I’m a huge fan of the original series that Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers comes from. I’ve watched Go Ranger, Jetman, Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger, and more with the latter forming the bulk of the original Power Rangers TV series. So, when I heard the news that there was going to be an attempt of a movie reboot I found myself having some mixed feelings. On one hand, there is the opportunity to make a somewhat serious film with a strong cast, but then there is also the possibility that the film could turn out to be sheer drivel with characters that are even more two-dimensional than what the early TV series used to deliver. Lucky for us, I saw the former.
The cast who make up the young Power Rangers are largely unknown here in the US, although the actor who plays Zack (Ludi Lin) did have a very successful career already in parts of Asia, and that might be one of the reasons why this movie worked as well as it did by casting relatively unknowns. Each of the Power Rangers is given a sufficient amount of time on screen for introduction and development, as well as shared on screen time to allow for them to start to come together and become the titular team that is practically their destiny, and what a varied a varied group of characters we have.
Dacre Montgomery (Jason/Red Ranger) is the tall, handsome, broad-shouldered young man who passes himself off as a natural leader. Even after shortly meeting him we see that he has a good heart and basically tries to do the good thing, despite some earlier conversation that would suggest otherwise. It’s not Shakespeare, but Dacre doesn’t handle the part lightly either. Almost from the beginning we see a fully realized character who simply needs to overcome his own demons and become the person that everyone needs him to be.
Naomi Scott as Kimberly (Pink Ranger) is a far cry from the character of the same name from the TV series. That Kimberly was a gymnast, a top student, and beloved by all. Scott’s Kimberly, while not necessarily a bad person, has done bad things that continue to haunt her, and yet desperately wants to do good.
Rounding out the Power Rangers are two characters who give the team more diversity than has been seen in any movie of this type. We have Becky G. (Trini/Yellow Ranger) who comes off in quite a standoffish sort of way. Even some of the nicknames she receives help to reinforce that thinking, and yet when we find out that she is gay (This is not a spoiler as it has been all over the entertainment rags for weeks now.) we start to understand that this is a person who simply doesn’t want to get hurt, so she refuses to establish any roots. Lastly, there is RJ Cyler as Billy (Blue Ranger) who plays the character as being autistic. It’s only been very recently that this information was leaked to the press, which did help to better understand certain scenes and clips from trailers that showed Billy acting in almost too comical a manner. Understanding that his character suffers from autism helps to make the character so much more believable, and even his antics are now more plausible without becoming utterly ridiculous. As uniquely different as each character is, this cast operates with a strong chemistry that clearly shows an evolution in both themselves as well as the team.
My one initial holdout with the cast was that of Rita Repulsa. Even with that name, and Elizabeth Banks playing the part, it sounds overly cartoonish, which runs the risk of bringing this movie down to grade school level. In all of the trailers we see a truly beautiful villainess that only lends support to the potentially juvenile aspect of the character and movie, but she is anything like that. As with our heroes, even Rita is on a character developmental arc that shows her evolve into something quite different by the end of the movie than how she was when we first meet her. Then there are Bill Hader and Bryan Cranston, respectively as Alpha 5 and Zordon. We do get a few moments where we actually get to see Bryan Cranston, but the rest of the time he’s a computerized head that talks. We do get a few moments where we actually get to see Bryan Cranston, but the rest of the time he’s a computerized head that talks.
The movie, while generally faithful to the source material, does take us on a few changes from what old timers (such as myself) might actually remember. It also does the viewer a great service by pretty much hitting the ground running. Not only are we introduced to our characters early on in the film, we see them get placed on the path to meet their destiny, and that is where I had my shocking realization. Having been familiar with the old Sentai series I found myself expecting specific beats and moments in the movie that helped to give it a certain amount of predictability. However, had the writers chosen to do otherwise it would have only cheapened the finished product. Even when we finally meet our 5 young heroes together for the first time, the process isn’t rushed. Unfortunately there may be some who view that as a detriment to the movie as the audience clearly is waiting for specific moments to occur, only to be delivered in a way that would degrade and cheapen the film. While I was expecting such storytelling shortcuts to more rapidly advance the plot, I was pleased that the makers chose to take a more conventional (Cliché perhaps?) method. Predictable? Yes. Good? Most definitely.
If I were to compare this film to anything already out there, I would say that this felt like something that might have been written and directed by John Hughes. There are moments that even feel like The Breakfast Club. They could have given us the “goody two-shoes” characters we had in the series, but instead we were given people who were able to raise up to face the deadly challenge ahead of them, in spite of their flaws. That’s what makes Power Rangers such a strong movie. This isn’t just a fun action flick with giant robots fighting. this is a story that tells us that anyone, despite how they were born, or any tragic acts they may have committed that managed to hurt others, can rise to the occasion and become something better… They can become heroes.
Special thanks goes out to FingerPaint Marketing for holding the press screening that the Two Gay Geeks were able to attend.
I give this movie 4 out of 5 Zords.
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