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Power Rangers is an origin story. I think it’s a pretty good origin story at that. The movie gets quite literal with the “five teenagers with attitude” line from the original series. If attitude is angst.
A brief synopsis: Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery) gets detention for a high school prank and car chase gone wrong. Not to mention a police report and a shiny new ankle bracelet. In detention Jason meets Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler), a young “nerdy” type character who is being picked on by the school bully (just where were Bulk and Skull in this movie by the way?!) After stepping up and defending Billy, the two begin to talk. We also meet Kimberly Hart (Naomi Scott) in detention who is there for reasons that will be revealed later.
Billy lures Jason to his house, stating that he can deactivate the ankle bracelet so Jason can go out after his curfew in exchange for Jason’s help with something. The two of them travel to a mining yard where Jason just happens to spot Kimberly diving off a cliff into some water in the “we-need-to-throw-this-in-here-because-she’s-sexy-and-let’s-get-her-in-a-bathing-suit” scene that is all too familiar. This is the first step towards the non-sensical side of things. But don’t worry if you missed it... There are many more ridiculous things to come! Billy detonates an explosive on a rock wall and two other kids named Zach Taylor and Trini Kwan (played by Ludi Lin and Becky G respectively) join them. They find power coins, they find an alien space ship, they learn to work together, they fight the big bad, the movie ends.
I don’t want to say much more about the plot because I’m not keen on spoiling movies. But, the remainder of the origin story, how they must get to know each other before they can truly morph, how Rita comes to be and how Rita creates her Putty Patrol and Goldar for that matter are really interesting. But, more than just a plot synopsis I want to give a review of this thing.
Okay.. now, where do I begin? I really like the five actors that they found to play the core characters. They can actually act! Quite a different take than the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers on which this is based. In the original series, they pretty much just pulled five good looking kids who had barely done any on-camera work prior to the show.
It was refreshing to see the characters more flushed out. Billy was perhaps my favorite this time around. Putting his character on the spectrum made a lot of sense. They also corrected the nationality/Ranger color issue in this one. Red played by a white guy, black played by a Native American guy, blue played by a black guy, etc. I thought that was a nice touch. And they found great actors of different ethnicity to bring these characters to life. Even if none of them are teenagers. Seriously, Ludi Lin turns 30 this year!
Bryan Cranston playing Zordon is a nice reference to the couple of roles he played in the original series. Bill Hader’s Alpha 5 was at best, amusing. At worst, extremely generic. Elizabeth Banks played Rita pretty well also; I just felt like her character, aside from a neat spin on her background, was kind of wasted and useless.
Characters aside, I have never seen a reboot of an origin story that seemed so confused by itself. It went out of its way to separate itself from the original series on multiple occasions. And the times where it did reference the original series felt really forced and out of left field. The moment when the Zords are seen running together for the first time and we hear the “Go Go Power Rangers Theme” just felt really awkward to me. The sequence when the Megazord forms had me rolling my eyes. I mean, I get it. But I kind of hate it. It felt like it was forcing a social message more than just letting it be an amalgamation of all of the smaller robots. Maybe it was trying it's best to not be Transformers? I really have no idea.
The humor in this movie all over the place. At times, I did chuckle. At other times, I cringed. I almost felt like it was kind of abusive towards those on the spectrum in a few scenes. Perhaps as a sign of the times, regular bullying is not the only foul play going on. Cyber bullying plays a big part in one of the character’s backstories. Not to mention, there’s a fair amount of swearing so it’s not the same made for kids programming that we’ve become used to in this franchise.
The truth is, this movie is pretty fun and I was having a great time watching it but for me it fell to pieces as soon as they became Power Rangers. The cliché “we’re-super-heroes-now-so-we-need-a-slow-motion-walking-towards-the-camera” sequence had me squirming in my seat. And then it just got worse from there. The whole end fight is garbage. Back when I was younger and watching the original series I couldn’t wait until the big monster/Megazord end fight. In this reboot, I couldn’t wait until the end fight was over.
But overall, this movie isn’t bad. In fact, I would say that the first 90 minutes of it are borderline great. It just falls apart towards the end. I feel like this movie didn’t know what it wanted to be so it settled for being a lot of things. Where they could have homed in on a couple of plot devices and made them stronger they instead opted to go for a grab bag of big explosive graphics, incomplete ideas, teenage mellow drama and a weird sense of humor. Plus, that product placement is just flat out embarrassing. But, it’s a new take. It’s far from what we’ve seen over the past 24 years. If feels to me like what would happen if Iron Man got mashed up with The Breakfast Club. Just without the brilliance of John Hughes. And also, nowhere near as poignant. And also-also, just kind of forgettable.
Post credits watch:
There is a mid-credit sequence that hints at things to come in the sequel.
There is not a post credit sequence.
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⇩ by Saturday Morning Rewind: ⇩
3.5 out of 5