I don’t carry any sort of nostalgia for the Power Rangers series since I never watched it much when I was a kid but I always recognized its impact during its run. Initially I was skeptical of a new film because of my lack of connection to the series and the generic approach for the marketing but I was made even more skeptical with the notion that we had a superhero who was on the spectrum alongside one who is a lesbian according to reports which contrast what one would remember of the original series. Coming out of Power Rangers, my thoughts could never have been any more mixed rather than what my low expectations would have foreseen. What’s to be said is that it was far better than what first impression may have presented although I’m still unsure how I really feel in the end.
Being the first theatrical Power Rangers film since Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie from 1997 and only the third Power Rangers feature film overall, one thing that stayed in my mind was how well the original series would still be remembered by its dedicated fans, at least enough to bring back a satisfying box office return. The story and characters should be familiar to the lot but to those who aren’t, this new reboot feels fresh enough as an introduction. The Power Rangers in their regular lives were misfits who meet up by chance and must stick together after one of them makes a discovery that changes their lives for the better. The setup is fairly basic but somehow it didn’t actually find itself becoming much of a problem as this is only another introductory phase for a new series, and there would be a whole lot more that needs to be put out of the way for its potential future.
From what I know of the original Power Rangers series, it plays towards a rather campy tone that seems to be ignored in here. For one I like that approach but there’s a level to which it seems as if it could easily throw one off because certain elements such as Elizabeth Banks’s performance as Rita Repulsa never jive well to create a focused tone. While I love the fact that Banks has practically thrown herself into the role of Rita Repulsa in order to maintain a good amount of camp akin to the original series, it doesn’t mix as well with the serious tone coming in with the drama surrounding each of the Rangers. Unfortunately the awkwardness of her presence only left me thinking about how much sooner will it take before she disappears because it only brought up the first thing wrong with Power Rangers, it seems to have trouble with establishing a tone on what it wishes to be.
Where I do admire the film, however, comes from the Rangers themselves. For one, it seems like this is a superhero film that actually if anything feels interested in trying something new for the genre as the Blue Ranger is autistic and the Yellow Ranger is a lesbian. Dean Israelite seems to have a clear idea with what he wants to make in order to finally tune up a superhero film that would manage to stand out amidst all the others but in part there’s a marring that comes by from the way the film is written. That’s not to say it takes away from the merits of the performances, as RJ Cyler’s performance actually made me happy if anything on the count that a proper representation of autism would be shown in a positive light, especially now that we have said angle explored in a superhero film. And then there comes the lesbian angle, which feels underdeveloped – for the most that comes around for the Yellow Ranger is a drug test from her mother. If anything expansion will be necessary for a sequel because the cast assembled here makes the ride worthwhile.
I don’t want to be overly negative when talking about this because I never hated the film, but if something even caught me as a rather jarring move, I was actually on board with most of this until the climax where the Rangers start morphing. For one, there was actually something genuinely interesting especially with how Dean Israelite chooses to handle the tensions of what the Rangers encounter in their daily lives and while it lasts, it’s actually quite stunning. Sadly most of this doesn’t seem to last as long because even though we have an interesting look on teen angst coming into play, the climax suddenly ruins what could be a refreshing take on a tired genre by turning it into the same thing as any other superhero film: where everyone is called into action as the antagonistic force finds themselves at their most powerful. It’s especially off-putting when you look at how it seems to add more to the film’s primary problem with an inability to keep a consistent tone, but suddenly there’s a major plot point all throughout that involves Krispy Kreme and it goes to remind me of the IHOP appearance during Superman’s fight with Zod in Man of Steel taken to an extreme. Thankfully it’s the only moment where this film falls even lower than said film’s levels.
I’m still conflicted what even to make of Power Rangers as a whole because there’s so much that can easily be admired but at the same time I can’t help but feel it’s not a fully realized product. For the refreshing feel to its human elements compared to most other modern superhero fare there comes either underdeveloped character traits together with the campy nature of Elizabeth Banks’s performance that only leave me wondering how much of this could easily have been a great film. However, I do have optimism for a sequel actually working as an expansion on what this film seems to have left to be desired as Power Rangers feels like something to be gotten out of the way only as an introduction for a new experiment. Whatever that may be, I can see potential for probably one of the more progressive superhero film franchises in recent memory, something I would take over three Marvel Cinematic Universe films per year.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Lionsgate.
Directed by Dean Israelite
Screenplay by John Gatins, from the sereis by Haim Saban
Produced by Haim Saban, Brian Casentini, Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey
Starring Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin, Bill Hader, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks
Release Year: 2017
Running Time: 124 minutes