Movie Review: Go Go 'Power Rangers' Reboot
The hit 1990s Saturday morning series Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, which is still airing in some form to this day, was something like Saved by the Bell meets Godzilla: newly-shot scenes of SoCal teens intercut with action sequences picked up from the scrap heap, the long-running Japanese kaiju series Super Sentei.
Because the original footage featured characters in masks and costumes, the effect was *cough* seamless. Especially when an American valley girl would transform into a costumed (male) Japanese martial artist during battle.
This lent the series just a hint of cheese. Especially since the premise of the whole thing was that these teens would morph into superheroes who controlled robot dinosaurs that combined into a kaiju transformer to fight giant monsters.
You might not think something like this could be adapted into a big-screen feature in 2017, an age where Superman levels Metropolis in 9/11 imagery at the multiplex for our viewing pleasure.
But you’d be wrong: for a good 90 minutes, 2017’s Power Rangers is surprisingly serious-minded, you know, given the premise. That’s because it’s an origin story that doesn’t even get the characters into their costumes until the final battle.
Instead, it becomes something The Breakfast Club meets Chronicle: a group of troubled teens inadvertently stumbles upon a mysterious alien spacecraft in an underground cave, and receive some vague superpowers. They’re, uh, super strong and can jump really far and even melt metal just by touching it.
Diving deeper into the cavern to learn more about what has happened to them, they discover a robot named Alpha 5 (voiced by BIll Hader) and the giant head of Zordon (Bryan Cranston), who tells them of their fate to save the world, and the importance of working as a team in order to generate super-suits out of thin air and ride the robot dinosaurs, called Zords.
For much of the film, though, it’s all talk and exposition as the film tries to keep a straight face before unveiling the Transformers-meets-Godzilla lunacy. Surprisingly, it succeeds.
Cranston, who we do not expect in this kind of film, displays a resolute seriousness while delivering a performance through a pinscreen and spouting dialogues that references Zords, a Zeo Crystal, and the villainous Rita Repulsa. This adds a level of unironic humor to the proceedings that helps balance the earnestness of the rest of the movie.
As the evil Rita, Elizabeth Banks, too, has a lot of fun in a role we might not expect to see in. But she chews up the scenery and spits it out, and for much of the movie is a lone bright spot of goofball sincerity.
The kids, meanwhile, are all rather disposable characterizations that the movie spends an awful lot of time attempting to develop. Ultimately, while they’re only costume during the final scenes, they’re better represented by their color scheme rather than any personality traits detailed in the script.
After 90 minutes of serious-minded character development in this origin story, Power Rangers cuts loose as our heroes get in gear, hop in the dinobots, and scramble to fight Rita’s giant, oozing gold monster before it can destroy the world while that cheesy 90s theme briefly pipes up in the background, the filmmakers too embarrassed to draw ay attention to it elsewhere.
That’s the crux of Power Rangers reboot, which might be too serious to appeal to fans of the original and it’s rubber suit monsters, and too cheesy (by the finale) to hold onto anyone else.
Under the circumstances, however, director Dean Israelite and five credited screenwriters likely did the best they could with this material. Anyone familiar with the original show shouldn’t be disappointed with this result, though given the film's paltry US box office results, a sequel shouldn't be expected.