POWER RANGERS (2017)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 4 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sequences of Sci-Fi Violence, Action and Destruction, Language, and for some Crude Humor

Directed by: Dean Israelite

Written by: John Gatins

(based on the POWER RANGERS series by Haim Saban)

Starring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin, Bill Hader, Bryan Cranston & Elizabeth Banks

Two years ago, GOOSEBUMPS (a major part of my childhood) was turned into a highly entertaining big screen nostalgia trip. Now, MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS (another major part of my childhood) has been adapted into a 100-million tentpole movie. Truly, this is a sign that I’m getting old. 2017’s POWER RANGERS functions as a reboot of the silly 90s series and a superhero origin story. The film is cheesy, corny, and goofy. Meaning that I loved every second of it for bringing back the old nostalgic tingles of my childhood. This might not be a traditionally good film, but POWER RANGERS is far more entertaining than it has any right to be…especially if you watched the show as a child.

The small town of Angel Grove hides a universe-shattering secret beneath its surface. Through a series of events, five teenagers (Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, and Ludi Lin) stumble upon it and find strange Power Coins. This group of mismatched adolescents soon find themselves bestowed with superhuman strength and abilities. They are Power Rangers, but they need to learn how to control their powers and how to morph into their colored armor. Unfortunately, they have a ticking clock of eleven days before evil former-Power-Ranger-turned-villainess Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) raises a giant gold monster to eliminate all life on Earth. With the assistance of face-on-a-wall Zordon (Bryan Cranston) and annoying robot Alpha 5 (Bill Hader), the five teens must become the Power Rangers and kick some ass!

Let me get this out there, POWER RANGERS is fun! It’s cheesy, corny, silly, dumb and fun! The film takes a while to get going as the main story arcs revolves around the five teens becoming friends, then becoming a superhero team, and ultimately learning to morph into the Power Rangers to save day. If you walk into the theater with expectations of effects-heavy action from start to finish, then you’ll likely leave a bit underwhelmed. However, this movie manages to balance its character development among the five main heroes and entertained me for every second of its running time.

The Power Ranger team is comprised of five young performers that I wasn’t familiar with, though they have acted in the past and a couple of them (Becky G and Naomi Scott) have songs under their belt. Dacre Montgomery (a dead ringer for Zac Efron) plays the Red Ranger as a headstrong leader and doesn’t always make the right choices. In fact, he befriends other characters in an early scene that’s reminiscent of a BREAKFAST CLUB scenario (Saturday detention). Naomi Scott is great as the Pink Ranger and brought back flashbacks of Amy Jo Johnson’s original stint in the role. There’s also a story arc with her that seemed timely and had a good moral lesson (something that MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS was also known for ham-fistedly delivering in its weekly episodes).

The same can be said of Becky G’s Yellow Ranger, who has the distinction of being the first major LGBT superhero on film. She doesn’t come off like an over-the-top stereotype either. Instead, her inclusion and this character’s struggles are refreshingly handled in a natural way. One line of dialogue tells us everything we need to know and it’s not focused on anymore than that. Meanwhile, RJ Cyler’s Blue Ranger is easily a show-stealing character and becomes the first major autistic superhero to hit the big screen. Ludi Lin has a dramatic part of the Black Ranger, with baggage at home and his own demons to face. I can’t believe I’m actually typing these descriptions in a POWER RANGERS review, but this film was pretty clever in its writing and feels like good time for everybody.

On the negative side of things, Bill Hader’s voice is annoying as Alpha 5. It should be noted that I’m a tad biased here, because I hated this character back in the 90s too. Bryan Cranston swallows his pride to play Zordon, a former Power Ranger who’s become a giant face on a wall. Through motion capture and legitimately good acting, Cranston brings an unexpected level of class to the purposely campy material. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Banks chews the scenery as Rita Repulsa. This character basically feels like Enchantress from last year’s SUICIDE SQUAD. Her costume differs quite a bit from the show’s horned hair and brown dress, but she’s fun in a really ridiculous way.

POWER RANGERS’s technical scope is far better than you would have guessed from its disappointing early teasers and there’s plenty of visual candy to be had once the Power Rangers emerge to fight bad guys. However, I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t slightly disappointed by there being only a handful of action scenes. I got serious nostalgic tingles when I saw the Power Rangers morphing into their armor, fighting Putties (which used to give me nightmares as a child), and riding in their Zords. I was geeking out and nostalgia flooded my senses. I wish there had been more of those nostalgia-overload moments. This movie doesn’t take itself too seriously either. There is a frequent sense of humor that is mostly spot on, except when Alpha 5 is on the screen and he sucked in the original show too (so that problem isn’t entirely on this movie’s shoulders).

As it is, I really enjoyed POWER RANGERS and thought it introduced a few entertaining spins on the age-old superhero origin formula…but it definitely could have been better. There’s also an occasional tendency to jump around a bit in the narrative. This was to be expected as POWER RANGERS is forced to give five heroes an equal amount of screen time in their origin story. The various degrees of teenage angst and screenplay’s moral lessons feel more than a tad cheesy…but in a good way, serving as a throwback to the very corny nature of the original 90s show. Simply said, if you liked the MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS as a kid, then you’ll probably have a blast watching this big-budget nostalgia ride!

Grade: B

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