Growing up in the 90’s as a young boy, there were a few constants in my life. Things like playing Nintendo, eating sugary cereal, and watching ridiculous television were all staples of my childhood. Of those ridiculous shows, the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was one of my go-to’s. Alongside things like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers was one of those programs that perfectly encapsulated the 90’s feel. It was a mixture of American sitcom stories cut with Japanese super hero action. Often times incredibly cheesy, the show had a very specific style of martial arts and slapstick humor. When I saw the trailer for the 2017 reboot of Power Rangers, it seemed more serious and modern. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from this big Hollywood adaptation, as there are so many options for the franchise in way of direction. Does it pay homage to the cheesy style of the original, or go for a more serious approach? Is this just another Hollywood nostalgia cash-in? Luckily, I’ve got all the answers.
First and foremost, you need to know that 2017’s Power Rangers is not your 90’sMighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. It’s a retelling of the original story line, complete with the same characters and overarching plot points. There’s some new elements introduced in the way of narrative, but the most drastic change is the tone. Power Rangers plays out more like an origin story with excellent teen drama and a charming moral. Once the morphing comes into play, things get a bit more loose, but for the most part the serious tone works.
The movie follows five teenage kids with different backgrounds in the small town of Angel Grove. When Jason (Dacre Montgomery), the football team hero, is punished for a school prank with year long detention, he meets the timid Billy (RJ Cyler). After becoming friends, they journey to a nearby mine to poke around. As they do this, we organically meet the rest of the team. There’s Zack (Ludi Lin), a jerkish slacker, Kimberly (Naomi Scott), a troubled cheerleader, and Trini (Becky G), the perpetual “new girl”. When the five discover glowing power coins in the mine, their path towards becoming the Power Rangers begins.
For a lot of the run time of the film, we get to know these characters and what makes them tick. The original series glossed over a lot of these base characteristics, so it was nice to see the rangers fleshed out as people. Billy (RJ Cyler) is the stand out for me, in both performance and in quality of narrative. Although he’s not the leader of the rangers (that’s Jason), he gets the most care in terms of story. Billy is the heart of Power Rangers, through and through, and watching the group friendship form around him was really pleasant. This is in part due to the excellence of the performance from the entire group. All of the cast did a really great job inhabiting their characters, except for the main villain, Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). The other major players in the origin story aspect are Zordon (Bryan Cranston), and the robot Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader). Both Zordon and Alpha 5 play guide characters, easing the group into their transition and introducing them to their true powers. Both parts are played very well, and Zordon has an interesting twist in his backstory that I enjoyed.
Rita Repulsa is the main antagonist; her presence is the entire reason the kids must become the rangers. She threatens to destroy the planet by removing the mystical Zeo Crystal from the Earth, buried below Angel Grove. As we get to know the teens, the movie will give us quick scenes of Rita returning from the dead, slowly gaining power. These early scenes are presented like a horror movie, and really fit the overall tone of the film. However, as the film nears its climax and Rita regains full power (and thus, voice), her character comes off incredibly cartoony and juvenile. She is reminiscent of the original Rita from the television show, but the cheesy delivery does not play well in the otherwise serious atmosphere.
For a movie about a group of super powered teens in brightly colored suits, there’s not a lot of morphing action. The kids don’t suit up til the final act of the film, wherein the film finally delivers on the goofy action of the original series. This final encounter is very much like a Michael Bay Transformers film, or something out of a Marvel film. However, the CGI and general action of the climax is a bit underwhelming. It was enjoyable to watch, but for all the build up, seeing the actual Power Rangers as a team didn’t strike me as hard as it could’ve. In fact, the beginning of the movie worked more for me than the ending.
Don’t get me wrong, deep in my heart where my childhood lies, I was excited to see my kid fantasies on the big screen. However, in relation to the structure of the film, the explosive ending all felt a bit rushed. I was incredibly surprised that I enjoyed the origin story aspect, which was previously my least anticipated element. I went into Power Rangers wanting something that resembled the original; a cheesy and high action ride with not a lot of down time. Instead, we got a modernized look at the characters behind the suits with a bit of flashy action.
Power Rangers turned out much better than I thought it would be. It defied my expectations by subverting them, and offering me a kind of movie I didn’t think I wanted. Thanks to some great casting with believable characters and a true sense of bonding and friendship, Power Rangers manages to be a good time. Although the ending is a bit weak and the villain has a hard clash of tone, the movie is worth a viewing, especially for fans of the original. I think that this adaptation will be divisive, and I can see why. I hope that Power Rangers proves to be a good launching pad for a trilogy or a sequel, as there’s still a bit more Mighty Morphin’ story to tell. For now, I’m content with what Power Rangers delivered on; a fun time and a new perspective.
Movie Rating: 3.5 stars.
Movie Ratings Guide
1 Star = Unwatchable
2 Stars = Cannot Recommend
3 Stars = Would Watch Again
4 Stars = A Solid Movie
5 Stars = Must Own (DVD/Stream Download)
Note: Long time fans will want to stick around for the mid-credit scene, which hints at a sequel.
I'm a life long gamer and an overall media junkie. In addition to writing great articles like this, I host a gaming/comedy podcast called "Super Gamecast 64" available on iTunes and Stitcher. I also watch an unhealthy amount of movies, and try to spread as much love into the world as I can. Hope you enjoyed the content!