When I decided to try my hand at movie reviews I knew that my hard-core fandom of certain genres, characters, and franchises would eventually have to be set aside for the sake of giving and honest and stripped down review for readers to enjoy. Probably for the first real time that comes into play with 2017’s “Power Rangers”, a film based off the popular children’s show that defined much of my childhood and the childhoods of many since the early 90s. Many have questioned whether or not Lionsgate’s take on the iconic characters and material would hold up to fan expectations and, assuming you go in with an open mind, you just might find yourself enjoying this group of teenagers with attitude and their journey to superhero status.
“Power Rangers” finds modernized versions of the original five rangers from the television show, Jason, Trini, Zack, Kimberly, and Billy, as they meet each other through happenstance after Billy uncovers the five glowing power coins in the town mine of Angel Grove. With the wicked Rita Repulsa recently unearthed, the rangers only have days to embrace and perfect their newfound powers to stop her and her massive minion Goldar from obtaining the powerful Zeo Crystal and ending earth as we know it.
First off there is a lot to love about this film and, to put it bluntly, it’s an extremely fun ride all the way through. While the film does tell a rather generic origin story, once the action kicks in it’s a wild ride that amps up the energy and excitement to eleven. The young cast who portray the five rangers, consisting of Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, and Ludi Lin, work very well together and manage to create specific personalities and traits for their individuals rangers that help them stand out from each other, in essence building on these personas more than the show could ever really try to do. Bryan Cranston portrays the ranger’s mentor Zordon and brings some new depth to a character who, in the show, always seemed a little too content with his meager tube-based existence while Elizabeth Banks portrays a revamped version of the iconic Rita Repulsa and brings a truly threatening villain to life that makes the show’s original big baddy feel a lot less intimidating by comparison.
From the costume design and Zord design (the mechas the rangers use in battle) to the much more in depth examination of each unique rangers own life goals and struggles, “Power Rangers” does a great job establishing who we are watching and how they plan on winning at the end of the day and when the final climactic battle comes around you’re pumped and ready to go as you await these teens to jump into action. While many of the changes may put off hard-core fans at first, the larger budget and fresh perspective on the story make for a much more cinematic interpretation of the rangers, ditching the spandex and worn down suits in favor of something a little more fitting of a super hero team.
That being said, the movie is not without its flaws. As much as I’d love to let the film off the hook for ]it’s shortcomings, because I really did find this to be a fun viewing experience overall, it’s not perfect. The movie fails to be unique in several aspects of its story, leaning on sexual innuendos and a generic origin tale straight out of any “Transformers” or “Marvel” movie that, in some cases, actually made me cringe and laugh at the same time as I relized these out there jokes and occasional swears are going to be heard by kids worldwide who are used to the much more child-friendly television show. The other flaw is it’s pacing, which seemed a bit off especially for a rather paint-by-numbers super hero origin story. If this were any other superhero team, they probably wouldn’t stand out but the nature of the Power Rangers alone helps them overcome the basic flaws of the movie’s clichés to remain relevant and engaging even during the films driest points. Some forced inter-character conflict may muddle down the story a bit but there’s still a lot to enjoy as we watch these teenagers grow into their newfound powers and responsibilities. The final battle, while exciting as hell, does lack a bit of punch as seeing the Megazord in action is cool and all, but it’s not there for long and the final confrontation feels a bit rushed even though it’s quite an exciting moment.
Overall “Power Rangers” is far from perfect, but what it lacks in quality it makes up for in substance. For the first time probably ever in Power Rangers history we truly relate to and care for these characters on a deeper level as we learn about their own personal struggles including a sick mother, autism, and even a character subtly coming out of the closet. These rangers don’t just jump into their destined roles as heroes, they actually question whether or not they want to or deserve to have those titles in the first place and that is probably the most impressive aspect of this film is that we see some of the campyest super heroes in history humanized and brought to earth as they have greatness suddenly thrust upon them.
When all is said and done, “Power Rangers” may not go down as one of the greatest super hero films out there and may not even live up to every fan’s standard when compared to the original show, but it’s a fun ride that both kids and adults will enjoy. Speaking as both a fan of the show and a reviewer, if you go into it with an open mind and you’re able to overlook a few cliché’s and poor attempts at adult rated humor “Power Rangers” may surprise you. I’ve given many franchises, including “Transformers”, “Batman” and Marvel films, the benefit of the doubt for pandering a bit considering their dependence of their respective fan base for success, and I’m going to do the same for “Power Rangers” here. Even at it’s worst it’s much better than or at least manages to hold up to its contemporaries. It’s certainly one of the better action films we’ve seen in 2017 so far and with a talented and dedicated cast giving new depth and reliability to iconic characters “Power Rangers” is a surprisingly fresh, even if imperfect, take on the super hero concept and is a prime example of how making creative changes can actually work for a classic property.