The “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” is a pop culture phenomenon I just missed in the early ‘90’s. TV and toy stores were bombarded with these masked superheroes and their infectious theme song. What the show failed to tell its audience was that this was a show that literally borrowed footage from the original “Super Sentai” programs from Japan. Shows like “Goranger” and the show that would be the American Power Rangers, “Zyuranger” were the shows of my youth. Living in Hawaii while watching channel 11, KIKU, I would watch in wonder as these shows were 80’s staples full of masked heroes who thwarted evil robots and tentacled ghouls. Any young boy living in Hawaii at that time would and could tell you about it and role play them at recess. My favorite of these programs from my childhood were “Kikaida” and “Kamenrider”. By the time the “Power Rangers” rolled around I felt that these were nothing but cheap knockoffs of what was once cool. I couldn’t deny the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” success and influence as these Rangers would see multiple iterations, two movies, and millions in merchandise sales. The power of the Rangers has diminished over the decades, but it’s still a moneymaker. It was just a matter of time until Hollywood would tap this franchise for a reboot and in 2017, the Power Rangers come to cinemas reimagined and reengineered.
In the quaint town of Angel Grove, five high school students, who don’t share much in common, through circumstance find themselves thrust together as two of these teens, Jason and Billy make their way to an abandoned gold mine. Jason finds a way to detonate some explosives in the mind and attracts unwanted attention from Kimberly, Trini, Zack and the local authorities. As Kimberly, Trini, and Zack find Jason and Billy, all of them happenstance upon five coins in the mine, which unbeknownst to them possess otherworldly properties. As the authorities arrive, the five make a break for it and the truck they try to get away in is hit by a train. They awake to find themselves at home, but with abilities they never possessed. This discovery leads them on an adventure where they will learn about a prehistoric Earth; its protectors, its betrayers, a crystal that holds special power, and how they too may just play a pivotal role as heroes as an old evil has arisen in modern day Angel Grove.
“Power Rangers”, is a franchise that didn’t need resurrection, but somehow pulls off a decent afternoon at the movies. The reason why the first half of this film works is because director, Dean Israelite builds emotional investment in his five leads. The five leads here have no right to be as good as they are. Every one of these actors; Dacre Montgomery as Jason, Naomi Scott as Kimberly, RJ Cyler as Billy, Becky G as Trini, and Ludi Lin as Zack all bring something to the table here. They all mesh well together and share a good amount of chemistry. Our supporting cast is also good here, Bryan Cranston as Zordon does as well as he can as just a face on screen, but Elizabeth Banks chews up the celluloid as Rita Repulsa. Banks relishes every moment as Rita and the film is better because of it. “Power Rangers” crosses a few film genres, but ultimately they blend well and makes the movie more than it could have been.
Up until this point, the film felt quite like “Chronicle” with a John Hughes twist and it was enjoyable. Once the teens don the famous Power Ranger suits the film takes a turn for the absurd with familiar theme song, a big battle, bad martial arts and larger than life mechanical behemoths. This climax was what the audience had been waiting for and once it starts it’s all over too quickly. I do think that the way the Rangers learn how to control these new mechanized monsters with their friendship with one another was a bit ridiculous, but forgivable. I did feel that the film was just ramping up and all of sudden brought to a screeching halt. “Power Rangers” commits one last sin that is unpardonable. Interweaving the product placement of Krispy Kreme into the story the way they did in this film was completely over the top and felt like it belonged in a parody film. Product placement is not an issue when in movies for me, but when done in the fashion it is in the “Power Rangers”, I knew I had to call the film out on it.
“Power Rangers” is a movie that was better than I thought it would be. I may have gone in with low expectations, but what I was given was a competent teen movie with a “Power Ranger” finish. It may not be worth full price, but it’s definitely worth a matinee. Lastly, forgive me for being cheesy here, but if I can say this with the famous “Power Rangers” theme in my head, “Go, go see the movie”.
Two and a Half Stars
-originally published in MAUIWatch