Power Rangers

Power Rangers
Power Rangers
Directed by Dean Israelite
Starring Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin, Bill Hader, Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks
On UK Digital Download July 24th, 2017
On UK Blu-Ray & DVD July 31st, 2017
Watch on iTunes or Amazon

by Richard Hamer

Utterly unasked, seemingly out of nowhere, comes a cinematic reboot of 90s kid’s TV favourite Power Rangers. A show that consisted of dubbing Japanese series Super Sentai, and then filming slightly flimsy new footage around it, it followed the adventures of five All-American teens who could transform into Power Rangers: colour-coded, armour wearing superheroes who used giant robot ‘Zords’ to fight Rita Repulsa, an evil alien who lived on the moon and each week would try to take over the world.

This new movie, based around the Rangers in this original mid-90s incarnation, is clearly aimed at pushing the nostalgia buttons of 30-year-old men, rather than appealing to current fans. After all, the Power Rangers TV series is still on in 2017, in the guise of Power Rangers Ninja Steel. But nobody cares about Power Rangers Ninja Steel.

All of which makes some of the Power Rangers movie’s creative decisions puzzling: this is a reboot that focuses on teen angst over super powered fighting, its tone and presentation decidedly restrained, bleak, and nothing like the original show. To become Power Rangers – so this movie posits – requires teamwork, self-sacrifice, and the placing of the needs of the many above the needs of the few. Until these five young teens feel the spirit of camaraderie deep in their hearts, their armour literally won’t activate. And so, Power Rangers is essentially a 90-minute origin story, a tale of five young outcasts that stumble across a power they don’t understand, and in the process of mastering it try to make peace with what makes them different, learn to trust and – in the most uncynical way possible – learn the power of friendship.

It’s not as dreadful as it may sound: while the young cast are not the strongest, (the big exception being the very talented RJ Cyler as Billy, who is the absolute emotional heart of the film) they tackle the material with earnestness and likeability. And, for a blockbuster based on such lightweight material, it’s simply worth applauding the effort that has been put into its characters, when producing a mindless parade of colours like Transformers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles must have been very tempting.

It’s less the idea of an origin story that’s problematic, more how the execution creates such a terribly lopsided movie, one that backloads all its energy into the closing 20 minutes. When they finally become the Power Rangers, the resulting explosion of CGI is exhilarating. As one of those 30-year-old men who grew up with the original show, the juvenile thrill of seeing my childhood brought to life is undeniable. Its action is bright, readable, and a million miles from the dark, messy CG that plagues Pacific Rim and Godzilla. I wanted to clap.

But after such an incredibly extended set-up, two things had happened. One: by the time we reached this point – and it is literally the last scene – my attention had already waned. Two: I just felt cheated. And that is probably the biggest criticism here. For all the good it does in trying to add some meat to its very lean source material (and there’s more I haven’t covered, including their spirited attempt to make Bryan Cranston’s character more than just a giant face that delivers exposition, and how funny Bill Hader is), it in the end fails to give its audiences what they want. It’s simply not exciting enough, not fun enough, to really work; either as a family adventure, or a 90s-nostalgia trip.

You will find fun in Power Rangers, but as your attention drifts to nostalgic memories of Bulk and Skull, Pachinko machines turning into giant robots, and Super Dino Megazords, you can’t help but dream of what could have been.



 

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