With superheroes being the big thing in Hollywood these days, it was only a matter of time before someone resurrected the Power Rangers. Does this reboot wash away the cheesy aftertaste of the original show? I can tell you this, it definitely proves that Bryan Cranston can do anything.
Five troubled teens find a spaceship and five magic coins that transform them into the Power Rangers. They are charged by Zordon (Cranston) to protect the Zeo Crystal of Earth from Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), a former ally of Zordon’s now turned villain. The Zeo Crystal is an artifact of immense power that can destroy all life on Earth if used improperly. The teens must learn to work together to unlock their potential and truly become Power Rangers.
This movie wasn’t nearly as bad I was fearing, but it’s not that great either. I was never a fan of the show—it was a little after my time—and whenever I saw it, I thought it was garbage. The film, directed by Dean Israelite, has a darker, grittier tone than the show, but this approach clashes with the goofier elements that surface later in the film. The concept is very derivative by itself—see: Voltron—but the film is equally derivative, borrowing heavily from Chronicle and The Breakfast Club—because combining two R-rated films to make a PG-13 one is always a good idea. The script has some wonky moments as well as some pedestrian dialogue. There are major information dumps that feel like information dumps and are not woven well into the film. There also isn’t a whole lot of Power Rangers action in the film as the bulk of the movie is the team learning the ropes. The problem with this is, it’s akin to the Avengers running around out of costume for the majority of the movie and finally figuring out how to use their powers at the end.
All that being said, the film definitely has its moments. The more grounded approach puts a focus on the personal relationships of the kids. Billy (RJ Cyler)—the Blue Ranger—is the brains of the team and reveals that he is on the autism spectrum which is a first for the genre. Kimberly (Naomi Scott)—the Pink Ranger—is a remorseful popular girl on the outs with her friends because of something terrible she did. (The strange thing about her situation is that the film paints her friends as the bad guys when she is the offending party). Zack (Ludi Lin)—the Black Ranger—is a bad boy who hides the fact that he cares for his ailing mother at home. Trini (Becky G.)—the Yellow Ranger—is an outsider struggling with fitting into her “normal” family and represents the first LGBTQ superhero in film. All four of these characters are interesting—though direct lifts from The Breakfast Club cast—and keep the viewer engaged. Cyler is the best of the bunch and is a natural performer. Unfortunately, the main character is the bland Jason (Dacre Montgomery)—the Red Ranger—a football star that gets into trouble because of…reasons. His father (David Denman) isn’t an unrepentant asshole like Emilio Estevez’ in The Breakfast Club or abusive like Judd Nelson’s in the same film, so I was never sure what his conflict was. Jason just wants to live his life free of expectation—must be nice for the guy who seemingly has everything. So, it’s tough to feel bad for him or understand his motivation. Montgomery is fine in the role, it just isn’t very well written. If you’re going to rip off The Breakfast Club, someone has to be Emilio Estevez, but Israelite and Screenwriter John Gatins want two Judd Nelsons instead. Someone has to be the straight man. Despite the Jason problems, all the leads are likable and there interactions are really the high points of the film.
The cast is rounded out by Bill Hader as the robot Alpha 5 and Cranston’s Zordon. Cranston is just such a consummate pro and he brings it to every role, even this one. Zordon, as he’s written here, fits Cranston like a glove and he does a great job with what he’s given. Hader is also great as the comedic Alpha 5. He’s a character that could have gotten really annoying, but he’s a good balance with the more serious elements of the film. Elizabeth Banks, on the other hand, is completely out of place here. Her performance is so one note and over the top, it just doesn’t fit with this different tone they’re going for in the majority of the film.
Despite all the issues I had with it, Power Rangers is an enjoyable if derivative film with likable leads, but nowhere near the level of the cream of the superhero crop, Marvel. A second film could be better with all the setup out of the way, but I thought that about Ninja Turtles too.