‘It’s morphing time’; an electrifying phrase that more than one of us would not have seen coming in a cinematic-world lately dominated by comic book adaptations. Thankfully, Lionsgate have given a big screen reboot to Saban’s Power Rangers; a franchise left in the 90’s with its bold colours, cheesy fight sequences, outrageously enticing outfits and over the top explosions.
This movie, driven by director Dean Israelite, draws its inspiration from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers but steers away from the well-behaved do-gooder’s fans are used to from the TV show and develops the five potential superheroes from outcasts and underdogs.
This new direction sets about a welcomed dynamic that modern day film-goers can relate to and also brings a new aspect for the fans of the TV series, showing more emphasis on fleshing out its characters than just relying on colourful armour and giant robots.
This Power Rangers Movie is the start of a big-budget franchise - as indicated by the mid credit scene - that delves deep into current modern day teenager themes; sexuality, overbearing parents and ‘sexting.' This gives this film a unique identity, helping it stand alone in comparison to recent superhero movies. The darker tone set by these themes aims to give Power Rangers more of a human element, adding further depth to the characters which is ultimately the foundation of their connection.
A New Direction
Israelite’s direction goes a long way to make this an enthralling viewing experience full of energy, which is portrayed in the creative shot choices in the camerawork. Although a good portion of the scenes are set out in dim locations, Israelite doesn’t disappoint in the action spots where he brings the movie alive with visually powerful fight choreography and an explosive charismatic spectacle of a finale driven, in true Power Rangers fashion, by monster vs Zord.
His visual interpretation of the Power Rangers is a welcomed one as the suits are impressive and relatable in a real-world sense. He has the teens with their visors open while controlling their Zords which gives the sense the film is more about the characters than their impressive armour or powerful robots. Even if we must wait till a Tron Legacy-esque introduction of the suits late in the game; but it is well worth the wait.
The film begins on prehistoric Earth where the Power Rangers were tasked with protecting life and the Zeo Crystal, the source of all living things.. However the Green Ranger, Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), betrays them. The Red Ranger, Zordon (Bryan Cranston), takes the Rangers' power source, the Power Coins, and hides them, while ordering his assistant Alpha 5 to perform a meteor strike that kills Zordon and sends Rita to the bottom of the sea.
Power Rangers follows five different teenagers: Jason (Dacre Montgomery), Billy (RJ Cyler), Kimberley (Naomi Scott), Trini (Becky G) and Zack (Ludi Lin) - relatively unknown to one another, who are all dealing with their own personal issues in a small town, Angel Grove.
They stumble upon the Power Coins after Billy blows up a rock face, and wake up the following morning with superhuman strength. While showing off their new powers to each other they come across a spaceship and awaken Zordon’s consciousness within the wall of the spacecraft. At the same time, Rita is fished out of the bottom of the ocean and begins to collect gold so as to bring her monster, Goldar, to life and destroy the Zeo Crystal which nestles below Angel Grove.
The team needs to somehow come together being the only protection for the small town and morph into the powerful Power Rangers and save the world from the evil Rita and Goldar.
The Stars of The Show
The film has had notable success in the casting of its talented, yet relatively unknown, rangers to bring faces and personality to the newly imagined morphing superheroes. Each member brings a compelling and grounded screen presence, initially presented as a basic archetype but through their respective storylines within the plot they quickly gain momentum and depth - giving a human touch to the Rangers themselves.
Montgomery is convincing and steady as the shamed former star quarterback turned leader of the Power Rangers. Scott brings an emotional edge to Kimberley that is darker than the traditional Pink Ranger, trying to overcome the guilt of a ‘sexting’ scandal and learning to forgive herself. Lin is well cast as the anti-authoritative Zack whose craziness brings well timed light hardheartedness and spontaneity into the mix.
Becky G portrays Trini, the Yellow Ranger, with the angst of being a loner and dealing with her family’s judgement of her sexual orientation. However, it’s RJ Cyler that deserves special mention as his re-imagined, on the spectrum version of Billy is easily the heart of not only the team but the film as well. Cyler brings wit and humour to the character and his comedic timing effortlessly allows him to steal the attention and likeability; making him the stand out Ranger. The cast have strong chemistry and cohesively construct their character’s emotional connection through their longing to belong that ultimately brings the Rangers together into a loving unit… friends.
The fresh-faced stars are supported by more well-known, if not seasoned, actors who offer rounded performances adding a solid dimension to the remaining characters. Bryan Cranston brings a new take on Zordon, portraying a more flawed impatient warrior rather than all-knowing aged floating essence. Cranston is restrained but invests an anxious frustration that we would expect from a warrior who now has his consciousness trapped within a wall of a spaceship and can do nothing but trust these newcomers.
Bill Hader voices Alpha 5, Zordon’s sidekick, who comically livens up the stern father-like moments Zordon has with the Rangers. Credit in this film must go to Elizabeth Banks, playing the antagonist to the Rangers, Rita, who clearly is having fun with the character with free expressive license. In early scenes, Bank’s shows the villain in a vulnerable, desperate if not animistic representation that is quite unsettling.
Although a one-dimensional character, Bank’s doesn’t try and bring a human edge to Rita which totally works and she easily illustrates the cartoonish evil destruction in an artistic display.
Power Rangers Movie - The Final Thought
Power Rangers has been injected with a 21st century update where it doesn’t completely abandon its cheesy 90’s roots, such as when the original ‘Go, Go Power Rangers’ theme plays when the Rangers attack in their Zords in a truly nostalgic moment, and the reboot may have comparisons to the Transformers but this film humbly accepts that after thought with a well-timed nod to Michael Bay’s franchise.
This Breakfast Club meets Pacific Rim encounter will leave most audiences satisfied with the balance of emotional backstory, fantastical fight sequences and the perfect amount of well-timed humour. Power Rangers isn’t the perfect blockbuster by any means, pausing half way through the action to show a villain eating doughnuts for one is an un-welcomed flaw, but Dean Israelite and the cast were not afraid to have fun with this film and the clear love and energy it possesses brings a dynamic and spirited story of the Power Rangers for a whole new generation.
Underneath the Zords, the alien villain, the explosive-possible-ending of the Earth scenario, space-age looking battle suits and the continuous Krispy Kreme product placements is a film with a big heart, a film about five teenagers who come together to understand their differences that made them outsiders, learn to grow together; to become more powerful than a team of superheroes by becoming a group of friends that would sacrifice themselves for each other and ultimately become the Power Rangers.
Zatu Games Rating: 3 Stars
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