I remember when I was younger I used to get up early on Saturday mornings to watch The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. I also remember constantly watching the VHS tapes for the 1995 movie and it’s Turbo Power Rangers sequel. But after I grew past a certain age, let’s estimate six or seven I no longer cared for the Power Rangers. But here we are in March 2017, with a fresh incarnation of the Power Rangers, one that I have to admit intrigued me after watching the trailers.
The film follows a group of five unruly teenagers who suddenly acquire superpowers, after finding strange coins as well as an alien ship. Once on board they learn that they are the next generation of the Power Rangers, and must come together and harness their new powers to stop an old enemy who has returned.
I will immediately begin with the cast, they were all very good. The script provides the actors with plenty to work with in terms of being able to build their characters, and make them feel like real teenagers. Dacre Montgomery is the lead, he plays Jason, a former NFL hot prospect whose potential career came crashing down after breaking the law, in an incident we see early on in the film. RJ Cyler plays Billy, an individual who initially crosses paths with Jason after he intervenes and protects Billy from a bully. RJ plays the role with grace especially because his character is autistic, but he made it feel very natural and he did a fine job making sure he did not over act in his scenes because of it. Naomi Scott plays Kimberly who is probably the most troubled of the teens, she is dealing with the aftermath and guilt of a very selfish act she had committed. All five of the main cast members handled their characters really well and brought a lot of unique qualities to them. Their chemistry as a whole really worked and the film definitely benefited from that.
Outside of the Rangers themselves Elizabeth Banks portrays one of the main villains from the original show, Rita Repulsa. If you’ve ever seen the original show then you’d know how loud and over the top the character can be. Banks suitably dials it down a notch and balances that memorable zaniness of the original character, whilst grounding her in reality a little bit more to fit at least one of the conflicting tones this film has (I’ll go into more detail with the tones of this film later on). Lastly there’s Bill Hader as Alpha-5 and Bryan Cranston as Zordon both of which I felt were fine in their roles.
The glowing aspect of the script that works is the character development, as I’ve already stated but with that aside there is a few glaring issues with the script. The biggest of those issues is the fact that the film doesn’t know what it wants to be. There’s two tones that conflict with one another. The majority of the film is kept at a fairly mature tone that is still very accessible to younger audiences to watch. If they had kept the whole of the film at this particular tone, then I think the end product would be much better. Certain moments of the film delve into the more campy aspects of the original show which was fine, it certainly gave me a small sense of nostalgia during a few of the moments but come the end of the film it did dive too far into that tone. That was frustrating because everything preceding those moments was set up with a tone that was really working. The real question this conflicting tone brings me to ask, is one I’d expect the filmmakers would’ve asked themselves before they started making the film. Who is this film for? Is this an introductory film for the younger generation of kids who have never seen Power Rangers before, or is it for those who grew up with it as kids who are now in years of adolescence and beyond? Having seen the film, I can’t even give you a clear answer for that question. I don’t know which audience they were truly aiming for, potentially it was both and that’s why we have two tones, one that is more suitable for younger children and one that is more mature for older audience members.
The film got off to a solid start, I was completely onboard with what was going on. I felt the way the characters all crossed paths with each other and became friends was very organic, things were going well, then the second act arrived. At a point during the second act it felt to me as if the film was retreading certain things multiple times, we also got some origin story cliches thrown in during this act. Training montages and all sorts. Basically during that second act the film began to drag and it all became rather dull. I was thinking in my head, although it’s dragging now, it will all be worth it if the final act for the film delivers the goods. Well the final act failed to deliver. I didn’t find it engaging whatsoever or even mildly entertaining for that matter, in fact I was bored. By that point I was just waiting for the film to end. Most of this could be put down to the campy tone that goes full swing during the final act, which then made the film feel like less of the mature blockbuster that it was building itself up to be, and more so just some throwaway action that will only fully appease younger teens. It didn’t help either that the stakes didn’t feel all that high to me even though they were supposed to, the actual main plot thread surrounding Rita and what she is trying to accomplish felt basic and like something we’ve seen plenty of times before, except done better.
To end on a slightly higher note, the cinematography did impress me. Some interesting shots were composed throughout and the direction was sleek. It was refreshing to see hand to hand combat scenes framed so that you could actually see what was occurring.
Overall, Power Rangers had the potential to reinvent the MMPR franchise, and transform it into a major film franchise. It started off well due to the impressive performances, but ultimately failed due to a plethora of issues with it’s uneven tone and drawn out second act.
(2 Stars out of 5)
Power Rangers; Starring Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin, Bill Hader, Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks.
Directed by Dean Israelite. Now showing in UK and US Cinemas.