Power Rangers – Movie Review
Rating: D+ (Bad)
Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy eOne Films
If there was a property popular with children in the 1990s that left their parents perplexed, it was Power Rangers. Even Pokemon had the cuteness and collectable factor attached to it. However, Power Rangers was nothing more than the Japanese series Super Sentai poorly dubbed into English with new actors reacting to the cheap-suited monsters. With ‘90s nostalgia recently reigning its head, it was inevitable they would somehow find themselves on the big screen in the modern era. The problem with this new incarnation of Power Rangers is it seemingly forgets how cheesy and campy the original series was. Even as somebody who was far more enchanted by the Ninja Turtles, it’s hard not to wish for this film to be more faithful to its silly source.
This new Power Rangers is almost every superhero origin story with young people, told in the most generic manner possible. The five leads just barely have personality traits to distinguish them apart. Most of the over two hour runtime is devoted to set-up as they meet, find Zordon’s magic rocks and train. This is paint-by-numbers storytelling as every character goes through the expected beats, as they learn about friendship. Director Dean Israelite and the committee of writers (five of whom are credited on the screenplay) play the film completely straight for the most part. The doses of humour thrown into the dialogue barely elicit chuckles and despite the actors’ best efforts, there is barely any chemistry between the Rangers in training.
Alpha-5, the wacky robot voiced by Bill Hader, is the principal comic relief of the picture. However, his shtick gets old extremely quickly and there’s little endearing about his master Zordon. Bryan Cranston is frequently directed to shout and snap at the Rangers and one wonders why they bother to stick around, were it not for the allure of having super strength. The one actor who fully embraces the camp nature of their role is Elizabeth Banks. It’s easy to understand why she accepted the part of the villainous and aptly named Rita Repulsa and she digs into the role with relish. Constantly cackling and snacking on gold, she never downplays how ridiculous the character is and provides much of the necessary spark early on.
The film finally embraces its source material at the start of the third act, when the theme song kicks in. Even novices and non-fans will smile when the catchy tune plays over the speakers, even if just for thirty or so seconds. The climatic action scene with robotic animals battling silly looking monsters is the first time this movie looks like a legit Power Rangers adventure. Even the running gag of a piece of product placement being the centre of the conflict provides the necessary goofy appeal. Banks goes even more over-the-top in her performance and it’s a genuine delight, even for those who once dismissed the original Power Rangers series as campy stupidity. However, that campy stupidity is what made children embrace it back in the ‘90s. It’s a shame the filmmakers ignore that appeal through most of the movie.
While the urge was clearly strong to play Power Rangers completely straight, that’s the wrong direction for this property. This is an overlong and drab affair that doesn’t realise until it’s too late how ridiculous this concept is. It almost goes out of its way to distance itself from the campy original. That the film even bothers to play the iconic theme song is surprising. The plan is obviously to turn Power Rangers into a multi-film franchise, so hopefully, they apply a lighter and goofier approach for future installments. Otherwise, why even bother with rebooting this series in the first place?