In a world where a new superhero movie lands in theaters every few months like clockwork, we’ve finally been given one where a majority of the leads aren’t just white —or even straight — people.
As the latest of the never-ending streak of reboots, the classic 90s show “Power Rangers” has landed in theaters. Yes, this really is 2017, and there really is a “Power Rangers” film that attempts to give a realistic, somewhat gritty origin story to a show usually regarded fondly for its cheesiness.
Does it work? Amazingly, for the most part, yes.
“Power Rangers” starts off by introducing us to five ordinary teens who inadvertently gain superpowers after stumbling across colored glass coins. They quickly learn their hometown of Angel Grove, along with the rest of the world, faces destruction from an alien called Rita Repulsa. But in order to save the world, the teens must find a way to unite together to unlock their full potential and destiny as Power Rangers.
The strongest element of this film is the excitement from the cast and the filmmakers for the source material, which finds its way onto the screen with plenty of nods and winks to the original “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” of the 90s. Sure, not everything works, but there are plenty of moments both longtime fans and newcomers will enjoy.
Films such as this tend to attract stars who fall below A-level. But the actors here do a remarkably good job bringing the Power Rangers to life. The cast feels like “The Breakfast Club” with superpowers, which isn’t a bad thing. We have Jason Scott/the Red Ranger (Dacre Montgomery), a troubled ex-quarterback; Kimberly Hart/the Pink Ranger (Naomi Scott), the queen bee with a mean streak; Trini/the Yellow Ranger (Becky G), a queer woman struggling in an oppressively normal family; and Zack/the Black Ranger (Ludi Lin), a funny yet tough guy who also takes care of his sick mom at home. While each actor does a fantastic job with the material they’re given, it’s R.J. Cryler as Billy Cranston/the Blue Ranger who steals the show as an excitable young man who is “on the spectrum,” as he says.
With four out of the five main characters played by people of color, with one presented as queer and one as autistic, “Power Rangers” deserves a huge nod for bringing diverse representation to the table.
Each of the actors behind the Rangers brings heart and fun to the film, resulting in a surprisingly poignant show of friendship and a lot of laughs.
Also starring is Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa, whose performance sometimes clashes with that of the Rangers. While the origin story for the Rangers is told as realistically as possible, Banks struts and cackles like she’d be right at home in the 90s show. But she’s so dedicated to the silly mannerisms of her character that you mostly forgive her for it.
It’s these sort of things that reveal the problem in “Power Rangers”—the script. The screenwriters can’t always seem to decide if they want the story to be campy or realistic, and sometimes the Rangers end up falling into stereotypical teen roles that could have been fleshed out. As I said, it’s “The Breakfast Club” with superpowers but sometimes without character motivation beyond “I’m a teenager!”.
The cinematography looks good for the most part, though I wish the shaky cam effect in certain scenes could have either been toned down or removed altogether. There’s also a lot of “300”-style sequences where in the middle of the action, slow motion is used to prolong the movement and to make it look “cooler.” While this isn’t necessarily bad, I long for the day when filmmakers will just let action sequences play without all the additional and largely unnecessary editing effects.
Brian Tyler’s music score does a great job at getting the audience pumped, especially when a certain theme song plays as the Rangers rush into battle. I’ll be highly surprised if it doesn’t end up stuck in your head.
Overall, “Power Rangers” pays loving homage to the original while realistically updating it for current audiences. The result is a ton of campy fun that will have you smiling at the occasional cheesiness—just the way “Power Rangers” should be.
It’s morphin’ time.