Power Rangers review

First off, I’d like to give a shout out to the first Pirates of the Caribbean 5 trailer that made the movie look halfway interesting. Good job on what should have been at the Super Bowl, guys.

Generally speaking, television shows and movies about high schoolers aren’t aimed at high schoolers; they’re aimed at younger kids who look up to (the idea of) high schoolers. I mean, you weren’t glued to Saved by the Bell or Welcome Freshmen while you were 17, right?

If this was supposed to follow that rule, it was the mother of all “very special episodes,” then cranked up to 11. In it, we deal with major automobile accidents (followed by the title card, no less), revenge porn, dead parents, terminal illness, being trapped in the closet, and managing autism. There’s also a fake-out moment when it looks like the movie’s going to dive into self-mutilation, too.

What came as a bit of a shock to me, beyond shoehorning all that fertile ground for drama into Power Rangers of all things, was just how damn sincere it all was. Certainly not something you could do with the level of acting used in the old show (I mean, not all of those actors were bad, but it’s not like they were given great dialog to work with). This movie took itself seriously, but managed to avoid being a miserable pile of grimdark angst.

Sure, there are some funny moments here and there, and they luckily manage to be character-driven. But the script refuses to get hokey, even when making direct references to the completely cornball TV show. Well, there IS an exception; the parts involving Krispy Kreme are very much so corny. I don’t know how much the (tasty) doughnut shop paid for the product placement, but it probably compares to what Head & Shoulders coughed up to literally save the world in Evolution.

Power Rangers was in full reboot mode, as it rewrites a lot of continuity. The movie gives us almost entirely new histories for Zordon, Rita Repulsa and all five rangers. Goldar is an altogether different entity and the Zeo crystal — while still really just a MacGuffin, has a new function along with no longer bring unique.

Effects-wise, there’s some nice stuff going on. While I never did get used to the new look of Alpha-5, what they did with Zordon was very slick-looking. The zords for the most part looked wonderful, though the mastodon was a bit awkward. The suits (referred to merely as protective armor in this case, mostly because these Power Rangers always have their power on), are still horribly overdesigned and butt-ass ugly. Fortunately, you can see them that well, as what little use they get in the movie is shot the way most melee fights are nowadays: in a manner in which you can’t see much.

I imagine some people will complain that the movie doesn’t get very Power Rangersy until the very end, when there is finally morphing, combat, zords and so forth. I was actually okay with this.

No, really. I thought the pacing in the movie was very well done. It allowed for teasing, foreshadowing and satisfying reveals. It made room for character arcs that actually influenced and motivated the plot (even if it worse the influences from Chronicle and The Breakfast Club and perhaps even Degrassi on its sleeve. Most importantly, it allowed time to show how they all met, and gave them time to actually train for their new jobs; something that would have been nice to have than the way “Day of the Dumpster” began, which was making every character say everybody elses’ names in less than a minute, then handing over the power morphers.

It’s kind of bizarre, the treatment Power Rangers got. It’s as though somebody saw the original in all of it’s painfully made-for-kids glory, and thought that the concept deserved to be treated better. But I suppose that’s exactly why Power Rangers didn’t turn out like Jem or Transformers; I think the creators actually tried to make the best Power Rangers movie they could. Sure, they made decisions I wouldn’t have along the way, but damn, the effort behind this movie really shows through. And that’s really what saves it from its expectations.

Verdict: Rental (3/5). I didn’t give it a “go for it” because I can’t shake the notion that I’m being too nice. You could do much worse; Power Rangers absolutely works as a deconstructionist reboot in all the ways Man of Steel/Batman v. Superman claimed it was trying to be.

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