Initially, I may not seem like the best reviewer to cover the new Power Rangers movie.
For one, I usually don’t like reboots or remakes. Hollywood has already made these films before, and in a creatively and originality starved culture, having every major property from the last 30 years resurface with an “all-new and edgy” spin usually misses the point entirely on what made the original work.
Also, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers back during its original 1990’s heyday. I felt that I was too old all the time to really get into the phenomenon behind it all, and even the most die-hard fan can admit that the show’s formula was recycled for basically every single episode. Not to mention that with the countless iterations and teams over the years, it became almost immediately impossible for any average person to keep up.
So why am I reviewing this movie, then?
The new Power Rangers (the “Mighty Morphin'” part was dropped for this entry) avoids a lot of the issues that so many of these grim remakes suffer from. The best way to emphasize this is that the film doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. Yes, it’s a darker retelling, some of the humor at the beginning surprisingly gets past the radar, and Rita Repulsa is more scary than she ever was on the show.
Where Power Rangers succeeds is through its embracing its source material. They don’t downplay names or catchphrases or even the general plot. The filmmakers realize that those same campy elements are what makes the show special to its fans, and gives enough nods to make it as fun and playful as it can to compliment the updated elements.
The five squeaky-clean teen heroes from the show are now Breakfast Club styled misfits with issues. The movie decides to present the quintet as a group of normal kids with everyday problems instead of stereotypes, and even shuffles the kids up a little. Trini the Yellow Ranger is strongly implied to be gay, but looking for real friends. Billy is still the Blue Ranger, but is now a shy African American kid with autism. Instead of showcasing his condition, they choose to celebrate his enthusiasm and kindness. Billy (played by RJ Cyler) absolutely steals the show, and well cements his place as the “heart” of this revised team.
In fact, all five of the kids are well portrayed, and likable. Unlike the show, the film spends time building real character development and backstory. By the time the kids learn to care about and trust each other, you find that you’ve grown to like them as well.
Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa is equal parts scary and campy. Gone is the silly costume, but is given a new interesting backstory and reason to terrorize the Earth. Bryan Cranston (of Breaking Bad) plays Zordon, who has a new set of motives while training the new team. Even Alpha 5 (Bill Hader), formerly the goofy robot of the original series is played straight… but the film can’t help but “play” with a certain catchphrase.
The real star of the film, however, is Krispy Kreme. I’m not even kidding. Product placement can be bad in film, but this is the first time that a donut stop could be considered the principal role in a film. It goes so over the top that it becomes ludicrous, but it did elicit a chuckle or two regardless.
I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the Zords or MegaZord. The Zords, which are basically robot vehicles based off of prehistoric animals, finally get some real action in the film, and their full reveal is met with a roar of fan service. They look far better than the messy Transformers films (and even get in a nicely timed diss), and by the time that the big payoff moment reveals itself, the movie shows that it’s here to enjoy this revamped ride.
These days, we live in a cinematic world full of epic camera angles, slow motion shots, armored costumes, driving electronic music, and a moody, dark, and cynical take on everything we grew up with. It’s nice to see a film that works to really flesh out the elements of original show and make sense of everything, while never forgetting for a moment where it came from: Brightly colored kung fu warriors beating up giant alien monsters with their robots.
If this is the attitude that they’re going to take with this redo, then bring on the eventual appearance of the Green Ranger.