I’ll kick off this review by laying all my cards on the table and confessing my undying love for 1995’s Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie. The film, more so even than the original Mighty Morphin’ era TV show, was the property that received all of the screen time in my personal six year old universe. In the right mood, and with the right amount of vodka in me, I could still probably quote that movie word for word. However, I am 100% aware that whilst I love the Power Rangers, I know full well that the quality of the works have never been particularly enviable. It was for this very reason, however, that I treated this particular franchise reboot with less trepidation than, for example, Beauty And The Beast, and simply entered the theatre with childish excitement and a secret hope of hearing the iconic theme tune once again.
Let’s be real, if you were looking for a rich tapestry of astounding cinematic action and superhero mythology, you should have never arrived at the Power Rangers. The plots were hella ropey then, they are hella ropey now, and to be honest I didn’t care when I was 5, and I still don’t care at 27. This 2017 re-imagining of our beloved colourful troop tells the story of five teenagers in Angel Grove, all of whom, one way or another, you could label to be misfits and outsiders. The film absolutely has The Breakfast Club to thank for the dynamic of the group, the majority of them even meeting for the first time in weekend detention, and it’s the human, coming-of-age element of the story from a star quarterback fallen from grace to a tech geek coping with autism to a Latina struggling with her sexuality that adds a really very endearing heart to the proceedings. Massive, massive props to the film for portraying the first instances of both autistic and LGBT superheroes in a blockbuster. No matter how pedestrian or forgettable the overall package is, that is one hell of a step forward.
Have you noticed how we are halfway through the review and I haven’t even mentioned the plot yet? That’s because it really, really doesn’t matter. All the old favourites are back in new clothes, from Alpha 5 (Bill Hader) to Zordon (Bryan Cranston) to main villain Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), and everybody is getting up to ‘destroy the world/save the world’ business that is neither fully explained nor developed. Rita resurfaces in search of a crystal hidden deep in the Earth that once disturbed will kill all of mankind, our new set of heroes conveniently come across the belongings and lair of the old Power Rangers, seemingly deemed by fate to be the new breed of world protectors. Bla bla bla, training montage, obstacles, big fight, false ending, bigger fight, victory, yay. You know how this goes. Listen, have I seen better superhero narratives? Absolutely. Have I seen better superhero villains? Absolutely. Do I care in the overall scheme of things? Absolutely not.
Call it my liberal sensitivities, call it my preference for character endearment or my preference for the coming-of-age genre. Call it the fact that I had zero expectations going in to theatre. Whatever you choose to call it, the fact is that I actually had a fun time watching Power Rangers. Any blockbuster film that includes themes outside of its usual remit like the LGBT community and autism, let alone putting those themes front and centre in the form of two of its leading characters, wins extra points in my book.
Our new generation of Power Rangers are played by Dacre Montgomery (Jason/Red), Naomi Scott (Kimberly/Pink), RJ Cyler (Billy/Blue), Becky G (Trini/Yellow) and Ludi Lin (Zack/Black), and despite a few looking much too old for their high school age characters, all do a pretty solid job of keeping the audience engaged and invested enough to finish the ride. There’s no doubt that RJ Cyler as Billy Cranston is head and shoulders above the rest. Having loved him in Me And Earl And The Dying Girl, I was already aware of his talent, and as Billy, the tech loving geek who sits somewhere on the autism spectrum, he definitely provides the most endearing performance of the central five, a real charm and warmth of humour for the audience to connect with.
Though there is no doubt that she is having the time of her campy life in the role of Rita Repulsa, it is during Elizabeth Bank’s villainous scenes that you are reminded most strongly the film you are watching isn’t particularly good. Without even attempting to delve in to the problem of whitewashing the originally Japanese role, there is nothing inventive about this incarnation of Rita, but in Bank’s defence, Rita Repulsa, though iconic, has always been a dumpster fire of a villain, much like every other ‘bad guy’ in Power Rangers history (except Ivan Ooze, I’ll fight any fool over that until the day I die.)
Overall, Power Rangers is yet another middling franchise reboot to add to the never ending list, and no matter how many mean one or two star reviews you read from critics far snottier than myself, I’m here to tell you that whilst it is nowhere near being a great movie, it’s also nowhere near offensive enough to be classed as a stinker either. I cannot congratulate the filmmakers enough for making the bold character decisions that they did, that aspect of the picture alone elevates it by a significant amount.