Power Rangers Movie Review
It’s Morphin time… Well sort of.
1996/1997 may have been highlighted by Michael Jordan’s Bulls 72-win season or “The Gunslinger” Brett Favre winning his third consecutive NFL MVP, but a young Sean Ryan ran around fighting everything in sight. Andrew, my first neighbor and friend, joined me in an endless effort to defeat all of Rita Repulsa’s degenerate henchman and bring peace to Earth. Between judo-chopping couch and bed pillows to kicking over trashcans like Bruce Lee, we lived and breathed for Power Rangers. “Morphin time” went from a simple catchphrase someone might say on the playground to a sworn oath and mentality for our young developing minds. If we weren’t slaying random pillows, curbstomping trashcans, fighting amongst each other for specific ranger colors (Seriously. I only accepted blue) or playing with action figures, then our eyes were glued to the television as we watched religiously. Power Rangers slowly consumed more hours in each day until it became my livelihood and first true love as a child. Naturally, we grow up as humans and begin taking interests in other things; however, when I saw the new movie trailer in early March, I instantly morphed back into that small boy running around grass fields believing he’s been called to serve and protect the world. My anticipation grew each day as questions flooded my brain. What will the backstory consist of? How will they utilize the constantly evolving CGI effects for battle scenes? Will the movie be more geared towards children or late teens/young adults? After a few days of intense debate, I decided to go find out…
This emotional coming-of-age story manages to succeed in a few areas while failing in others. Let’s start with the good. The opening scene shows Rita Repulsa, the green ranger, betraying the other five before Zordon manages to bury the “Power Coins” and orders a fatal meteor strike which wipes out the dinosaurs. The script spends most of its time painting a clear picture behind each teenager’s personal life struggles, motivation to find something more meaningful and eventually accepting their past mistakes. Each of the five rangers come from a different background accompanied by unique problems/issues, which ultimately leads them to the “Power Coins” and Zordon. The first 25 minutes of the movie immediately grabbed my attention as I became invested in the overall story arc. I wish I could say the movie continued to build until an ultimate showdown with Rita Repulsa for the climactic scene, but I’d be lying. Instead the movie took a 180 turn that hit me like a bus blindsiding a jaywalker who only looked one way…
While the film captured the true essences of the Power Rangers (strength, courage, trust, and most importantly teamwork), it spent too much time building this up. The extensive character development for each Ranger gave you a strong emotional connection to these fearful, world-saving teenagers, but the characters of Rita Repulsa and Zordon were lost. For example, Zordon tells Jason, the Red Ranger, Rita betrayed, murdered his team and plans to destroy the Earth. That’s all you get. Wait what??? Let’s have Zordon please elaborate more on this. Why’d she do it? What’s her motivation? Where’s the short 3 minute flashback of spliced scenes of them fighting together before she turns on them?? I understand this movie’s about establishing the new Ranger team, but let’s not sacrifice an opportunity for a quality backstory to make a more cathartic experience of these teens becoming a true unit. This leads directly into my next point.
GIVE BRYAN CRANSTON AND ELIZABETH BANKS MORE SCREENTIME!!
I appreciated the casting director finding five relatively new and unknown actors to portray each ranger, but let’s utilize two top tier actors. The few scenes with Banks were creepy and left me wanting more. All I managed to understand about her character is that she’s ruthless, power hungry and jealous of Zordon. Maybe that’s enough, but I would’ve dug deeper into her motivation or where the wheels fell off and lead to the betrayal of her Ranger team. On the other hand, Cranston received less air time (maybe 15 minutes) than Banks which didn’t make sense to me. I understand Zordon’s this liquid entity submerged in the matrix of his old ship which doesn’t allow for much “acting” and rather just voiceover work; HOWEVER, Cranston’s accolades include four Emmy’s for his work on Breaking Bad, a Tony Award and an Academy Award nomination for Trumbo in 2015. [Sidenote: If you haven’t seen him in “The Infiltrator,” he gives a great performance.] This guy can flat out act, yet his character felt almost nonexistent. The writers should’ve sacrificed some of the character development for each ranger and dedicated that time to the backstory of Rita and Zordon.
My biggest issue came from the lack of action and battle sequences throughout the movie. It reminded me of the Green Lantern with Ryan Reynolds (don’t worry this movie wasn’t nearly that bad). Green Lantern features a superhero who can create anything his mind can think of, but the producers decided to focus on a love story with maybe 25 minutes of action sprinkled in over two hours. Couple that with a final showdown between protagonist and antagonist which lasted ten whole minutes, and needless to say I wasn’t impressed. This Power Rangers film seemed eerily similar. The TV show featured constant fights where each person gets into a sticky situation but manages to resolve the problem through teamwork. The film made it clear that these character issues were the strong emotional centerpiece with the necessity to develop friendship and trust between one another. The final showdown with Rita was almost a complete waste of time and made me slightly upset leaving the theater. I enjoyed most of the filming angles until this final fight scene, which wasn’t long enough, too slow and seemed clunky at times.
It probably sounds like I’m bashing this movie and I suppose I am for the most part, but my expectations were way too high heading into it. This wasn’t the worst start to a new film franchise, but the potential it had was so much more than the final product. I hoped they would start similar to the first Transformers film which seamlessly tied in a few different story lines that made sense with an adequate amount of action. We’ve all seen how diluted that franchise has turned with Marky Mark somehow fighting a transformer in “Age of Extinction.” I’m worried that Power Rangers could fall into that trap of pumping out movies with poor quality just to capitalize on the potential multi-million dollar profits. With that said, there’s plenty of opportunities for this franchise to expand in future films. For example, the Ranger corps history (Zordon’s specifically), Rita survives this film (spoiler alert), Lord Zedd never gets mentioned and maybe even an Alpha 5 spin-off could come to fruition at some point. My recommendation for future films would be to have a definitive identity and increase the fight/battle scenes.