Differentiating between what a good film is and loving a franchise so much that you’re blinded by it that you can’t decipher through the bad is a dilemma I expected when first hearing about the Power Rangers reboot. Growing up during the early 90’s, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers wasn’t just a TV show to 7-year-old David. It was life. During my childhood after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles faded into cancellation, the Power Rangers were not just must-see tv, but at a time where DVR was nowhere to be found, Power Rangers became appointment television. The show was the mandatory viewing for me as I did homework so it’s safe to say, I loved all the corniness, bad acting, use of scenes from Super Sentai, everything Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, I was all about it.
Fast forward 23 years later and it’s day 3 of 2016’s New York Comic Con and the first trailer for the reboot of Power Rangers was released. While intrigued, I wasn’t blown away by the trailer and wondered if this would just be another terrible reboot to a franchise that was near and dear to my heart. The dilemma I once expected to have was gone as soon as I finished watching the film last night. As 9:15 pm hit and the film had ended, I was not only satisfied as a critic but as the 7-year-old who fell in love with the franchise years ago.
While the names remain the same, this Power Rangers film is a different animal than from the one fans were used to when the show first debuted. Instead of targeting kids, this film matured and grew with its first audience. I connected well to it as a 30-year-old man. It features less morphing and Megazords and more societal issues common today. Cyber-bullying, sexual orientation identity, autism or being “on the spectrum”, rebellion, and feelings of loneliness are subject matters the film addresses and does so in a successful manner. The issues are relayed through the rangers themselves.
An effective tool that links the rangers’ relationships together is aided by the tremendous performances by all 5 actors. Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, Becky G, and Ludi Lin are all great as Jason, Kimberly, Trini, and Zack. They all create their own versions of these characters we all know and love. While I applaud their performances, there is one ranger that really stood out the most. R.J. Cyler absolutely stole the show as Billy. He was not only hysterical but endearing and the glue and heart of the team. His performance in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and now Power Rangers is proof that this is an actor that has an extremely bright future.
Along with the tremendous character development of each of the rangers, I also commend Bryan Cranston and Bill Hader as Zordon and Alpha 5. While the initial look of both worried me at first when pictures were promoted early on in the film’s marketing campaign, the final product and performances left me more than satisfied. Bryan Cranston is on top of his game as always and is fantastic, while Hader is a joy to watch as Alpha and quite funny, and definitely less annoying than his original counterpart. The origin of Zordon and Rita we never knew we wanted was also touched upon. While quick and to the point, it was interesting to see how far back these two characters’ histories were and it was a nice addition to the mythology of the Power Rangers. Fans have been served well in this film with references to the original series. My only gripe is some product placement that came off forced and not as funny as the writers may have thought it would be.
While there is plenty good in this film, Elizabeth Bank’s Rita Repulsa sums up the bad. All I could think about was Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy in 1997’s Batman and Robin. Banks is just over the top and for a film that has an overtly serious tone established throughout, her version of Rita felt as campy and corny as if she was taken right from the TV show and thrown straight into the film. Her performance was off and her usage in the film was just plain not good.
It is great to say that while Power Rangers is no cinematic masterpiece, it is a fine start to a franchise that has been resurrected and thrown back into the limelight. While some may say, ” well Power Rangers never left air since it debuted,” there has and will never be any incarnation like the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and thanks to this reboot, we can all relive our childhood once again.
Reel Talk gives Power Rangers 3.5 reels