Power Rangers is a property that exists solely because of recycling. When the Japanese kaiju/martial arts show Super Sentai from the Japanese studio Saban sought out American distribution, the American creators literally just filled in the blanks of the giant monster fight scenes with all American “Teenagers With Attitude” scenes to make it palatable to the elementary school audience. So, there’s not too much sanctity to the American rebranding of Super Sentai to worry about when viewing 2017’s film reboot Power Rangers. It was a silly 90s kid show scrapped together to sell toys. The bigger question with the new attempt is whether or not it can carve its own identity. Would this be a faithful reimagining to the point of too much fan service or a dark reboot that removes the basic fun required for the project?
Weirdly… the major issue with this reboot is a bit of both. Power Rangers director Dean Israelite casts a literal dark shadow over the proceedings. Most every frame has the darkest possible Instagram filter over it. The intent seems to be giving the scenes of these kids interacting a grounding in reality, but it clashes with the broader elements of comedy and sci-fi action. It’s this contrast that seems to signify a clear lack of cohesion with the vision of the project. This makes sense, given Israelite, Saban, Lionsgate and five different screenwriters all had input. Hell, they clearly even had influence from Krispy Kreme donuts, who end up becoming vital to the clunky action climax. These visions don’t gell consistently, resulting in a jumbled mess overall.
One can tell from the first five minutes that we’re in trouble. We transition from an elaborate prologue of Earth’s meteorite crash that killed the dinosaurs being caused by the aliens who were the initial rangers. Followed by a elaborate school prank scene where a high school kid mentions that he masturbates a male cow, thinking it was a female he was milking. Then leading to an elaborate Children of Men style one shot car crash sequence. It’s a sequence of events that feel like they’re from three separate films. Even then, none of those films are that good or appropriate for a property like Power Rangers. The conflicting shifts from summer blockbuster to sophomoric comedy to overly ambitious action film continues throughout as Power Rangers tries and fails to find an authentic groove to settle into.
So, Power Rangers is pretty much all over the place on a tonal level. One would figure that it translates to the kids featured would have an even more awkward progression into superhero-dom. Yet… the kids are actually pretty fun to watch. It’s weird, considering the American teen aspects alway felt so poorly translated into the show. However, there’s a genuine solid chemistry the builds between all the teens. Darce Montgomery portrays a likable handsome jock with a desire to help the underdogs. RJ Cyler is an energetic and endearing nerd who’s implied to be on the autism spectrum without being exploitative. Naomi Scott has an earnest rebellious desire that transcends her rather awkward backstory. Ludi Lin makes the most of his positive role model son/manic hobo stuntman character with an infectious energy. Becky G has a struggling burgeoning sexuality that she hides through her rebellious activities against her traditionalist family.
They’re an authentic varied mixture of people who come together with a chemistry that this film on paper clearly doesn’t deserve. Even if we don’t get a huge amount of information on all of them, the cast has enough to chew on to where they can build a seemingly interesting charisma off of. Unfortunately, when Power Rangers gets more focused on the elements of its namesake, interest wains significantly. These kids are stuffed into CG suits that are incredibly unconvincing. The Zord action is kind of atrocious to watch in all its over edited glory. The CG for Goldar and the Puttis alternates between decent and atrocious. Elizabeth Banks is trying to bring something to Rita Repulsa that’s just buried under far too much makeup and elaborate costuming. Bill Hader shouts exposition and one liners in a fashion that’s more annoying than Alpha 5 traditionally is. Bryan Cranston… is just there because he owes Saban for getting him money when he needed it as a voice over artist for the original Power Rangers.
That mixture of genuine enthusiasm and contractual obligation pretty much sums up the lackluster yet decently entertaining ride of Power Rangers. It’s all over the place in most respects and never quite knows how to accomplish its goals or what those goals even are. They’re not really sticking to a nostalgic audience by waiting until the end to reveal the suits and Zords, yet a kid audience seems just under the level of appropriate for the more mature jokes and darker visuals at hand. It’s a confused mess, but one that honestly seemed like it could have gone far worse if not for the main cast of teens. Still sad that they couldn’t have a knee to the crotch save the day like in the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers film.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Out of Place Cow Masturbation Jokes