“Different colors, different kids, different colored kids!”
Let’s get the obvious first thing out of the way. If you have never cared about the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers television series or the various following shows, I don’t see any reason why you would want to see this new film. This is the first theatrical release film bearing the name of “Power Rangers” in 20 years, and this won’t be the thing that convinces you to climb on board the franchise. That being said, if you do have a history with the show, this should serve as a breath of fresh air and an interesting take. For a bit of perspective, I’m fairly certain that I’ve spent at least three Halloweens in my youth as a Power Ranger, so there’s that.
Right away, this new Power Rangers film is drastically different in overall tone from the show. The old show was goofy and silly and ridiculous, and this film wants to be taken seriously to a degree. It begins with a brief scene during the Cenozoic Era of the original Rangers, appearing to have just crashed on the planet. The Red Ranger crawls through the wreckage to find his teammates are all dead. He’s confronted by the evil Rita (Elizabeth Banks) in a green suit, but it is revealed that he somehow “ordered” the meteor that struck the planet, wiping everything out.
We jump to the present and steadily meet our five delinquent, misfit teenagers. Since the characters never used to be anything other than “cool martial arts teen”, these new iterations are a step up, though extremely and specifically derivative. Jason is the former star quarterback who’s in deep trouble after a misguided prank. Kimberly was a cheerleader who ditched her old clique after realizing how mean they were. Billy is a genius who unfortunately is lacking in social etiquette. Trini is a social outcast who hides her soft interior. Zack is the rebel, the hot bad boy that you aren’t supposed to like but are still drawn to.
It doesn’t take a film historian to realize that this group of an athlete, a princess, a brain, a basket case, and a criminal seems eerily familiar. A lot of the early setup for these characters is ripped directly from The Breakfast Club, even down to a scene where the athlete and his dad get into a fight in the truck before detention. However, its the most character development I’ve ever seen given to the kids behind the Power Ranger suits, and progress is progress I suppose.
Between the five young actors, I’ve only seen one movie that featured any of them. RJ Cyler (Billy, the Blue Ranger) was one of three main characters in Me And Earl And The Dying Girl, and I think he was the true standout of both films. All five of them are quite a bit better than they need to be for this film, but Cyler has such a way with comedic timing that effectively lightens the mood without distracting from it. Beyond Cyler’s levity, the scenes involving the five Rangers are fairly serious, taking them far away from borderline cartoon show they’re known for. The android character of Alpha-5 (voiced by Bill Hader) feels almost ripped from the original show; he’s constantly making quips and sarcastically mocking the Rangers, which feels just too jokey to bounce off of the serious action scenes. Even further away in tone is basically every scene that features Elizabeth Banks’ Rita Repulsa. The first scene that actually reveals her face is a nightmare that all five Rangers share which is genuinely scary, and her subsequent scenes (and early appearance) feel like they come from a horror film. Banks is clearly having fun with the part and hamming it up, but these three discrete tones jump too often to click.
Beyond these issues, the pacing never quite fits either. Director Dean Israelite’s previous feature was 2015’s Project Almanac, which had similar problems with having dry spells in the middle and being about 15-20 minutes too long (in addition to weirdly ripping off Back To The Future). While the script is admittedly pretty laughable as well, the action is shot well enough to excite. If you’re hoping for a movie like this to be just enough fun to enjoy your time, you should be content with this offering, but it won’t give you much else.
Power Rangers: 5/10