Power Rangers Review

By
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Movies:
Matt Donato

Reviewed by:
Rating:
2.5
On March 22, 2017
Last modified:March 22, 2017

Summary:

Power Rangers doesn't completely fail as an origin story, but it's too familiar with its new-age reboot mentality that repurposes instead of recreates.

These aren’t your after school, eating-Ellio’s-pizza-in-front-of-the-TV childhood heroes. Dean Israelite’s Power Rangers won’t show any piggy gladiators guzzling trash (Pudgy Pig, respect). Children were crying in my screening. Scout’s honor. One single scene brought numerous kids to tears, in a way that Saban’s televised tomfoolery never could. This is the dark, gritty Power Rangers 2017 demanded, because why create an original superhero movie? Just recycle an existing property by stripping most familiarities, then take cues from an ACTUAL original superhero concept that had the balls to defy mainstream appeal (Chronicle!). Weave some Transformers magic (nice shout out to Bumblebee), drizzle dump some teen angst into a melodramatic script and cover the original theme for a hot second. That’s how you do a reboot these days, kids! Now fork over your dough and feed the machine.

It all starts with a high schooler jerking off a bull (off screen). Did you double take? I’m serious.

Football stud Jason (Dacre Montgomery) pranks Angel Grove High by smuggling a bull inside the school (after his friend “milks” it), which leads to injury and arrest. He’s sentenced to Saturday detention (along with a monitor anklet), where he meets Billy (RJ Cyler), an autistic wiz-kid, and spies Kimberly (Naomi Scott), a now-disgraced cheerleader. Through friendship and escape, the three end up trespassing inside a mining zone, where Zack (Ludi Lin) happens to be relaxing and Trini (Becky G.) is doing yoga to metal riffage. Billy blows a rock wall to smithereens, colored stones are found, then yadda yadda to Zordon (Bryan Cranston) and Alpha 5 (Bill Hader) assembling a new Power Rangers team. Can they train quick enough to defeat Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) before she grabs Earth-shattering power crystals from underneath a Krispy Kreme eatery?

I know. The hell if I know what’s going on, either.

Israelite is shooting for an older audience – parents be warned. There are a few pure horror sequences featuring Bank’s killer-mermaid-esque Rita, while themes are geared towards outcast maturity. Each ranger has their own internal crisis to embrace – Trini’s closeted sexuality and acceptance, Kimberly’s mean girl past – as Jason guides his team with melodramatic monologues. Writer John Gatins clashes with Isrealite’s grim, shadowy tone, navigating the most obvious “hero” arc manageable for these accidental teammates. Rock-bashing fight sequences speed directly into heavy heart-to-hearts, but there’s no lingering emotion. Even at two-hours-plus, Power Rangers feels like it rushes through team-building in favor of Goldar’s “golden shower of destruction” finale.

Details are very 21st-century, from mech-detailed suits to Zordon’s pin art face. Alpha 5 gets a spiffy new CG design, separating his eyes and going with Bill Hader’s voice acting. So why does it feel so underwhelming? Rita’s Putty Patrol become golems who emerge from the ground, grey and lifeless. Goldar no longer has distinguishable features, he’s just an oozy amorphous blob standing in warrior stance. Dinozords zoom around while levelling Angel Grove, metallic spaceship scenes block light and costumes are but shiny expediencies. It doesn’t help that cinematography swings around frantically, nor that edits are whip-quick to a fault. There’s a kinetic energy attempted that works in few spurts, maybe to distract from animation-heavy Putty brawls?

It’s such a dour film, except when Elizabeth Banks steals the show as Rita Repulsa. Can you say must-see performance? “Must-see” like what in Cretaceous Christ is this insane psycho fish-person-goldmonger doing and why do I love it? While Jason and his crew pouty-face around a fire, Banks’ emerald death queen curiously munches a Krispy Kreme doughnut (while Goldar tears the shop down). Half the time she’s muttering made-up songs/sayings about gold, crazy-eyed and with homeless appeal. Then she goes gold-fetish dominatrix and starts projecting the most insane villain emotions this side of Eltar. Call me wrong, but is there a quick-shot of her gnawing a ranger’s face in some weird, apocalyptic flashback? Oh, and her final sequence!! A slap-happy finale befitting this celestial psycho-killer, set to make so many “Best Movie Moments Of 2017” lists.

Teenage performances aren’t forgettable, but few are truly noteworthy. Dacre Montgomery plays stud leader with a white-boy charisma we’ve seen in too many superhero adaptations to this point. Fatherly headbutts (against David Denman) hint that parent just don’t understand, while he wears popularity like a curse. Naomi Scott follows suit with her own story of toppling Queen Bee status, but it’s so back and forth with conviction. At least she’s not relegated to jester like Ludi Lin, but then there’s Becky G. and RJ Cyler. These two play the film’s resident “woke” demographic, who actually end up scoring the most human, open performances of their crusader core. Inclusion rings true (even commented on by Alpha 5), at least granting the most important character arcs proper voices.

I’m all for themes about summoning inner strength. As Zordon builds his future saviors, instructions confirm their armor already exists inside them. They can only access it by connecting as one team, uniting through bonded spirit. It’s sweet, sincere and all that. We possess the power to overcome! No one is ever alone! But if this is the case, commit to serious tones throughout. Alpha’s trademark “Aye Yai Yai!” plays like a gimmick more than mood-breaker. Rita’s raucous nature feels ripped from a different movie (old-school Power Rangers, in fact). There’s an imbalance between “good-natured” comedics and a want for straight-edge tension, slanting the backbone of Israelite’s subject. All in the name of kiddie fun for older ages?

Power Rangers wants nothing to do with its 90s origins or wacky ninja shenanigans. Adolescent hardships play paramount roles in a story of personal redemption, like if The Breakfast Club stumbled upon a crashed alien spaceship – but without personality. Except Rita Repulsa! She’s the constant asterisk next to all my disagreements, because Elizabeth Banks defies a sternness that Dean Israelite instills early and often. As expected, this is the hard-hitting, tone-deaf Power Rangers remake no one asked for. Why? Because nostalgia sells and proprietary investment already exists. Chalk up another unenthusiastic sigh for Hollywood redundancy.

Power Rangers Review
Middling

Power Rangers doesn't completely fail as an origin story, but it's too familiar with its new-age reboot mentality that repurposes instead of recreates.