with an uneasy close-up to floating, mangled bodies and a man having his gold teeth ripped from his mouth.
There’s plenty about “Power Rangers” that could have been improved, from the telegraphed plot line that never offers any real surprises to the clunky world-building that happens in any movie thirsty for sequels. But the film has plenty of great little touches, like the training montage with Alpha 5. And when our teen heroes open up to each other around a campfire, we get a moment of genuine human contact.
There’s a lot of fun to be had with “Power Rangers,” and even those moments that stray from the source material prove most entertaining in post-viewing chats. That said, the last 20 minutes of this movie, with the Power Rangers firing laser beams from their Zords as they demolish Putties, turned me back into an 8-year-old.
Go Go Power Rangers, indeed. ♦