Review: Power Rangers

The new Power Rangers film features very little morphin’ and is not exactly mighty.

I should mention that the “original” (virtually all of the action sequences were actually stock footage from the Japanese Super Sentai) Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was my favourite show between the ages of two and five. Believe it or not, though, I actually haven’t watched this children’s show in many years, so I can’t really speak as to the film’s loyalty to the source material.

What I can say is that liberties have been taken with the characters’ backstories, but the main personal attributes seem to be intact, and I had no problem with the changes. Trini (the yellow ranger) is gay, now, and Billy is “on the spectrum”, but these changes merely gave depth to characters who really only existed as obvious stereotypes in the original series, and I liked that.

I have to say that I did find it quite amusing that they make a big deal out of announcing every single character’s full name in the final scene, but omit Trini’s surname. Billy’s mother calls out all of the other rangers’ full names, and ends with “and Trini!” I can only assume that it’s because in the show, her last name was Kwan, and the new actress, Becky G, is of Mexican descent. Just call her Kwan or give her a different name, good lord. Even funnier, in the end-credits every single actor playing a ranger’s parent is credited with their character’s name, except Trini’s parents, who are credited as “Trini’s Dad” and “Trini’s Mom”.

The film stars the aforementioned Becky G, as well as her four team-mates played by Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, and Ludi Lin. I assumed all five were American (only two are), so flawless were their accents. They all deliver solid performances, with Montgomery and Cyler the only ones required by the screenplay to do any real acting. Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks join the cast as the team’s mentor and antagonist, respectively. Both are great, obviously, though seem to think themselves in an entirely different film than the main five. The tone of these two characters, both in dialogue and delivery, clashes crazily against the other five. It was probably intentional, but it was weird. There are certain extreme moments of melodrama sandwiched between scenes of cheesiness that just feel out-of-place, too.

So in the movie the five teenagers with attitude (sadly, or perhaps thankfully, they are not referred to as such in the film) come across a mysterious rock and a strange cave, waking up the next morning with superpowers. They reunite and try to work out what’s going on while familiarising themselves with their new abilities. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s basically the plot of Chronicle. Funnily enough, the writer of that film, Max Landis, was actually at one point attached to this movie, but is no longer credited. Weird.

Five writers (count them), however, are credited. As often happens with films with a large number of writers, the script feels somewhat off. We begin with a coincidence that feels more lazy than anything; at the exact moment the five obtain their new powers, the antagonist’s “dead” body is accidentally caught in a fishing net. For an even worse coincidence within a coincidence, the captain of that boat happens to be the father of one of the rangers. Of course.

It’s director Dean Israelite’s second film, and I don’t think his direction left much to be desired. His first film was Project Almanac, and I preferred Power Rangers over that one, The score is solid, the soundtrack pretty hit-and-miss. The editing is a little disappointing at times; we only see the rangers morph once, and it’s not a very comprehensive look that we get. Also, Jason appears to pull a sword from nowhere and then we get a scene of him returning it to the space-ship later. Not sure what happened there. The action’s decent, but we only get to it in the final twenty minutes of the film, and I mean that literally. There’s no end-of-act-1 skirmish; the bad guys simply attack at the end of the movie.

One other thing I find mildly irritating was the rangers’ helmets retracting around their faces whenever they spoke. I guess the intention might’ve been to make them feel more like relatable people and less like faceless drones, but it just came across as a lazy way to give the actors more face-time – which is silly, because, as I said, they only morph the one time. We’ve seen their faces plenty.

The red ranger drives a red Ford Ranger, that was kind of cute. Certainly more subtle than when that same ranger hurls a Camaro at a bad guy and yells “sorry, Bumblebee!”. Man, that moment was a funny little jab at the Transformers franchise; why’d you have to go and ruin it by playing Captain Obvious? The first song over the credits is the same as in the original film from 1995, so that was a nice reference, but I think I would’ve preferred the opening theme to the television show. That theme only plays once in the whole film, and is horribly misused. It only plays for a few seconds, and only the main chorus. Where’s the build up!? You need to work up to it, you don’t just blare it out for a second and then end it before we even realise it’s playing…

Power Rangers is in cinemas now.

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Alex Falzon

Alexander Falzon is a film critic, screenwriter and short story author. An RMIT graduate, Alexander enjoys watching and discussing film, and mixes an excellent martini. You can hit him up on Twitter @alexanderfalzon and read more of his reviews at alexfalzon.com.

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