Movie Review: Power Rangers
By Ben Gruchow
April 3, 2017
The coins belong to Zordon, it turns out, now appearing as wall-sized pin art; their discovery of the coins means they are destined to become the new Power Rangers. Not a moment too soon, either; Rita has returned, and she plans to raise a mythical beast that will eradicate all life on Earth. The kids will need to train, gain command of their powers and ability to morph into and out of their armor at will, and work together as a team. This is all standard material for the genre; others have compared this film to the infamous 2015 reboot of Fantastic Four, but to my eyes it's a lot closer to X-Men: strangers with identities they don't fully understand come into a preexisting power infrastructure and must adapt to defeat an emerging threat. If it lacks the poise and formality of the 2000 film, it also lacks the uncomfortably stiff and cold interpersonal dynamics of the 2015 one.
It also breathes a little easier (if also more languidly) than either of those; the introduction-and-training part of the movie occupies the front two-thirds of a 124-minute movie, and it stands to reason that the back 30 percent, where Rita makes her grand entrance as the antagonist and we get virtually all the plot and rising action crammed in, would feel the messiest. This is the sophomore effort from director Dean Israelite, and it bears the hallmarks of a still-green director yet uncertain of their sensibility: the first two acts are competent but workmanlike, with visuals that occasionally leap out at us but more often feel perfunctory (a long revolving take in the beginning is technically impressive without ever being more than mildly emotionally arousing; a dream sequence gets the point across without taking on the texture of a dream). And once the pyrotechnics start up in the final stretch, it's evident that Israelite dispensed his energy and attention at getting the movie through the sequence intact more than doing so with any real flair or scope or tension.
Power Rangers is hardly alone in its storytelling timidity and visceral shallowness; surer franchise bets than this have shared in those attributes by appealing to the widest audience possible and saving the creativity for later. Each of the other films mentioned in this review (save for Fantastic Four) had middling initial installments before taking significant steps forward in visual and narrative boldness with their sequels. And there's a certain raggedness here that's beneficial to the movie’s spirit. The final act may lack much scope or impact, but it allows the characters to continue evolving without having to stop for forced pathos (it also contains the movie’s single most successful visual gag, involving a donut).
This is all feather-light, low-stakes material, and it scarcely waits for the end credits to begin jaunting out of our brain. But there's a friendliness and a certain emotional intelligence to it, anchored by a mid-film campfire scene that's authentic in its sensitivity. The ingredients are there to produce a future storyline of greater consequence and impact, which is positively miles ahead of where I thought we'd be while allowing this film its own distinct, if modest, pleasures.
3 out of 5