‘Power Rangers’ review
Sabans Power Rangers follows five ordinary high school kids who must become something extraordinary when they learn that their small town of Angel Grove (and the world) is on the verge of being obliterated by an alien threat. Chosen by destiny, our heroes quickly discover that they are the only ones who can save the planet. But to do so they will have to overcome their real-life issues and band together as the Power Rangers before it is too late.
‘Power Rangers’ was a big deal when I was a kid. I remember it first starting back in 1993 and how quickly word spread across the playground about this awesome new show. I lost track around the ‘Turbo’ days but via the power of Netflix have gone back and currently I’m up to the ‘Lost Galaxy’ phase.
When I heard that Lionsgate had picked up the rights and was actively pursuing production of a reboot I was nervous. I was intrigued by the costume designs when they were revealed, not put off. The first trailer felt like the start of something exciting. Sitting in the darkened cinema last night excitement was easily off the charts. A little over two hours later the excitement was… still off the charts.
‘Power Rangers’ is a film which really needs to be kept in context to get the most enjoyment from it. Don’t go to see it expecting a full ‘grown-up’ reimagining. It easily falls somewhere between the TV series it’s based on and a modern superhero film. It’s a quirky mix of teen comedy, kids TV and slightly crass humour.
The films story pays great homage to the shows pilot ‘Day of the Dumpster’. A lot of reviewers have picked up on how the film pays homage to ‘The Breakfast Club’ but with superpowers and it does feel that way. Given its target audience perhaps the bravest move on behalf of the creative team is to not morph the Rangers in to their costumes until over 1.5hrs in to the 2hr 14mins runtime. Those costumes, by the way, look great in action!
The runtime itself seems a little inflated on paper at 134mins. However watching the film there’s just too much going on for it to ever feel overlong or even just plain long. I could happily have watched another 10-15mins of the third act once the action gets going.
There’s just enough weight to the story to keep it functioning. The fleshed out backstories of each of the Rangers, plus Zordon and Rita give the franchise a much more well rounded feeling. The opening prologue was surprisingly dark and foreboding. It sets up the tone of the rest of the film well. It also goes a long way to taking the character of Rita Repulsa from a comically awful villain to a true threat.
The introduction of each of the teenage characters feel relatively uncontrived. Jason (Dacre Montgomery) is a little less of the hero that he appeared in the show but a flawed hero is much more compelling to watch than a perfect one. Each of the Rangers is less than perfect in their own way. There’s not a huge amount of character development in their real lives. It would be great to see this explored in future films.
It’s easily Blue Ranger, Billy (R.J. Cyler) who steals the show. None of the Rangers feels weak but his Billy just wins over the audience from the moment he first appears on screen. There’s an innocence and vulnerability to Billy which feels slightly lacking from both Jason and Kimberly (Naomi Scott). Trini (Becky G) and Zack (Ludi Lin) both have vulnerabilities which are explored but their characters often feel relegated in to the background.
There’s definite merits to the types of issues that have been injected in to each of the characters. Any audience members around the age of 14-17 are going to be able to find something to relate to. As a more mature member of the audience who is past that I can see how great it would be to find some comfort in these characters struggles.
Even Zordon isn’t immune to some emotional outbursts. His floating head in a test tube from the TV series has had a serious upgrade. Although during the ‘In Space’ age of the series there was some more interesting story for the character this is the most ‘real’ we’ve ever seen him. It made perfect sense to me that after 65 million years trapped in a spaceship and asleep in a wall he would be a little grumpy. His snarky way of talking down to the kids for much of the film puts him in a fatherly place which suits his role.
Alpha 5 is funnier than I expected. His character is perhaps the least changed of them all. He has some great one-liners and his CGI appearance is smooth throughout. My only complaint is it would have been nice to see a little more of him.
Rita Repulsa is a great source of comedy as well as danger. Her first few scenes ramp up the threat level of the film though never stray in to territory which would scare the kids. There’s a good balance of violence over campness. It’s only when she attacks Trini and puts on her green costume that Elizabeth Banks begins to chew the scenery. Bank clearly had a lot of fun making this film. Her Rita is brilliant. It would have been great to hear her scream ‘I have a headache!’ at the end of the film but there are still some classics in there.
Her plan is a little undercooked. The story of the Zeo Crystal and it’s reason for being on Earth make sense in the context of the franchise. It’s the need for gold and the creation of Goldar which become a little thin. By thin I mean for a Hollywood movie. For an episode of ‘Power Rangers’ it would be rather complex. In a sequel I would like to see her plans a little more intricate and involved.
I’m sure by now anybody with a modicum of interest in the film knows about the involvement of Krispy Kreme. The company is one of the films main sponsors. The MacGuffin that is the Zero Crystal just happens to be buried underneath one. I had serious concerns about the amount of product placement. There’s a scene in one of the training montage which subtly introduces the brand. It’s then turned in to a genuinely funny joke around Rita’s lack of understanding of modern culture. At this point the film had me thinking they’d found a great way to shoehorn in the brand without shoving it in the audience faces.
Then the Zord scenes happen. Krispy Kreme is mentioned around four times in the space of one minute. Joke ruined. I guess it had to happen. It was just a shame to ruin what had been a great in-joke.
The films third act is really where the action takes place. There’s just enough time for a sequence fighting putties before the action moves to the Dinozords. It all happens very fast. That’s partly due to the lack of runtime left in the film but also the excitement of seeing how it all plays out. The action is well choreographed. There’s just about enough martial arts to reflect the style of the series.
The Zords themselves look great. The editing of the fight sequence with Goldar is a little shaky but overall it’s nothing out of the ordinary for a blockbuster in the modern age. Goldar himself is far removed from his appearance on the show but in the context of the film his appearance makes sense.
The Megazord design was the only moment pre-release that I felt nervous for this film. On screen it’s functional and much more realistic than seeing an actor in a cardboard suit. There’s a moment of the Megazord dancing which really didn’t need to exist though.
The soundtrack is provided by Brian Tyler. I picked up my copy a few hours before seeing the film and I was impressed. It’s quite bombastic throughout but in the film it feels much more integrated. Listening to the soundtrack I couldn’t understand the complaints about the classic theme being so absent from the film. It appears twice on the soundtrack.
In the film itself it only appears once during the action. I may have missed a second appearance after the mid-credit scene. The soundtrack version is brassy and, much like the film, a great way to make it contemporary and epic. It was great to hear the classic version in the film itself though.
I highly recommend you give it a listen outside of seeing the film to really respect its merits.
Director Dean Israelite does a great job of making ‘Power Rangers’ take the step from small screen to silver screen. The cinematography choices are not standard. Neither are they a carbon copy of any else currently in cinemas. There are some odd choices (circling camera inside a car for one) but also some brilliant ones. In particular the sweeping shots of Angel Grove really establish this as a real town and not a set piece.
Israelite shows his love for the franchise by littering the film with easter eggs. Keeps your eyes peeled throughout as there’s a lot to see. I sincerely hope he returns for a sequel.
We’re not going to spoil the mid-credit scene here but please make sure to STAY IN YOUR SEATS until after that moment plays. IT caused the biggest cheer from the crowd I saw the film with.
‘Power Rangers’ is fun, funny and entertaining. It’s a great contemporary take on the franchise which does go some way to honouring its roots. It’s got a great cast and some good special effects. Hopefully it will be the start of a great franchise.
Don’t forget to check out our video preview of the film featuring clips, backstage footage and interviews with the cast and crew!
Directed by Dean Israelite, Saban’s ‘Power Rangers’ stars Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin, featuring Bill Hader, with Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks. The screenplay is by John Gatins. Story is by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless and Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney. Producers are ‘Power Rangers’ creator Haim Saban, Brian Casentini, Wyck Godfrey, and Marty Bowen.
‘Power Rangers’ is in cinemas now!