Dan's Review: "Power Rangers" reboot fails to morph into anything new
Becky G., Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, Ludi Lin, and RJ Cyler in Power Rangers - © 2017 Lionsgate.
Power Rangers (Lionsgate)
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, language, and for some crude humor.
Starring Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin, Bill Hader (voice), Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Sarah Grey, Anjali Jay, Patrick Sabongui, Erica Cerra, Emily Maddison, Kayden Magnuson, Jaime Callica, Matt Shively, Garry Chalk, Fred Tatasciore (voice).
Written by John Gatins, Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney, based on Power Rangers by Haim Saban and Super Sentai by Toei Company.
Directed by Dean Israelite.
Sometime in the mid 70s, a few corporate geniuses figured out a new way to market toys. “Say, why don’t we make a TV show that features a toy, and then kids will whine incessantly until their parents succumb and buy our product?” This method reached its zenith in the 1990s, when Haim Saban adapted the Japanese “tokusatsu” program “Super Sentai” into The Mighty Morph’in Power Rangers, a TV show for American kids. Being a father to a young boy during this time was challenging, especially at Halloween and Christmas, when my boy HAD TO HAVE the newest red (or green, or white or blue) Power Ranger action figure or costume. I found myself scouring every toy store or hobby shop within a 90-mile radius looking for such items, and often found myself in fierce competition with other desperate fathers (most likely the inspiration or the Christmas movie Jingle all the Way). The success of the Power Rangers faded as my son grew, and I hoped that would be the last I’d see of them (I even survived the 1995 feature-length movie from that time). Well, the flks who make movies checked their biological clocks a few years back and calculated that those kids from the 90s are now in their late 20s, so why not reboot the franchise? Hence, a modern manifestation of Power Rangers is upon us in theaters this weekend.
The story is simple. Millions of years ago, Zordon (Bryan Cranston) the original Red Power Ranger (and team leader) crash lands a spaceship on Earth to protect a “Zeo Crystal” from Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), the original Green Power Ranger who betrayed her team while trying to seat the crystal. The meteoric crash kills off all the dinosaurs, and Zordon’s consciousness lives inside the ship’s computers for several millennia, guarded by the robot Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader), nearby what turns out to be Angel Grove, a small fishing hamlet. Flashing forward to modern times, a group of Angel Grove high school kids are thrown together in detention after getting into trouble. Among them are Jason (Dacre Montgomery), a fallen hero star quarterback, Kimberly (Naomi Scott), a fallen cheerleader, Zack (Ludi Lin) an Asian nerd and recluse, Trini (Becky G) a loner and bisexual and Billy (RJ Cyler) a young African-American man with autism. The misfits are drawn to an old mine on the outskirts of town, where they discover five glowing colored coins (red, pink, blue, black and yellow) that give them superpowers. They also discover Zordon’s ship and learn that they are to become the new Power Rangers, if only they can learn to “morph” their colored armor into existence. Meanwhile, the remains of Rita are dredged up by fishermen, and she awakens, looking for any gold she can find to build a giant monster named Goldar. Repulsa intends to mine the crystal, which is buried underneath the Angel Grove Krispy Kreme (probably the only funny moment in the movie). The Power Rangers have trouble morphing, since they are having trouble getting along. The kids get over their differences just in time to morph, master the controls of robotic weapons modeled after dinosaurs (Zords) to do battle with Rita and Goldar in the center of town.
This new version of Power Rangers is an upgrade from the TV show in terms of special effects and acting talent, but not much else. The movie seems like a drawn-out version of one of the TV episodes, culminating with a lot martial arts posing and giant robots in combat. You even get a short “Go, Go Power Rangers” theme song as the kids pilot their Zords toward the big confrontation. It’s also annoying that it takes up two thirds of the movie to fully reveal new rangers in all their diverse colors and costumes, leaving us with only 10 minutes of actual Power Ranger action.
Power Rangers also tries really, really hard to signal the “strength through diversity” theme with several speeches and contemporary characterizations. This gesticulating gets a little too obvious and may induce eye-rolling. The movie might pass as a mash-up of The Breakfast Club meets Transformers.
I’m not sure how Power Rangers will be received among all those 20 to 30-somethings who grew up with the show, some of who may have little kids of their own. Who knows? Maybe the modern Power Rangers will give those young parents a little payback for all the action figures we had to buy for them.
Power Rangers Trailer