Directed by: Dean Israelite
Starring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin, Elizabeth Banks, Bryan Cranston, Bill Hader
Distributed by: Lionsgate
Run time: 124 minutes
Release Date: March 24, 2017
Synopsis: Five teenagers (with attitude) are brought together by fate to become the newest generation of warriors known as the Power Rangers. The fate of the world rests in their hands as the evil Rita Repulsa launches an assault seeking the Zeo Crystal with an army of minions known as Putties and a giant golden monster named Goldar.
I’m going to have to admit that this new Power Rangers film is a lot better than I thought it was going to be. I was ready to enjoy this film from the standpoint of a fan and on nostalgia’s sake, but it is surprisingly entertaining. Yes, there are some callbacks to the original series, and a few Easter eggs and cameos that will make fans of the franchise squeal with glee; but on its own Power Rangers in a great action flick with more character and depth than most people would give it credit for. As my friend remarked after the film was over, there was more character development in the first two acts of the film than almost the entirety of the first season of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series back in 1993. And that is perhaps the best thing that could have happened to the film.
The film could have easily come off as an angst driven teen action flick had it not been for some great characterization by the writing staff (screenwriter John Gatins and writers Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney) that really added a lot to make the kids on the film likable and relatable. And that’s a huge plus that works in favor of the film: had the audience not been able to sympathize or relate to the characters the whole film could have been as shallow as the first film based on the series, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie back in 1995. (Ugh, I still throw up a little when I think of Ivan Ooze.) But with a creative staff that seemed to care for the source material, led by director Dean Israelite, and five capable leads to portray the team of new Power Rangers, this film plays out the way fans of the series would hope it would and a film that casual fans or even those new to the franchise would enjoy.
To that point, the stars of the film really are the five young actors and actresses in the lead roles. Yes, having Bryan Cranston as Zordon and Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa are great additions to the cast and bring their considerable talents to the film, and Bill Hader was funny as the voice of Alpha 5, but Dacre Montgomery (Jason Scott/Red Ranger), Naomi Scott (Kimberly Hart/Pink Ranger), RJ Cyler (Billy Cranston/Blue Ranger), Becky G (Trini/Yellow Ranger), and Ludi Lin (Zack/Black Ranger) steal the show – and are more the focus of the film in prominent and equal roles than even the show portrayed them as. They come together and bond as a team better than I have ever seen in any incarnation of the series and it all feels organic and natural as can be (for a sci-fi action flick). I really loved the way that the heroes of the film need to grow as people, accept their worth despite some past misdeeds, to become the heroes that the world needs them to be. Their interactions and chemistry as a cast and as a team within the film is the best credit this film has going for it on par with the importance of an engaging story.
I do have some small gripes with certain aspects of the film, and it does take some away from my overall enjoyment of Power Rangers, but I would still watch it again in theaters in a heartbeat. To list the issues that really stick out, for one the film plays it safe, never really wanting to strike out as original or on its own merit and holds itself a little too close to the source material for my taste. Also, since we’re on the subject, it panders a bit too much to the teen/tween audience it is hoping to connect with. I can’t really blame the director for going in this direction, especially seeing as how the last two films based on the franchise really tanked at the box office, critically and commercially, but I feel it alienates the older fans of the series who might have wanted to see a bit more from the film. Of course, I am saying this as a fan nearing forty and first enjoyed the series when I was a 16 in high school, but I am sure that I am not the only older fan of the series going out to watch this film.
That being said, overall I really enjoyed the film on a personal level. As a fan of the series it was exactly what I expected – for good and bad. I wanted to see a maturation of the series in this film, and when it comes to story and character development it definitely delivers; but I maybe wanted to see just a bit more. That won’t stop me from seeing the film one more time at the theater, this time with my kids so they can enjoy the film as well, and it shouldn’t stop anyone else from seeing and enjoying the movie either. Power Rangers is a great sci-fi action film that definitely knows the audience it wants to entertain and it does a good enough job hitting that mark. (But I still will contend that with a little more risk taking it could have aimed for a broader audience as well.)