Those mighty morphin Power Rangers have returned to cinemas with this more mature reboot. But is it as morphenomenal as we hoped?
We live in an age where, for better or for worse, many of our childhood favourites are being tooled for the big screen. So far that mentality has churned out the substandard Transformers
and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies and this mature reboot of the campiest and most colourful property of the lot: Power Rangers. Surprisingly, it is mostly effective, even if it has some big flaws.
The major area that 2017’s Power Rangers succeeds in is in fleshing out its core cast of five “teenagers with attitude.” The characters of the original 90s kitsch classic were always secondary to the toy-selling action so the switch-around to make the movie all about them rather than their suits is a welcome one. Jason, Kimberly, Trini, Billy and Zack each have their own hang-ups and personal drama that they have to overcome in order to properly become the Power Rangers we know and love.
However, the movie’s biggest success is also its biggest drawback as the emphasis on the characters beneath the suits means that we don’t actually get a whole lot of the Power Rangers action that we came to see. Power Rangers takes the Batman Begins approach to the superhero origin story – as weird as that sounds – and reserves the colourful costumes until well into the second half of the movie. However, the final half an hour more than makes up for that as it is pure fan service and will delight any lover of the classic show.
Going by the trailers for the movie, it was hard to gauge just what the tone of the film would be: was it a sombre, Chronicle-esque reboot or a fun movie that wouldn’t forget to pay homage to the goofiness of the show? Well, in actual fact the film itself doesn’t know which of these it wants to be. The movie’s pre-credits sequence sums this up perfectly. We open with an awesome piece of backstory that expands the Power Rangers’ mythology in a dark and thrilling way. Then we cut to modern-day Angel Grove and a bit of really awkward comedy as Jason and his buddy kidnap a bull and mistake its penis for an udder. There are other such misfires throughout. While we are glad the movie didn’t forget to have fun, it is surprising how goofy it is.
Thankfully, the cast are there to alleviate any problems with the script. The core five are all gifted young performers and even when their characters are underwritten the actors still ensure they are likeable – most notably Becky G, as the loner Yellow Ranger Trini. The standout, though, has to be RJ Cyler as Billy Cranston. The character’s autism is handled well and he is by far the most loveable of the quintet. Elsewhere, Bryan Cranston makes for a terrific Zordon – a disembodied head with a heck of a lot more gravitas than the original. Only Elizabeth Banks’ Rita feels like she was wandered in from another film, as she hams it up from start to finish.
All in all, Power Rangers is a promising start to a new superhero movie franchise. It has its flaws but it sets up an exciting new mythology and a likeable team of heroes that we would love to see explored in future movies. Seeing as Lionsgate and Saban are planning at least five more movies to follow, there shouldn’t be any problem there. Go go Power Rangers!