POWER RANGERS

I don’t really have any nostalgia for the Power Rangers. It’s strange, since it’s a show I often watched as a young child and owned a lot of toys of, but I never kept much interest in it beyond that. I really only liked watching the big robot punch monsters. Similar to the recent Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films, this new Power Rangers is another shameless attempt at cashing in on millenial’s incessant craving for nostalgia. However, sometimes those money grubbing film producers happen to hire some filmmakers that actually care about what they’re doing and attempt to making some good, no matter what.

Jason (Dacre Montgomery) was once a popular football player at his high school, until a horrible car accident driven by his poor decisions ruins his future. With his reputation in shambles and forced to endure perpetual Saturday detentions, he meets up with other teenage misfits Billy (RJ Cyler), Kimberly (Naomi Scott), Zack (Ludi Lin), and Trini (Beck G.). After happening upon some mysterious glowing artifacts, they find themselves endowed with superhuman abilities. They soon find out from giant talking head Zordon (Bryan Cranston) that they must become the Power Rangers and save Earth from imminent destruction.

A film called Power Rangers has no right to be as decent as this was. The filmmakers knew what kind of film they were hired to do. Just look at the title. They were smart about it, though. They could have just wrote a cheap, generic cash in filled with overblown action scenes and no depth. Instead, they actually tried to do something interesting with the material by grounding it a bit and really focusing on the characters. Now, I know inherently cheesy material, such as comic books, get a bad rap when given the “dark and gritty” treatment, but it honestly gives the filmmakers a bit more to work with in terms of depth. This film wasn’t so much gritty, but it felt real. The chemistry between the main group is fantastic, and you really feel like you watch their relationships and characters grow throughout. While none of them are super complex, they all have their own unique personalities and each have plenty to do.

The best part, and what we don’t see enough of in blockbusters, is that the action actually means something. The film is all about these kids learning to be a team, but even when they’re kicking rock monsters in the face, there’s little moments of growth between them. This isn’t a very action heavy film, as the first ¾ are building up the characters and they don’t even get the suits until the last half hour. However, them getting the suits is used as a thematic device, as the team needs to be “ready” before they can use them. When they finally get their costumes at the end, it feels satisfying from a storytelling and character standpoint. It’s not something that happens just because it needs to.  The entire film is built around the premise of people forming relationships and growing, and I commend the filmmakers for actually taking time to make these people believable. Sure, some of it is shoddily handled, with some lame scenes of forced exposition, but it all really works in the end to where I actually cared about them.

It honestly feels a bit refreshing among all of the other big blockbusters. Even the final action scene is pretty tame and doesn’t get too ridiculous. That is somewhat to the film’s detriment, though, as that’s part of what we want to see in a Power Rangers film. As fun as the characters were, it did start to feel a little tedious and repetitive towards the end. The action scenes aren’t terribly impressive either, but I was invested, because the filmmakers still focused on the characters during them. Although we know the Power Rangers will win, I actually felt a little bit of tension, because the action had purpose.

That doesn’t mean the film doesn’t fall into the same generic blockbuster trappings, though. There’s an overload of awful pop music, that never added anything to the scenes. Only called way too much attention to themselves. It’s baffling that the director would have a scene playing the iconic Power Rangers song immediately followed by some Top 40 single while they blow monsters up. When it gets into the actual material of the show, the tone shift starts to feel a little jarring. This is especially evident with Elizabeth Bank’s hysterical performance as a villain named Rita Repulsa, where she basically plays a disgusting looking witch on a hunt for gold. I couldn’t tell whether I was supposed to be laughing, or terrified, but she certainly left an impression… of some sort.

There were certainly moments that caused me to roll my eyes and cringe, but those ended up being small problems overall. Power Rangers isn’t a perfect film, nor is it even great. It’s not groundbreaking, but in this current state of cynical, overblown blockbusters, it’s a welcome change of pace. While the film is shameless in it’s intent, as it’s nothing more than a cash grab, I’m happy the filmmakers actually had a little integrity to the focus on characters first, and action second. Sometimes, all you need in a film is some well rounded, honest characters with great chemistry to keep you invested. Something we don’t get enough of in this current blockbuster climate.

6.5/10

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