Ever since I caught a glimpse of the costume designs and the terrible looking trailers, I had completely written Power Rangers off as a half-assed superhero cash grab. It could have easily capitalized on the superhero box office and been a terrible film, much like Batman V. Superman did last year. All the marketing surrounding the film seemed to indicate that it was nothing more than a Chronicle rip-off, with a Power Rangers license slapped on it for good measure. Then, something shocking happened. I saw the film...and I liked it. I liked it a lot.
Power Rangers is full of surprises, especially for those who were down on the movie before seeing it. The biggest and most important standout is the characters. These characters could have easily been two-dimensional; instead they are given enough screen time to be legitimately interesting, with lives that are somewhat relatable. The cast is incredibly diverse, and I’m not just talking about race. By now, I’m sure you’ve heard that this film features the first LGBTQ character to be a main protagonist in a superhero film. BUT I’m almost certain you haven’t heard of something that I would argue is more important. Billy (RJ Cyler) is the first superhero protagonist to be autistic. It’s not just autism that makes him unique; it’s that he is legitimately the most interesting and lovable character in the film. It’s refreshing that the characters work so well because the film spends a lot of time growing and nurturing them. Almost too much.
I’m all for creating great characters at the cost of some spectacle, but Power Rangers has about as much fighting in it as a typical Power Rangers episode. There’s one long fight scene at the end of the film that, although it feels like a well deserved payoff, is was too fast. While most of the fight scenes seem to end before they really get good, I’ll admit they are all well done. Do I wish the final battle between Megazord and Goldar went on a bit longer? Yeah. But it wouldn’t have made narrative sense to prolong the battle in the small town they’re trying to protect.
A Tale of Two Ritas
Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) is an iffy villain. She initially comes off as intimidating and even a little unsettling, but as she regains her true form (complete with gold tooth), she becomes silly. There’s almost an ebb and flow to her villain throughout the film. She starts off scary, gets goofy, then intimidating, then ends up somewhere in-between. It’s a strange performance, but one that I wouldn’t mind seeing again in future films.
There are a few things that detract from the movie as a whole. First is an overreliance on things happening by chance, and although this could likely be tied to the destiny of the new set of Rangers, it’s hard to believe that this set of five kids who were not friends all came together at the same time to stumble upon powers. Also, it just so happens that Rita is discovered the very next day. It’s all a bit much for my suspension of disbelief but, again, it’s probably ‘destiny.’
Another thing that is just a bit off-putting is Power Rangers’ tendency to veer into melodrama at times. Most of the time the drama works just fine, but it does come off a bit heavy handed at times. One last note: those Zord designs are awful. So bad that I couldn’t tell what animals most of them were supposed to be.
All-in-all, Power Rangers is a surprisingly enjoyable film. Fans will likely enjoy it for the characters, although if you go in expecting disaster-porn, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Power Rangers is a character driven film through and through. Now that we have a rock solid origin story established, I do hope we can have a good bit more of classic Power Rangers action in future films.