A Mighty Morphin Power Rangers reboot was inevitable. The teenagers with attitude have been away from the silver screen for over 20 years, so it was only a matter of time before someone brought them back with a modern twist. Luckily, we're pleased to inform you that the reboot is a satisfying adventure that accomplishes most of what it sets out to do. Although the story proves a bit thin at times, and the action is pretty forgettable, this film is a beautiful love letter to a classic TV series and a solid foundation that sets up a promising new franchise. Equal parts John Hughes and Justice League, Power Rangers is a campy yet enjoyable romp that honors its roots while carving out a place for this charismatic new generation of heroes that should make longtime fans and newcomers proud.
Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) has returned. A power-hungry sorceress with the ability to control matter at will, Rita awakens after millions of years in hibernation to steal the powerful Zeo Crystal and get revenge against her longtime enemy -- the former Red Ranger, Zordon (Bryan Cranston). Knowing that Rita cannot be allowed to gain control of the Crystal, but unable to do anything about it on his own, Zordon and his robotic colleague Alpha 5 (Bill Hader) recruit five troubled teens from Angel Grove High to defeat her. What follows is a journey to turn Jason (Dacre Montgomery), Zack (Ludi Lin), Kimberly (Naomi Scott), Trini (Becky G), and Billy (RJ Cyler) into the greatest warriors the world has ever seen before Rita can unleash a giant, golden monster on their unsuspecting town. It's a familiar formula, but the traditional structure works well enough to get this outlandish concept off of the ground without wasting too much time.
Power Rangers is more faithful to the original series than a first glance at the visuals might initially indicate, but that's also arguably a major drawback. Although the film is a ton of fun and showcases some fantastic character development (particularly on the parts of Dacre Montgomery and RJ Cyler), it's still a true origin story that hits most of the same story beats as the original "Day of the Dumpster" pilot from 1993. This isn't inherently a bad thing, but stretching a twenty-minute pilot into a two-hour film causes Power Rangers' story to lose some of its density, and the lack of any real twists or turns makes the build up to the final showdown against Rita somewhat predictable.
That said, Power Rangers isn't known for narrative complexity in the first place; it's the characters that make this world feel so fun. Yes, certain changes have been made to make the titular heroes feel more fleshed out and complex compared to their small screen counterparts, but these are still definitely the classic Power Rangers. Jason is still the honor-bound leader; Zack is still the wild party animal; Billy is still the lovable nerd, etc. The difference here is that the film takes time for deep character moments and makes us understand why these misunderstood teens would sign on for this higher calling. Power Rangers doesn't perfectly balance each of these characters (Zack and Trini sometimes fall by the wayside), but for the most part, we get to see these kids overcome their real teenage problems to become bonafide heroes.
Circling back to the more notable changes; it's easy to reject a remake merely because it doesn't resemble what you initially fell in love with, but the fact of the matter is that many of the alterations made to the Power Rangers mythology ultimately work and improve what we already know. Bryan Cranston's Zordon is absolutely nothing like the Zordon from the show. He's emotional, easily aggravated, and downright unlikeable at times. It's certainly jarring -- until you realize that this is as much of an origin story for him as for the Rangers, and the added depth is a welcome change to a character who was previously nothing more than the embodiment of goodness. Similarly, Elizabeth Banks' Rita Repulsa is a radical departure from the moon-based witch from the original series. Banks chews the scenery like the old Rita (and clearly has a ton of fun doing it), but this version of the character seems far more lethal and legitimately scary than her predecessor. Power Rangers retains much of its old-school sense of fun, but it has grown up enough to understand where certain changes to its own mythology are required.
One of the most surprising aspects of this film (given Dean Israelite's limited experience as a feature filmmaker) is how well it's put together. Power Rangers doesn't break any new ground with its three-act structure, but Israelite regularly employs some genuinely impressive camerawork, and there are several sequences in the film that stand out for their inventiveness. Two particular scenes to watch for are Jason's first scene in the film and the scene where the Rangers first discover The Command Center. From long takes to bizarre angles, the camera is used to its full potential, and it adds a stylish flare to the film that's seldom seen in the paint by numbers superhero genre. If you have seen a superhero origin story before, you will likely know what's coming from scene to scene, but Israelite does a consistent job of keeping the predictable sequences engaging as the story progresses.
That deliberate sense of direction is important because Power Rangers places a far clearer emphasis on character over action. If you don't want to invest in the Power Rangers mythology, and you're simply looking for wall to wall chaos, then there's a chance that you might walk away disappointed from this film. This is a story very reminiscent of The Avengers in the way it structures its action; the first two acts are devoted to character, and the story is backloaded with CGI-heavy ass kicking.
Sadly, that's also where the bigger flaws in Power Rangers start to make themselves even more apparent. The CGI is miles away from great, and most of the fight sequences in the latter half of the film look like video game cutscenes from a bygone generation of consoles. Despite the enhanced budget and production values of the 2017 reboot, there's an easy case to be made that the original 1990s TV show had better fight sequences. Less polished? Sure, but more well-choreographed and realistic. It's not that the action is bad, but for how little of it there is in the film it should've been considerably better.
Power Rangers is probably not going to go down as the most beloved superhero movie of 2017, but it's still a good origin story that sets up a potentially even better franchise. It doesn't matter if you're a longtime fan or a complete newcomer; it's morphin time.
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