I saw Power Rangers by accident. I had gone to the theater intending to see something else but wound up buying a ticket to see the 2017 reboot of the television show from most people’s youth. I never watched the show as a child, and really had no intention of seeing this film, which is why it is, by an astronomical margin, an absolute surprise that I genuinely enjoyed 2017’s Power Rangers. I know. But just hear me out.
How do you make a Power Rangers movie in 2017? Apparently, you make it sleek, modern and emotionally deeper than would be expected while still staying true to the original goofy fun spirit of the original. If you were to tell me six months ago that Power Rangers would have better fleshed-out characters than Rogue One, I would have laughed in your face. And yet, here we are. It is honestly impressive how character-driven this movie is. When you’re basing your film off source material in which the most dimension a character gets is what color their uniform is, the decision to base the story around the people inside the uniform was the best choice Lionsgate could have made. The cast of characters is remarkably diverse, both in the sense that there is only one white actor in the lineup, but even further beyond that. The characters come from different socioeconomic environments, have vastly different home lives, and are each struggling with various real world problems. Jason, (Dacre Montgomery) the red ranger, is fighting against the golden boy persona the world has forced upon him, Billy (RJ Cyler, Earl from Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), the blue ranger, is on the autism spectrum and is dealing with the void left by his father’s death, Kimberly (Naomi Scott), the pink ranger, is involved in a sexting scandal at her high school, Zack (Ludi Lin), the black ranger, is caring for his ailing grandmother, and Trini (Becky G.), the yellow ranger, is struggling with her sexuality and how to explain it to her parents. I would just like to remind everyone that this is a power rangers movie.
The real strength of this film lies in its characters and the actors that bring them to life. I didn’t even have to look up any of the character names just now; I remembered them all, despite having waited multiple days before writing this review. I have absolutely no idea what Hawkeye’s name is, even though I’ve seen him in about three thousand movies over the years. This sort of character relation comes from the impressive chemistry found between the five leads of this movie. Each of these actors is not only genuinely pretty talented, but bring an unabashed enthusiasm to the film that isn’t often found in others like it. They’re excited to be Power Rangers and are grateful to have the opportunity to star in a movie like this. Watching them have a good time leaves you as an audience member powerless to join them in their fun. I don’t care how cynical or pretentious you may be, I really don’t think it’s possible to watch this movie without a smile on your face. It’s fun! It’s just unfettered, unashamed joy, while still avoiding falling into campy territory (for the most part), and that is something that deserves commendation.
This movie was directed by Dean Israelite, who most recently brought us the time travel flick Project Almanac. I liked Project Almanac well enough and remembered thinking that it had a lot of potential. All of the potential that it had is found right here, in Power Rangers. Israelite knew exactly how to capture the perfect tone for this film and guided the young actors to help create just the right concoction to make Power Rangers work. The story is pretty standard, its a group of kids who get superpowers through alien means and then have to learn to work together so they can eventually save the world. Some people might fault the movie on the simplicity of its script, but honestly, I wouldn’t expect anything else coming from a formulaic television show. The film is subversive enough already with both an autistic and a lesbian hero in it, it doesn’t need to prove itself by creating a unique script structure. Most of the movie is about the group learning to work together, which was just the right way to do it. It produces a positive moral for the kids who will indiscriminately fall in love with this picture and makes the payoff of the dumb fun ending all the more entertaining.
There are weaknesses, of course. But still not nearly as many as one might expect. The most glaring being Elizabeth Banks. Banks plays an alien evil lady named Rita Repulsa who has come to the small town of Angel Grove to find some special crystal that when entered into her possession will cause all life on earth to cease. I believe the exact phrasing they used was, “It’ll be like ten thousand atomic bombs were dropped on earth at once.” That’s a lot of bombs. My issue wasn’t really with the absurdity of her plan, because, I mean, who cares. No Banks’ performance was just a little bit too much for me. She felt like she came straight out of the 90’s show, which would have been fine if the rest of the movie felt that way as well. However, in a film as grounded in reality as this one, she just felt incongruous to the tone. There were other moments that felt this way as well, which kind of bothered me. A few jokes didn’t land, including a weirdly-placed masturbation joke playing off the word “morph.” In general, the music felt fresh and contributed to the story, however, there was a bizarre diegetic use of Twenty-One Pilots that just caught me off guard. Maybe that’s a nitpick. No, yeah, that’s definitely a nitpick. You see, in general, Power Rangers is a perfectly decent movie. If I were ten, I would think it’d be the greatest thing to grace the face of Planet Earth. But, even though, I’m not ten, I still had a good time watching it. And you better believe I’ll be buying a ticket to Power Rangers 2.
All images are from Power Rangers, a Lionsgate Film