Starring: Dacre Montgomery, RJ Cyler, Naomi Scott, Becky G, Ludi Lin, Elizabeth Banks, Bryan Cranston, Bill Hader, David Denman
Directed By: Dean Israelite
Plot: A serious take on the Power Rangers franchise, starting with the origin of the Power Rangers, and how our five new rangers are chosen. Jason (Montgomery) is the de facto leader, and also a popular jock at school. Billy (Cyler) is an autistic kid who gets bullied. Kimberly (Scott) is a misunderstood cheerleader. Trini (G) is relatively new in school, and also relatively unnoticed. Zach (Lin) is struggling to care for his sick mother. Together, they become the Power Rangers, and its up to them to save the world from Rita Repulsa (Banks).
What Works: Most of the first two-thirds of this film. Depending on who you talk to, some people thought it took too long to get to the action, and others thought that the non-action part was the best part of the film. I’m in the latter camp. I think the origin story, showing us who these characters are, and letting these teens have range and depth was an incredibly smart move. By the time the action came, we had a good understanding of who these kids are, and we cared about them more. The action itself is just a loud mess, but I’ll get to that later. The first two acts are a Breakfast Club/Karate Kid mashup where a ragtag group of outsiders learn to be friends and work together, while eventually training and learning their abilities. What surprised me was that the actors portraying the Rangers could actually act. Notably, RJ Cyler, who already impressed me in Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl, and newcomer Dacre Montgomery, who gives Jason a nice amount of depth. The only one I didn’t think was great was Lin, who does well with the lighter stuff, but doesn’t seem as connected in his dramatic moments. Depending on how you viewed Banks’s performance, you’ll either love it or hate it. I loved it. I thought she went all in, and was genuinely terrifying in some moments. It’s like her role was written by two different people with two different opinions. There’s some hammy qualities to her, which feel out of place. It’s when Banks is fully committed to being an outrageous villain that her character works, despite the films need to give her a series of terrible decisions. A smart villain she is not, but an interesting one, and a seemingly formidable one she is. I have a neutral opinion on Cranston as Zordon and Hader as Alpha 5. I thought they both did OK, but weren’t given enough to do for me to praise either one.
What Doesn’t Work: As I already hinted, I didn’t think Lin handled the dramatic material well, and I think Banks’ Rita suffers from some tonal difference issues. They seemed to want to have a throwback to old school Rita, after having created this ultra-terrifying new Rita, and it just didn’t work for me. Also, the third act is just a lot of noise and action, directed much the same way the Transformers sequels were. It’s style over substance, which is a shame considering the rest of the film is very much substance over style. Also, the Krispy Kreme product placement just smacks you in the face. Maybe if the kids had referenced other brand names at some point, it wouldn’t be so blatant, but it’s like Krispy Kreme produced this film as one long commercial. It’s a little silly. Also, fuck that Hand Clap song. It felt so out of place where it was used, and its just an awful song.
Final Word: Honestly, much better than I expected it to be, or really that any Power Rangers movie has a right to be. I’m legitimately looking forward to a sequel, because I’m now invested in these characters, and I can’t wait to see where we go with them next. It’s a very successful reboot and reimagining of a franchise that seemed almost impossible. They basically pulled it off, and for that I give them a thumbs up.
Final Grade: B