Movie Review: “Power Rangers”
Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery)—who would go on to become the Red Ranger—is a star high-school athlete but, after a few bad decisions, he ruins his chance at a football scholarship and must go to weekend school for the rest of the year. While there, he meets Billy (RJ Cyler)—the Blue Ranger—and Kimberly (Naomi Scott)—the Pink Ranger. After school, Jason and Billy explore a nearby mining facility and are soon joined by Kimberly, Zack (Ludi Lin) and Trini (Becky G.)—the Black Ranger and Yellow Ranger, respectively. The five teens then stumble upon mysterious colored stones that give them strange abilities and lead them to an ancient spaceship buried deep beneath the Earth's surface.
This ship holds the answers to what is happening to them and why, but they also learn of an imminent threat to Earth. The ships intelligence system, Zordon (Bryan Cranston) informs the team about the extremely powerful alien Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). She has come to Earth, and the planet is relatively defenseless to her power. That is, Earth would be defenseless, if a team of Power Rangers had not just formed. Zordon informs the team that they are Earth's only hope. Their fight will not be easy, and forming a cohesive team will be a struggle, but if they do not face Rita Repulsa, humanity will certainly be doomed.
The Pros & Cons
The Team (+4pts)
Action & Effects (+4pts)
Morphing Time (-8pts)
Zordon & Alpha 5 (+4pts)
Yellow Ranger Likes Girls? (-2pts)
Pro: The Team (+4pts)
One of the better parts of this movie was the team. Watching these five characters, with varying and conflicting personalities, struggling to work together was fun to watch. The Red Ranger was a high-school football star, the Blue Ranger was a socially awkward technology genius, the Pink Ranger was a popular high school cheerleader turned unpopular social outcast, the Yellow Ranger was an anti-social teenage girl, and the Black Ranger was an adrenaline junky and a loner who took care of his sick mother. These were very drastically different kids who otherwise would have been in separate cliques (aside from maybe the Red and Pink Rangers), but were forced together through their shared circumstance. I liked this element of the story and I liked watching the tension and conflict in the team as these varying personalities came together, even thought the filmmakers never really dove deep into any of their stories.
Con: Unity (-4pts)
While I liked the struggling team vibe in this movie, I knew by the end of the movie they would have to come together to form a cohesive unit, but the filmmakers really beat you over the head with this concept. The entire movie consisted of them being told they were not ready, they were not a team, and that the world was depending on them pulling it together. This mixed with the struggling team vibe would have worked if the "switch" had worked. The "switch" that I am referring to is the switch between being a bunch of individuals, and being a team.
This movie had two "switches" and I thought the second one worked okay. The first one, on the other hand, did not work at all. The scene before it consisted of the team struggling, then they all sit around a campfire and each share their feelings for a total of maybe five minutes (total). That seemed to clear up all of their issues, as in the next scene they are working together and are all on the same page. The campfire scene may have made sense on paper—it honestly may seem like it makes sense based on my explanation. The result, however, was an incredibly cheesy and emotionally forced scene that felt unjustified and out of character for almost all of the characters involved. It would have worked if the filmmakers built toward it properly, but they did not and the scene ended up not working for me at all.
Pro: Action & Effects (+4pts)
The action in this movie was cool, I just wish there was a lot more of it. As far as fight sequences go, this movie was lacking—for reasons I will get into later in this review—but when the rare action was happening, it was a lot of fun. The stunts were cool, the visual effects were great and the filmmakers gave a bunch of the classic "whooshing" sound effects, which were equal parts amusing and brought on nostalgia. Outside of the rare fight sequences, the filmmakers gave a lot of Power Ranger style stunts that made for some pretty neat visuals. The action in this movie was good, there just was not a lot of it.
Con: Morphing Time (-8pts)
"It's Morphing Time!" It is stuff like this that you want to see from a Power Rangers movie. Power Rangers fighting mindless baddies. Instead, this movie suffered from the same issue that the most recent Godzilla film suffered from. It was a two hour movie in which they did not morph until about an hour and a half in.
Just like 2014's Godzilla—which interestingly also features Bryan Cranston, although I am not at all suggesting that he is to blame for this—the filmmakers gave tease after tease after tease, only to end up giving a small taste of what the audience wanted by the end of the movie. We just got to see hardly any Power Ranger action, which was ridiculous when knowing this was one of the most important things that the filmmakers needed to bring to the table. Oh, and of the short time remaining after the team had finally morphed into the Power Rangers, only about five minutes consisted of the Power Rangers fighting baddies on the ground. The whole thing was just evident that the filmmakers had no idea what they were doing with this movie, as they pretty much failed to deliver one on of the most important things in a Power Rangers story: Power Rangers.
Pro: Zordon & Alpha 5 (+4pts)
While neither of these characters got a ton of focus, they both gave the movie some extra flavor. Alpha 5 (Bill Hader) was a little, unassuming robot that ended up being able to toss any of the Rangers around in combat. Alpha 5 was definitely one of the comic reliefs of this movie and he worked very well as such. That takes me to Zordon (Bryan Cranston), a former Red Ranger whose essence was captured in the spaceship after his death.
He then served as a mentor and advisor to the new Power Rangers. I thought this movie utilized this character very effectively, he got backstory, and a decent character arc all while serving as a tough mentor to the new Rangers. His story, while effective, never took attention away from the main characters. He made the concept of the Power Rangers feel important, and he made the role of Power Rangers feel historic and bigger than the people in the suits. This team was just the latest group to take on this role, and that idea added an extra layer to this story.
Con: Yellow Ranger Likes Girls? (-2pts)
I appreciate the intent of the filmmakers, but I had issue with this development, even though it was small moment in the movie. I want to preface this, by making clear that I am all for diverse characters in stories. I am all for diversity in terms of race, sexuality, and ideology. Diverse, complex characters make for interesting and relatable stories, end of story. Unfortunately, it felt like it was forced into this movie just for the sake of the filmmakers being able to say that they had it in here.
We do not see anything in this movie about Yellow Ranger liking girls. Instead we get one line in a campfire storytelling session and then we never saw or heard about it again. The filmmakers made this campfire scene as a big revelation, and they made a point to show the other characters' reactions to it. Why not just have the character be that way, and not make a big deal about it? The moment just felt forced, unjustified, and made it feel like the filmmakers were trying too hard. In other words, I guess it felt like the filmmakers were using a homosexual character, rather than simply including one. Do I think the filmmakers should not have included a character like her? Absolutely not, but I think they should have given this character's story a bit more attention to make this moment feel more natural.
Grade: C- (73pts)
This movie was not bad, but it was not what it could have been. The action was decent, but there was not nearly enough of it for a movie about Power Rangers. The movie also took way too long to have the team morph into the Power Rangers in the first place. This would have been forgivable if the teens and their storylines were interesting enough to hold the audience, but I did not think they were. I thought Zordon had a more interesting story arc than any of the Power Rangers, and I thought that the moments where Zordon or Alpha 5 were on screen were the moments that this movie worked the best.
One of the worst parts of this movie was its focus on unity. So much of the movie consisted of the team being told they need to unite in order to succeed, but the payoff to all of this did not work for me. It ended up being a fairly average movie. It had its better qualities and it had its flaws. Again, I do not think it was a bad movie, but the filmmakers had a classic property, and could have delivered a compelling, action packed story that could have appealed to both adults and kids. They really could have reinvented and reinvigorated the Power Rangers in a way that could have launched a huge movie franchise. Instead, they delivered a very average movie that will not be launching anything.