Film reviews

Power Rangers (2017).

Like many people in their mid-twenties, the Power Rangers movie appealed to me as one of the biggest nostalgia trips of the year. As a 26 year old male (in fact, this film was released the day before my 27th birthday; also the day on which I’m writing this), I have no problem admitting I looked forward to it almost as much as Star Wars: The Force Awakens back in 2015.

The original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers television show that started airing in August 1993 was – much as a lot of you may not want to admit it – quite frankly, terrible. To any mind that used even a hint of critical thought, it made little sense; you had a sorceress living on the moon who perpetually tried to take over the world by focusing all of her attacks on the small American town of Angel Grove – conveniently the place where five Power Rangers, the only ones standing in her way, lived. And these ‘power rangers’ had no actual super-powers, unless you’d call badly choreographed, overly dramatised karate moves a super power.

Each 20 minute episode always ended with them getting in big machines (that they somehow knew how to control perfectly from the start) and fighting a giant monster to protect Angel Grove; hence the appeal to young, hyperactive boys. No doubt this aspect has since been replaced by Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise; as such, the dated effects of twenty years ago have long since been surpassed.

This big budget re-imagining of the franchise therefore faced a challenge; of striking a balance between the cheesy, melodramatic essence of its source material, and bringing it up to date for a modern audience who’ve been enlightened by the Internet, professional MMA and top quality CGI effects in the years since the mid-1990’s. Should they focus on making it for my generation (in which case I would’ve preferred they give it an R-rating and go all-out with violent authenticity), or the one that is now only the age I was when I first encountered these characters? The answer from a profit-hungry Hollywood studio’s point of view, of course, is to aim for both.

They’ve managed to pull it off rather successfully. Now, this universe actually makes sense; the five teens are brought together as naturally as one could expect, meeting for the first time in this film, and their skills as Power Rangers are explained via training sequences, giving their ‘calling’ some much-needed depth. A backstory featuring re-imagined versions of Zordon (original Red Ranger and leader of his own team) and Rita Repulsa (Green Ranger, gone rogue) is shown in the opening scene, filling in some context without the need for large amounts of narrative exposition later on. This introduction sets the more serious tone being aimed for.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the film overall is the interaction between those five characters who become the Power Rangers; helped in no small part by the impressive actors who play them. Dacre Montgomery (Jason/ Red Ranger), Naomi Scott (a perfect choice for Kimberly Hart/ the Pink Ranger, first crush of many young boys back in the day), RJ Cyler (Billy Cranston/ Blue Ranger), Rebecca Gomez (Trini/ Yellow Ranger), and Ludi Lin (Zack/ Black Ranger), all bring something of note to the film and likely have strong careers ahead of them.

Much has been made of the fact that Power Rangers was said to have the first openly gay superhero – I can’t say this is really the case. It’s in reference to Yellow Ranger Trini, whose sexuality is only briefly mentioned in passing in a couple of scenes. While it is hinted that this has been the source of conflict within her family, my honest reading is that the studio simply didn’t have the balls to go full throttle with this aspect of the movie, leaving it in there but also leaving it largely ambiguous, the extent to which younger viewers probably won’t notice it at all.

Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks play memorable roles as Zordon and Rita Repulsa respectively; the latter is appropriately melodramatic and seems to have based her portrayal largely on the original character, complete with an evil smile and high shrieking laughs.

That brings me back to the film’s curious tone. While it begins by taking itself seriously, there are moments when it appears to realise that it is a Power Rangers movie after all, proceeding then to crank the cheese and over-the-top action up to ten. This could be frustrating for those wanting a more mature tone for the duration of the movie; others will say this is what was so ‘good’ about the Power Rangers they remember. It really depends on your taste.

For me, it was the more mature, serious elements of the movie that I appreciated over everything else. Otherwise, it is the nostalgia, the unmistakable joy of seeing these characters and effects updated 20 years on, that’s clearly the main appeal here. At one point late in the film, the classic title song from the opening credits of the original series, “Go Go Power Rangers”, kicks in. I can honestly say it brought a smile to my face; probably my favourite moment of the movie.

Also features the most shameless product placement I’ve ever seen in a film; Krispy Kreme doughnuts literally have a central element to the plot, and are almost a character in themselves. By no means a classic, but I’d still take this version of Power Rangers over a Michael Bay movie any day of the week.

6 / 10

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