I want to make one thing very clear from the get-go. I’m a huge Power Rangers and Super Sentai fan. What does that mean? Well, for one it means I’ve been waiting a long time for this movie. And for two, it means I’m coming at this review from a place of genuine love for the source material.
I grew up on the Rangers and watched everything from Mighty Morphin all the way up to Zeo and the first cinematic outing in 1995. Then I did that thing that everyone does as a teenager where they become too ‘cool’ to acknowledge what they once enjoyed and pass it off as ‘growing up’. I reconnected with the show a few years back and have been wanting a big screen offering for a little while.
When this was announced, I had my doubts but I kept an open mind. Well, my fears have been laid to rest. I enjoyed every minute of this movie. It takes an outdated format and breathes new life into it.
I wouldn’t know where to start in describing what made this movie pop for me. If I had to start anywhere, I’d start with the cast. We’re given two big-name stars in Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks playing Zordon and Rita Repulsa respectively and right from the start, we’re introduced to their conflict in such a immediate way. The opening minutes of the story are literally Zordon’s final attempt to contain Rita before she destroys Earth in search of the Zeo Crystal. He succeeds in doing so and, without revealing too much, sets the scene for the story to pick up some 65 million years later when Rita makes her big comeback.
Cranston plays a very different Zordon here. Where the show’s Zordon was a benevolent and self-sacrificing mentor, from the get-go you know that this version of the character is simply using the Rangers to further his own goals. It adds a new layer to the character that makes a lot of sense in the context of this movie.\
A lot o\\f the negative reaction to movie’s promotional material has been aimed at Elizabeth Banks interpretation of Rita Repulsa. Gone is the crazy huge dress and Madonna-bra to be replaced with a sleek, dare-I-say, sexier design that has more in common with classic (if under-used) Ranger foe Scorpina than it does with old-school Rita. Banks channels her inner crazy here and occasionally goes too far into the realms of campiness. Luckily she manages to rein it in just enough to remain dangerous. Not that a bit of campiness isn’t welcome, of course, it’s Power Rangers after all. Her Rita doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty either unlike the original; at one point taking out all five Rangers.
The Rangers themselves are fantastic. I’m unfamiliar with the majority of the performers with the exception of Naomi Scott who I’d seen in Terra Nova. I was impressed with the way the characters were faced with real-life problems and how well they were handled by the script. It made them all identifiable in a way that the original five weren’t. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Rangers in the show but they were too goody-good and didn’t have lives that I could relate to besides some issues that lasted one episode only to be forgotten about by the next adventure.
Oh and a shout-out to Bill Hader who with one or two ‘aye-aye-ayes’, takes a character who could’ve been cringe worthy and makes him fun, sarcastic and a little bit of a bad-ass too.
Of course, Power Rangers isn’t Power Rangers without bright costumes and giant robots. It takes a while for the Rangers to transform into their butt-kicking guises. Were this any other superhero movie, I’d be disappointed but this film makes the transition organic and relatable. Zordon explains that the Rangers were a force for good and as such, the five teens struggle to accept it at first. They think in selfish ways throughout much of the movie as would any normal person thrust into a similar position. There’s very much a ‘Hero’s Journey’ vibe to the plot. They aren’t simply given the power they, have to earn it. The journey is as important as the destination. And, oh boy, it’s a fist-pumping moment when they morph at last and don their coloured outfits. One scene in particular gave me goosebumps. It had the Rangers in their Zords running toward battle with the classic Power Rangers them playing. That scene was so cool and made me just wanna go out and buy all the toys (I bought the blue ranger right after).
As for the fight sequences, they’re competently shot and effects heavy. Thankfully the colours of the Rangers make it easy to see who’s who and what’s going on which is an issue many have with Bay’s Transformers movies. When they’re piloting the Zords, it’s a lot of fun. The action is fast, energetic and doesn’t last so long that it gets repetitive. One part has the Red Ranger leaving his Zord to save a man trapped in a burning vehicle. That stood out as it was yet another thing the show never addressed; the people on the ground when these giant creatures are smashing up the city. I am going to complain about one thing, however. Goldar was a generic faceless enemy in the movie as opposed to the gold-armoured winged dog warrior that I liked from the show. I wish they’d done him properly with an actual character and not a mindless minion.
Dean Israelite and Lionsgate have done an exemplary job of taking a show that, while still popular, had become mired in formulaic scripts and a general apathy even from hardcore fans, and made it count again. I know some will instantly dismiss this movie because they’ll say the show is ‘cheesy’. Ok sure the film’s core message about working together to achieve your goals is hokey and a blatant throwback to its Saturday morning origins, but it’s handled well here. And I’d rather watch a film with a positive message.
I don’t know if this movie’s doing well at the box office but I hope so because I think it deserves it for making Power Rangers cool again. Also this movie sets up a sequel that I desperately want to happen. Stay behind for a mid-credits sequence that makes mention of a certain new student who may make the Rangers’ lives difficult in a second adventure. I would love to chat at length about the characters that I haven’t touched on but deserve a good look but in the interest of keep this review at a manageable length, I feel I should stop here. But seriously, check this movie out. It’s great fun for fans and non-fans and is hopefully going to keep going. I have already pre-ordered the Blu-ray.