On August 28, 1993, Fox Kids first aired the series Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, based off of the Japanese series Super Sentai (and using footage from the series). The series deals with five ordinary teenagers who dress in silly and colorful costumes and saves the Earth from various monsters and aliens. This show was corny as fuck, but it didn’t stop it from turning into a huge franchise and becoming a nostalgic treasure for 90s kids. If anything, the low-budget aesthetic was what made the show enduring for more than 20 years. While Power Rangers overall wasn’t my cup of tea in terms of franchises and I don’t have nostalgic memories of it, but I do remember watching episodes of Mighty Morphin and I have seen the first movie (it wasn’t good, BTW). When it was announced that Lionsgate was going to produce a more serious reboot of the Mighty Morphin series, there was some skepticism among the hype. This is a series that’s cheesy at heart and knows it, so to some part of the fanbase, the idea of a more serious Power Rangers triggered Fant4stic flashbacks. Up until the film’s release, I didn’t know how it was gonna be. Is it gonna be good? Is it gonna suck? Well, now that I’ve recently just watched it, I can now tell you how it is. This is Power Rangers.
In the small town of Angel Grove, five teenagers from different backgrounds with different problems are brought together when they find strange coins that gives them superpowers. They find an alien ship underground with the subconsciousness of Zordon, who brings them together to form The Power Rangers to stop the evil Rita Repulsa from destroying the Earth. Imagine The Breakfast Club meets Chronicle meets a typical superhero origin story. That’s what you get from the plot. Like I said, the film is going for a tone more serious than the original series and for the most part, it pulls it off. There are some moments where the more serious tone clashes with some of the humor. The movie starts off with a joke about jerking off a bull. Seriously. I’ll get into more of the tone clashes later on, so let’s move on.
The biggest strength of this new Power Rangers movie is in its characters. This movie is driven by its characters. Before we get to the Rangers themselves, let’s look at the other characters. Bryan Cranston portrays Zordon, a former Ranger who, 65 million years ago, stopped Rita from finding the Zeo Crystal, which is linked to life on Earth. In his death, his subconsciousness was uploaded to his spaceship. He’s the mentor of the new Rangers and he was fine. Bill Hader voices Alpha-5 and I wasn’t annoyed by him like other people were. I thought he was funny.
The main villain of the movie is Rita Repulsa, played by Elizabeth Banks, who you can tell was having the time of her life with this role. Rita was always a hammy, over-the-top character and Elizabeth Banks brought her own brand of insanity. Sometimes, it goes a bit overboard to the point where it seems like she was in a completely different movie. This is where the tone clashes the most. There are times when Rita acts like a horror movie villain, killing people left and right. Other times, she hams it up to Nicholas Cage levels. I don’t know whether to be scared of her or to laugh. Still, Rita was an entertaining villain and the perfect threat for the Power Rangers.
And now for our main heroes, the Power Rangers. To cast the Rangers, you have to get some good young actors who can play their parts and I think the casting did a fantastic job on that point. Jason Scott, the Red Ranger (Dacre Montgomery), is the football star at Angel Grove whose life got turned upside down when he pulls a prank that lands him in house arrest. As the Red Ranger, he’s the leader of the group and he has the traits of one. Kimberly Hart, the Pink Ranger (Naomi Scott), is a former cheerleader sentenced to detention after sending a scandalizing photo of one of her friends. She was the Ranger I cared least about, but she was good. My favorite Ranger and favorite character in the movie overall is Billy Cranston, the Blue Ranger (RJ Cyler). He’s an autistic nerdy kid who is the heart and soul of the movie. As an autistic man myself, I appreciate that they didn’t treat his condition as a joke or portrayed it in a heartless way that you would see in a Seth MacFarlane joke. Zack Taylor, the Black Ranger (Ludi Lin), seems like a rebel who does whatever he wants, but he also has to deal with his ill mother, who lives in a trailer park. Trini Kwan, the Yellow Ranger (Becky G), is the new kid whose family is constantly moving. She was never able to make friends and has a hard time communicating with people. Meeting Jason, Billy, Kimberly, and Zack and becoming a Power Ranger has allowed her to open up more, revealing that she’s been questioning her own sexuality. Two things to note: 1) The ethnicities of the new Rangers are different from the ethnicities of the old Rangers. In Mighty Morphin, the Red, Blue, and Pink Rangers were Caucasian, the Black Ranger was African-American, and the Yellow Ranger was Asian. Yyyyyyyyyyyyeah, by now, everyone has pointed out the racist implications of the latter two’s casting. That explains why the Red Ranger is Caucasian, the Pink Ranger is Indian, the Blue Ranger is African-American, the Black Ranger is Asian, and the Yellow Ranger is Hispanic. 2) I don’t know how controversial this is going to be, but in my opinion, the new Rangers have more character and personality than the old Rangers. I don’t know. Looking back, the old Rangers were portrayed as uber-perfect, bland goody two shoes even though Zordon sought out teens with attitude. They had as much attitude as a rock. The new Rangers aren’t perfect human beings, they have personal problems and obstacles. They weren’t cardboard stereotypes, they were actual people and that’s why I personally gravitate towards them more than the old Rangers.
The one place where Power Rangers excel at that people can agree on is the action. Here? Well, here’s where we run into one of the film’s biggest problems. There’s nothing wrong with the action itself: we see the Rangers kick ass in their armor as they fight Rita’s Putties and they ride their Zords into action as they try to save Angel Grove and the world. Oh, and we get a battle between Goldar (who’s this humanoid goop of gold) and the Megazord. Very CGI-heavy, but I like the action. So what’s the problem? Everything I just described happens in the final third of the movie. Before that, we get little to no action sequences and the Rangers don’t even get their armor until the final act. It’s like the 2014 Godzilla movie where we barely see Godzilla who was on screen for ten minutes at most. I know this is an origin story, but if you’re gonna sell us Power Rangers, give us Power Rangers. Oh, but we can’t forget about the Krispy Kreme product placement. I don’t have a problem with product placements in movies like others do, but it becomes problematic when it becomes the focus like in Power Rangers. So Rita is looking for the Zeo Crystal and the location of the Crystal happens to be under a Krispy Kreme in Angel Grove. There’s a scene where she’s in the Krispy Kreme eating a damn doughnut while Goldar is fucking shit up. I love Krispy Kreme and all, but there is no damn reason for them to beat this over our head. By the time the movie ended, I didn’t even want to look at a doughnut for a while. I’m sure Krispy Kreme got a nice check from this.
I give Power Rangers a 6/10. I really enjoyed this movie, but it has gaping flaws. The story is predictable, the tone clashes with itself, and we barely see enough of the Power Rangers themselves. But the performances are excellent, especially from the five Rangers. We know their problems, what their motivations are, and we root for them to win. If you’re looking for originality or something of high substance, you probably won’t like this movie. This film will satisfy both general movie audiences and longtime Power Rangers fans, especially those who grew up on the original Mighty Morphin series. Hell, Jason David Frank and Amy Jo Johnson, the Green and Pink Rangers from Mighty Morphin, makes a cameo. If they ever do a sequel, I’m interested in seeing where they go. There’s a mid-credits scene teasing Tommy Oliver A.K.A. the Green Ranger. Maybe they’ll bring in Lord Zedd.
Whatever’s in store for the potential sequel, I hope that they fix the story and tone problems and give the Rangers more screentime in-costume. But that’s just me. Here’s to hoping this movie succeeds so that we can get sequels.