Title: Power Rangers (2017)
Release Date: March 24, 2017
Studio: Saban / Lionsgate
Director: Dean Israelite
Release Format: Theatrical
I was five years old in 1993 when Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers premiered on Fox Kids. Still, I remember sitting on the floor in front of the television like it was yesterday. The show meant a lot to me as a kid, as it did many kids in 1993. Like Ninja Turtles and G.I. JOE before it, it was the equivalent of crack for a young child’s mind. Yeah, you look back on it now and it’s pretty stupid. It’s Japanese stock footage mixed with American teenagers. What you see is what you pretty much get. However, while often dumb, so were many cartoons and shows from that era. Even ones not aimed at kids were pretty stupid. Are we really going to pretend that Saved By The Bell still holds up? Yeah, I didn’t think so either, but I’m sure even that has its fans.
And, in all honesty, that’s what I can sit here today and call myself; a fan of Power Rangers. I’ve actually seen every season (even the bad ones) and I still find much enjoyment out of the show. Megaforce, Turbo and Operation Overdrive were pretty abysmal but I muscled my way through them like a true fan. In addition, I’d argue that Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was only stupid at face value. It was choppily shot, the acting wasn’t anything spectacular and the writing could be often lazy. With that said, Power Rangers also taught kids about self-defense, honesty, and teamwork. Yeah, sure, if you took it at face value, it seemed dumb but it’s messages for kids certainly weren’t.
Now, like so many nostalgic properties before it, the Power Rangers have been rebooted by Hollywood. I’ll be perfectly honest, with the exception of a few minor things, I was dreading this film. I didn’t care for the trailers. I didn’t like the news I was hearing about there being six different writers. Overall, the film just looked like a cash-grab to me. But, really, could you blame me? We live in a world where horrendous live-action reboots of G.I. JOE, Transformers, Ghostbusters and Ninja Turtles are allowed to exist. So, I went to see it tonight with a friend and I can say, without any joking whatsoever that I was 100% wrong about this. Power Rangers (2017) was, quite surprisingly, a great film that I walked out of the theater adoring. You can feed me my crow anytime now.
You know how the Transformers movies, TMNT: Out Of The Shadows and G.I. JOE: Retaliation tried to appeal to their fans with nothing but nostalgia? Remember how they failed miserably at that, while simultaneously putting no effort into their stories or characters? Yeah, Power Rangers is nothing like that. It actually goes out of its way to limit the nostalgia and create a compelling film with compelling characters. It puts story and characters before anything else like an actual film should. However, it doesn’t skimp on the nostalgia altogether. In many scenes, it does embrace the silliness of Power Rangers and how, in retrospect, it was a bit ridiculous. But again, this film works because they treat it like a real film. As a result, Power Rangers (2017) is a reboot done right.
The story is, in spirit, similar to that of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Five teenagers with attitude obtain powers and are led by their mentor Zordon to face off against the evil Rita Repulsa. However, like most good reboots, they didn’t just copy and paste the simplicities of the story. This film goes about telling the origin in a different way for a new generation and, for the most part, it works. For starters, none of these characters are actually friends at the start of this film. They meet in detention and gradually become friends as the film goes on. While very Breakfast Club-ish, the characters and the actors portraying them are by far the strongest element of the film. They feel like real teenagers, each going through something personal and each facing a difficult point in their lives.
The funny thing is that they didn’t really change the characters that much. If anything, they just gave them an upgrade. Zack (Ludi Lin) is still the funny, fun loving member of the group. Jason (Dacre Montgomery) is still very much the leader. Kimberly (Naomi Scott) is still the valley girl, although seriously updated for the mean girl’s generation. Billy (RJ Cyler) is still the awkward nerd, portrayed here as being autistic (gotta admit, for Billy’s character, that kind of makes sense). The only character they changed entirely was Trini (Becky G). However, being that Trini had virtually NO character in the original series, this was welcome. They updated Trini to make her more interesting and relatable to a modern audience.
I’m not quite sure why her name is still Trini Kwan if she’s not Asian in this version but it’s really not a big deal. Let me just address one more thing. As far as the race-swapping of some of the rangers goes, I sort of understand. People have been calling racism for years being that the original Black Ranger was black and the original Yellow Ranger was Asian. Now, personally, I never saw this as racist as much as I just saw it as easily offended idiots calling racism for the sake of it but whatever. I may not agree but I get it. Obviously, since we live in a world of overly-offended PC morons, we have to make them feel comfortable as well. And, to be honest, being that they got the characters right, it doesn’t really bother me at all.
Race doesn’t really matter; acting ability does and these actors are all amazing. I can’t think of one moment where these five teenagers didn’t have me invested. I can say I love the original actors until I’m blue in the face but these new actors are better. They have more presence, they have more charisma and their chemistry together helps them stand out more. My guess is that this is all largely due to the fact that they have better writing to work with. When a movie has six writers, it’s usually a bad sign. Lest we forget the colossal failure that was Independence Day: Resurgence. However, despite this fact, the writing for the movie is actually good for Power Rangers. Even when the dialogue is cheesy (and it is in many areas), these actors all make it work.
This can probably also be contributed to Dean Israelite’s direction. Israelite jumped onto the scene a couple years back with the Platinum Dunes film, Project Almanac. I’m hesitant to say Project Almanac was good but it certainly wasn’t terrible. However, what Israelite brought to the table in that film was his ability to direct teenagers (or at least adults pretending to be teenagers). For me, the young actors were the glue that held that film together and made it worth watching. In Power Rangers, the actors don’t necessarily carry the entire film but they are the best part of it. Israelite makes the “Teenagers With Attitude” tagline work by actually making them teenagers with attitude. They aren’t just goody-goody like they were in the show and that’s a great thing. It creates wonderful drama in the film.
Bill Hader is hilarious as Alpha 5 and much less annoying than his original counterpart. Bryan Cranston gets some good moments to shine as Zordon, whose depicted in this version as being the original Red Ranger, while Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) was the original Green Ranger. By the way, for the sheer sake of bragging rights, I totally called this the second Rita’s new look was released online about a year ago. You can read that article here and praise me as an all-knowing god at your leisure. Anyway, the backstory change for Rita and Zordon was not only great, it was better than the original. Let’s just call the kettle black here guys, the original backstory for them was awful. They flip a coin; the loser floats in a dumpster in space while the winner gets put in a time-warp… yeah, how does that benefit either side?
In this backstory, Rita was a Green Ranger who went rogue, killed her fellow Power Rangers (except Zordon) and tried to obtain The ZEO Crystal (Yes, Power Ranger fans, you may now squee uncontrollably) to rule the universe. I won’t reveal any more for the sake of spoilers (what I just mentioned was leaked online months ago). But, case and point, this new backstory for the two is much more interesting and so is Rita’s character for that matter. Elizabeth Banks absolutely owned this role. I’ve heard many complaints that it felt like she was from a different movie but, honestly, I don’t see it. At times she’s very over the top but that’s what the character is. She even recites her line from the show, “Make My Goldar Grow!” Not gonna lie, I squeed at that scene. I’m such a nerd.
There are moments towards the beginning of the film where she’s downright frightening and disturbing, something the original Rita never really was. There’s a scene where Rita comes to Trini in her bed and literally starts torturing her. She cuts her and throws her around her room like a rag doll. I won’t make a joke about how this version of Trini is a lesbian but I will say that Banks sold herself as a legitimate threat in the scene. Elizabeth Banks calls back to the goofy nature of the character’s roots, while also adding a layer of fear that makes Rita come off as more of a threat than she ever was in the past. Many say it hurts the tone but I didn’t see it that way. I honestly felt the film found a nice balance between its newfound grittiness and the hammy roots of the original show.
One complaint I’m hearing from many people is that it takes too long for the action to come in. That is to say, they don’t all morph and head into battle until the last 30 minutes or so of the film. This is something that I know will anger many people. That being said, it didn’t bother me in the least. Look, let’s be clear, Lionsgate wants to make Power Rangers a film franchise. If it’s going to thrive as a film franchise and still be entertaining, it needs to create characters we care about and set up a universe we want to keep coming back to. Power Rangers (2017) does this perfectly and when it finally does go into good ol’ fashioned “Morphin’ Time Mode”, it’s incredibly entertaining.
While some could be worried that this will cause pacing issues, it surprisingly doesn’t. Why? Because they properly build up that last part of the film. If The Zords, The Megazord, The ZEO Crystal, The Armored Suits and The Putty Patrol had all come out of nowhere, then it would have been a problem. However, the film spends a great deal of time building this all up and giving the fans, as well as newcomers, a climax we can all be proud of. In addition, all of this build-up is perfectly paced out and never once did it lose my attention. They didn’t just slap the old Power Rangers theme song in the movie to get the fans riled up. No! They EARNED the right to play the old Power Rangers theme song to get the fans riled up. People cheered in my theater. Yes, I was one of them.
Now, with that out of the way, I can’t say everything in the film was perfect for me. I do have several nitpicks as a fan. I’m just gonna come out and say it; I hated Goldar. That big blob of cheese whiz fighting The Megazord… that’s not Goldar. Goldar was an awesome looking general for Rita. In the series, he physically broke Jason during The Green With Evil Saga and mentally broke Tommy later in season two. This was a memorable character that they kind of butchered. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still love the fight with Goldar in this film. I even liked how he was the first monster the rangers fought in this movie, as he was also the first monster they fought in the show. However, as a fan, I can’t look at this giant cheese whiz monster and call it Goldar.
Also, I have to be “That Guy” and proclaim that I was not the biggest fan of these new suits going in. I understand updating for the times but the new suits just had a bit too much going on. Remember the TMNT reboot in 2014? Remember how they added all that useless stuff onto the turtles to “update” them? This, in a way, reminds me of that. I’m not expecting spandex uniforms or anything. I welcome updating it to armor but they look less like Power Rangers and more like multi-color robots Tony Stark invented over a weekend. Now I’ll admit, when I saw them in action, they grew on me a little. I even liked how the “morphing” in this film is an actual metamorphosis of the Rangers bodies (which explains their new civilian powers as well). However, I still think they could have looked better.
There’s also no morphers or the team shouting out their dinosaur names in this version either. We have the power coins (or colored rocks if we’re being honest) but no morphers. To me, that’s kind of a staple of the team and I would have liked it in there. In addition, them calling out for their powers was something that was been maintained in every single season of the show. But, to the film’s credit, it does explain why these things aren’t here. To obtain their powers for the first time, they have to work as a team and earn the right to be rangers. They all have to morph together in their first go-around, which adds to the drama and adds some cleverness to the film I wasn’t expecting. Still, I better see actual Power Morphers in the next movie.
But probably my least favorite thing in this movie is the look of The Megazord. Again, watching that giant robot fight at the end was a ton of fun. But, I’m sorry, I just think The Megazord in this film looks kind of generic. That’s a shame considering that the original Megazord is probably the most iconic. When people think of The Megazord, the original one from The Mighty Morphin’ Era is usually the first that comes to mind. It’s not that this Megazord is technically “bad” per-say, there’s just not much imagination to it. It just feels like a giant robot with nothing that special about it. Also, the way the Zords come together in the film could have been handled a little better in my opinion. But again, these are all my nitpicks. They don’t ruin the film, I’m just a big nerd.
Lastly, let’s get the big elephant-sized product placement in the room out of the way. Krispy Kreme! My god, if I ever see another Krispy Kreme it will be too soon. I do appreciate that Krispy Kreme is ultimately used in the film for the sake of comedy. However, I still can’t ignore that this was an overly aggressive product placement. I definitely understand why many were turned off by this and why many critics are making fun of it. Is it hilarious watching Rita Repulsa walk into a Krispy Kreme and eat a donut while destruction is occurring outside? Yes, it got a laugh out of everyone in the audience. Is it funny hearing them say Krispy Kreme over and over for five minutes? Not even a giggle. It didn’t take me out of the movie but it didn’t have to be mentioned so much in that scene either.
Overall, Power Rangers (2017), despite its few flaws, manages to be a solid reboot with a tremendous amount of charisma and heart. Even with my minor complaints, the great things in this film are too great to ignore. Whereas Transformers, G.I. JOE: Retaliation and TMNT: Out Of The Shadows were aiming to be annoying toy commercials, director Dean Israelite treats his adaptation of Power Rangers like an actual film. He treats the franchise with respect, recreating and updating not just the fun characters and fun action sequences but also the messages of honesty and teamwork that made Power Rangers great. The actors are wonderful, the characters are compelling, the fight scenes are thrilling and the villain is a ton of fun. Power Rangers (2017) is a reboot that’s pretty much perfect.
- Beautifully Written And Updated Characters
- Compelling Drama
- Wonderful Acting All Around
- Thrilling Action Scenes
- A Cool Villain
- Nice Effects Work
- Goldar (Nitpick)
- Look Of The Megazord & Suits (Nitpick)
- Bad, Yet Hilarious, Product Placement