To begin with a bit of context: I was never really a fan of the Power Rangers when I was growing up. I’m pretty sure that I remember seeing a fair scattering of episodes on TV back in the nineties and I may very well have been around a few of the action figures; I certainly must have seen a fair share of Power Ranger toy adverts on TV. I was obviously aware of them but was never really a fan. So I surprised myself by deciding to see this new big screen outing for the popular morphing heroes, (seriously, while going to the cinema, a part of me was definitely asking “why?!”) despite some lacklustre reviews but also knowing that some good things have also been said about it.
So this new cinematic adventure is about five troubled teenagers who, at an abandoned gold mine, find some strange glowing crystals that inexplicably give them super strength and extraordinary athletic ability. They soon discover an ancient spaceship where they learn that they have become the life-protecting Power Rangers and must learn to work as a team and stop the evil Rita Repulsa from taking a Zeo crystal buried deep within the Earth, causing unknown levels of destruction.
Despite a slightly silly opening scene, Power Rangers starts off surprisingly well as we are introduced to the five main characters and we watch them get to know each other and discover their newfound abilities. This is ultimately the most rewarding part of the film as the young actors are pretty darn great, displaying some fine chemistry and heartily throwing themselves into their roles, even though two of them are introduced noticeably later than the other three so they don’t get as much development as they probably should. This opening section is actually rather mature and when they showcase their abilities, the scenes are well orchestrated, fun and entertaining.
But then of course the film takes the inevitable downturn into the absurd, starting with Bill Hader’s cartoony robot Alpha 5 (a character strictly for the kids) and then onto Bryan Cranston’s Zordon doing the whole “explain the villain’s plot, she’s pure evil, she must be stopped, there’s these magic crystals” bit, though Cranston actually comes off pretty well, despite the silly expositional dialogue.
The middle section also properly introduces Elizabeth Banks’ Rita Repulsa who at this point is surely a shoe-in for “worst screen villain of the year”. She’s the kind of blockbuster movie antagonist that we’ve come to know nowadays: pure evil, sights set on world domination, desperately looking for that pivotal device thingy that will allow her to . . . what was it? Have the power to “create or destroy worlds”, as Zordon put it? So Rita is a fairly tiresome, over-the-top pantomime villain, complete with an army of cannon fodder rock creatures and a massive sidekick made of gold. All that’s missing is a “mwah ha ha!”, though she may have actually done that at several points in the film!
There is unfortunately a massive lull in the middle of the film as not a great deal happens, even though there is an inescapable training montage, we have to sit through Rita’s tiresome evildoings and the film holds out on the actual morphing for far too long. Instead, the Rangers have to go through all the touchy-feely stuff, learning each other’s secrets and creating a familial bond. To be fair, the cast are so talented that they manage to successfully pull it off and when they eventually morph it definitely feels earned, but the dialogue takes a bit of a schmaltzy turn and the overlong wait for them to morph becomes a bit annoying – “just morph, already!”, you’ll be shouting!
But then the final battle arrives and it’s actually not that bad, even though fighting time in the Ranger suits is sadly limited, instead going all Transformers with the Zords, with a self-aware, self-depricating Transformers joke thrown in for good measure. The climax is entertaining enough and the Megazord is actually quite impressive but ultimately, it’s not enough of a payoff as it’s relatively too brief and the film takes too much time in getting to its conclusion. Actual Power Ranger scenes are few and far between and although they deliver in entertainment value, there’s not enough of them and don’t quite justify making the film.
As mentioned previously, the five leads are really quite superb and serve as the film’s main saving grace. In particular, Dacre Montgomery proves to be a strong, commanding leader as the Red Ranger and RJ Cyler (excellent in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) delivers all the best quips admirably and is the heart and soul of the feature, quite possibly the MVP. All in all, the leads share a great bond and do well with the questionable script; when they eventually morph, it is definitely deserved.
So I’d have to say that I enjoyed Power Rangers a bit more than I thought I would. Its plot is typical of an Easter holiday blockbuster, a trifle absurd and not meant to be taken seriously, but there are enough entertaining scenes and the five leads effectively make the movie.