by Max Levine
Power Rangers is an action-adventure syndicated kids series that was created in the 1990s with the explicit purpose of selling overpriced toys to some dumbass kids. We were all those dumbass kids, and our parents collectively bought millions of those terrible toys, which now fill Goodwills and attics across the nation. Now we are grown, and we all have miserable, disgusting lives, and we are governed by movie executives who can’t think of new things. These old men need us to spend our money, and so they sat in a hot stuffy room for two hours and said out loud in unison “Powerful Rangers.” Then they got lunch and called it a day. And you know what? Somehow these awful old men, with pretty much no ideas other than rehashing nostalgia over and over, constructed a pretty decent adaptation of a beloved toy commercial series.
The Powerful Ranger movie is good. Uneven, and perhaps a little too highly indicative of other CGI-riddled, brainless top-grossing American blockbusters, but nonetheless, good. And what more could you really expect? It hits all the bases—those being:
-It introduces a charismatic and eclectic group of new Power Rangers.
-There are Zords.
-Bryan Cranston as Zordon communicating to the Power Rangers through some Pin Art IMAX screen like he’s the goddamn Poltergeist.
-ADHD-fueled punching and kicking at whatever disposable adversary Saban’s team chose that week.
-Tons and tons and tons of product placement (more on that later).
So it fulfills the minimum requirements. However, it takes a very, very long time to get to that familiar, nostalgic and honestly awesome place. Dean Israelite definitely derives inspiration from a lot of classic John Hughes films and contemporary American coming-of-age stories, and the opening of the film certainly proves it. We’re abruptly thrown into the seemingly unassuming suburban world of Angel Grove, where football star/soon-to-be-leader-of-the-
As a result, he is given detention every day after school, where he befriends oddball classmate Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler). Billy takes Jason to an abandoned mine, where they inadvertently bump into the rest of the Power Rangers crew and slowly begin to discover their true potential, which just happens to be a bunch of different colored rocks that give them super powers.
When the audience starts exploring the mines with the team, it moves beyond the simple implicit echoes of The Goonies and Chronicle, and it honestly takes on a surprisingly meditative and ethereal tone, one you become sort of surprised to see in something like Power Rangers. And as a whole the film certainly has its moments where it doesn’t seem as simple as your run-of-the-mill Hollywood adaptation. It feels rewarding to watch the team grow into a cohesive whole. But Power Rangers’ fundamental problem is this takes an unbelievably long time.
The Hollywood superhero adaptation ethos is and always will be “subject the audience to an unreasonably long origin story before giving them thirty minutes of what they actually want,” and Power Rangers is absolutely no exception to this. Throughout the movie, Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) is gaining enough power to build her army of CGI rock monsters to steal an artifact called the Zeo Crystal, which could destroy Angel Grove and, in a broader sense, the world or something. In order to defeat Rita, the Power Rangers must work together under the guidance of Zordon and Alpha 5 (Bill Hader) to get their coveted and commercially viable power armor. But acquiring the armor takes a solid hour of training montages and team-building exercises, and at a certain point watching these scenes, paired with the foibles of the oddly overly sexualized version of Rita Repulsa—certainly a feat to do to a villain that looked like an anthropomorphic potato bag with horns—becomes exhausting. Additionally, and perhaps this is a minor gripe, when the much-anticipated action sequences come up, there are moments where it’s hard to distinguish what the Power Rangers are actually fighting. For a movie with a one-hundred-million-dollar budget, you would expect a little more life and expression in these monsters that so many animators spent so long working on.
So at the end of the day, a lot of that revered nostalgic campiness is sacrificed for something a little more mechanical. The tone of the film is far more severe than the Power Rangers millennials once knew, and perhaps that might be a bit of a deterrent for the younger generation. But the heart and inclusiveness of the original series is there. This film introduced the first LGBTQ and autistic superhero, which speaks volumes about a series that has always stood as a symbol of young American multiculturalism and unity. And hopefully, regardless of this new and slightly shinier backdrop, that message will still ring true for future films.
Power Rangers is now playing in theatres.