Movie Review: Saban's Power Rangers
By Danny Pellegrino
March 28, 2017
The first time was an earlier scene set around a campfire. Much has been made in the press about Trini, the Yellow Ranger played by Becky G, being the first queer superhero on screen. I’ve read some reports that suggest the filmmakers didn’t do enough since the character only has one line of dialogue where she alludes to her sexuality. As a gay man, I can say that the character is explicitly gay throughout and it’s a beautiful thing to see in a big budget picture. They only need that one line of dialogue to show this because it’s clear to anyone that has struggled with sexuality in their teen years. Little boys and girls who experience puberty differently than the majority of their peers will see themselves in Trini each time she appears on screen. That little line of dialogue that spells it out a little clearer comes during the campfire scene, but it’s always there in the subtext of the character. I couldn’t help but wonder if my struggle would’ve been a little easier if I had seen that scene when I was 10 and sitting in the theater to see the first Power Rangers movie in 1995. For those counting at home, I’m a grown man that cried twice during a Power Rangers movie.
Trini may be the first queer superhero in a film this size, but there’s another first that is equally as important. Billy, the Blue Ranger, plays a pivotal role throughout the movie. He arguably steals the movie from the others, as he is the beating heart of the team. Played beautifully by RJ Cyler, Billy is on the spectrum. It’s not just implied, the character says this. And he’s a main character. A superhero. A black superhero on the spectrum. For young boys and girls on the spectrum, this is a game changer.
None of the diversity in this movie would be as powerful if it was forced. It feels real. This is what a group of teenagers in America looks like in 2017. They are boys and girls, and white and black and Asian, and LGBTQI and on the spectrum. If you’re a straight white boy, you’ve had countless Batmen and Avengers to look up to. It’s important for young children to see that it’s also women and people with autism saving the world. Saban’s Power Rangers teaches them that.
So what else works and what does not work? The movie is long. It’s just a tad over two hours. That might be tough for young kids, especially because the main action and special effects don’t come into play until the last 20-30 minutes. That’s not to say it’s boring until then, it just earns the action and builds up to it. The filmmakers save the CGI spectacle for the end and the movie is better for it. The buildup makes the payoff that much more satisfying. Seeing the Zords (giant robots controlled by the five main characters) in action at the end felt like I was seeing one of my childhood fantasies realized with a giant budget. I was grinning ear to ear like a kid again.