The 400-Word Review: Power Rangers
By Sean Collier
March 29, 2017
A great many projects — real, imagined, pitched, bombed and otherwise — could complete the following sentence: “Of all the things to reboot, why would you bother with...”
Undoubtedly, the “Power Rangers” franchise would do a fine job filling out that question. A sprawling empire of television shows, movies, games and toys emerged from the original “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” series, even though that series was only somewhat original to begin with; American actors were cast to record wrap-around stories that would frame reused fight scenes from Japanese children’s programming.
It was a hit, undeniably, but mainly for its ridiculousness; sub-“Saved by the Bell” level morality plays accompanied near-laughable kaiju action sequences in a brightly-colored mess that was catnip to pre-teen viewers. Not exactly a likely target for a gritty reboot, then, but here we are.
We open Power Rangers millions of years in the past, when Zoltar (Bryan Cranston — seriously, Bryan Cranston is in this) and his team of Power Rangers died protecting the Earth from a nefarious former ally by the name of Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). Before he perished, Zoltar managed to hide away a quintet of powerful artifacts that would grant superpowers to worthy successors when Repulsa returned.
So a group of mismatched teens finds the artifacts, Repulsa’s body turns up on a fishing boat and off we go. The introduction has shades of Breakfast Club and Friday Night Lights, a surprisingly earthbound opening for a film that will eventually see robo-dinosaurs fighting a giant gold golem to a Kanye West soundtrack.
And, it must be said, this Power Rangers is better than it has any right to be — which almost instantly makes it the franchise’s high-water mark. The lineup of youths who will (eventually) don the suits is refreshingly varied and distinct, and two in particular — RJ Cyler, as Billy (the blue one), and Becky G., as Trini (the yellow one) — give the film more humor and emotional heft than I expected. Banks, always reliable, is an excellent villain.
The film’s opening half-hour does a perfectly acceptable job bringing the group together, and the climactic battles are fun (although shot using the dated unstable-camera method that John Wick was supposed to have finally killed off). The film is far too long, with an interminable middle act. But given low expectations, “okay” has to be seen as a win.
My Rating: 6/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark