Watch Steve's supplemental video review at the bottom of the article
If you have to spend $100 million on a Power Rangers movie in 2017 just for it to be a tonally inconsistent mess that doesn't really know if it should be The Breakfast Club or The Dark Knight, then you've entirely missed the point of the series.
Power Rangers in all its mid-1990s glory was never meant to be anything more than charmingly corny fun for young children. It was gleefully colorful and much of the violence was hampered by just how amiable the entire production was. It's a concept that crosses over through multi-generational appeal, and to have an ongoing franchise involving the candy-colored cadets is a big risk with potential for a big reward. It's also a case study in how to dilute a unique property by making it conform to standards to which it never belonged.
The Power Rangers are now an eclectic bunch of misfits, each with their own backstory, which makes for at least marginal interest in them and notable identity behind their suits. Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery) is their leader, a once promising college QB prospect who threw away his chance at getting signed after pulling a senior prank during the opening scene of the film. He winds up linking up with Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler) an autistic kid with great intelligence when it comes to technology - he winds up breaking the code on Jason's house-arrest ankle bracelet so he can stay out later, something Jason's parents never seem to question either.
The others are Kimberly (Naomi Scott), who winds leading the team with Jason, the queer and confident Trini (Becky G), and Zack (Ludi Lin), who is bilingual and experiencing difficulties in keeping his ailing mother healthy. The five are screwing around in a junkyard when they find five special Power Coins left behind by Zordon in the Cenozoic Era, and consequently, obtain powers such as super-strength and the ability to leap great distances. Meeting at their headquarters, located in a deep abyss, and governed by Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader), the Rangers must defend the Earth from Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), the former Green Ranger who has gone rogue to become an overpowered alien.
The first problem with this new franchise-hopeful film is that it's bogged down by an oppressive visual-style, ugly, drab, and virtually colorless at least until the big finale. It actually resembles a lot of medium-budget action affairs of recent times, such as Josh Trank's gloomy but immensely entertaining Chronicle and the largely unseen Project Almanac(also directed by Dean Israelite). The visual style worked for those films largely because it didn't have any kind of debt of gratitude to pay to preexisting properties nor source material off which to work. Power Rangers is also visually similar to Trank's new Fantastic Four film, another film smothered by a grim landscape on top of other larger problems. Little about the look and atmosphere of this film is fun - a major blow to the very thesis of Power Rangers.
Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler
24 March 2017
Steve's Grade: D+
Many have complained about the blatant product placement for Krispy Kreme, but let me tell you, this film got carried away with the shoutouts to the doughnut place that's currently rising from the ashes of financial ruin. The massive role Krispy Kreme plays in the film should make screenwriter John Gatins (who also wrote Kong: Skull Island) embarrassed for how obvious references to the establishment are incorporated. At one point, the Rangers discover long-lost crystals underneath a Krispy Kreme and even wind up holding a meeting in there, referencing how great the doughnuts are just so we're clued into how great the place is.
However, perhaps this is a perfect compliment given how much of a product placement Power Rangers itself feels. The film's poster, trailers, and even TV spots refer to it as "Saban's Power Rangers," continuously asserting that it's a product of the billionaire Haim Saban and his company Saban Entertainment. Way to turn a kid-friendly property into a corporate pissing/name-dropping contest.
The Rangers themselves are mostly convincing, and the fact that they each come with a shred of identity is nice. RJ Cyler has the most potential if sequels and future installments get the go-ahead (or the "go-go-ahead" in this case), as his character has a nice balance of comedy and conviction. Dacre Montgomery is a bit of a vanilla leader, however, and the only other really interesting Ranger is Becky G, mainly because by the end of the film, she still feels like an unsung enigma (I could be wrong, but I believe she gets the least amount of screentime and dialog of any of her costars).
Power Rangers proves marginally entertaining during its battle sequence, but the bothersome note about it is how quickly the Rangers opt for mechanical assistance over combat. Shortly after engaging Repulsa's rock monsters in battle, the Rangers equip themselves with large, Transformer-like robots that allow them to attack multiple enemies at once and climb great distances in order to attack Repulsa and her monster army. This feels artificial and a disappointing way around detailing some very engaging and entertaining fight scenes. We wait about ninety minutes to get to this climax and the film treats it as if audiences want to see a brand new property act as if it's aTransformers sequel.
For whatever reason, I'm still confident that a competent and fun Power Rangers movie can be made in the present day, but the direction Israelite, Gatins, and undoubtedly Saban have taken to kickstart such a contemporary continuation for the series is mediocre at best. The film opts for a sound and light show of perpetual noise garbage despite humanizing the Rangers in a surprisingly respectful manner, feeling like a run-of-the-mill blockbuster assembled and constructed mostly of the odds and ends of blockbusters of this decade.
While Power Rangers always seemed to do something different for a generation that was overrun with Pokémon and its knockoffs, now it appears to play by the same rules of its contemporaries that it once boldly rejected. For some, it might be a bigger culprit of a ruined childhood than any of Michael Bay's Transformers movies. Never did I ever want to hear the phrase "It's morphin' time" said with complete seriousness.