In Power Rangers, five teenagers become infused with alien powers, which they must master to save the world.
Much like other nostalgia-ridden 90’s properties that are looked back on fondly by those who scarcely remember them, Power Rangers was about due for a reboot. And so, Dean Israelite answered the call with his glossy, modern revamping of the franchise, made for an estimated $100,000,000 USD.
While the story and intrigue are hardly present on screen, the money certainly is. Power Rangers opens with a hard-core sci-fi battle scene, the visuals of which are rendered beautifully. The colour pallet is vibrant and mature, and is devoid of the cheap hues and dated aesthetic that defined the TV series. The film then transitions into a car chase that strangely cribs the famous rotating single take in Children of Men (2006). Both scenes have the camera mounted in the centre of a moving vehicle, as chase is given and chaos surrounds. It’s an odd choice for a film which is clearly rooted in a very different sensibility to try and emulate a piece of work so starkly different. But Power Rangers is often derivative like that. The dialogue reads as though its been written by a computer that can only communicate in clichés about small town existence, and the trite struggles of teenage life we often see poorly translated to the screen. It also follows the formulaic structure of a hero origin story, with startling similarities to Josh Trank’s Chronicle (2012). Finally, the third act has not one surprise or original moment. The climax of the film unfolds in a way that is so predictable it would almost read as tongue-in-cheek, had the previous hour-and-a-half of the film’s running time (yes, Power Rangers is two hours long) not been somewhat earnest.
It’s this combination of earnestness and stale genre conventions that make Power Rangers such an odd thing to consider. It sits in the middle of a tug of war between two very different films; the campy love letter to an imperfect treasure of people’s childhoods, and a grounded-in-reality reboot, intent on showing audiences an edgier side of their spandex-laden heroes. By attempting to serve many masters, Power Rangers has ended up satisfying none, and leaving audiences wanting.
Despite this, the film is not without its strengths. The cast is reasonably inclusive for a film of this size and the filmmakers wisely decided to do away with some of the unusual choices made in the TV series regarding the races of the rangers and the colours of their costumes. Perhaps the most commendable aspects of the film’s story are the inclusion of an LGBT ranger, and a ranger who is on the Autism Spectrum.
As previously mentioned, the film is technically competent and some of the visuals are outstanding and inventive. Perhaps the most inspired scene in the film is a fight that takes place entirely underwater, complete with elaborate choreography and captivating camera work.
Unfortunately, the few bright moments in Power Rangers are not enough to elevate the film as a whole. While the $100,000,000 USD can clearly be seen in the visual effects on screen, perhaps it should have instead been spent on another draft of the screenplay.
Bryan Cranston, who plays Zordon in the film, had previously voiced the monsters Twin Man and Snizzard in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (1993). Additionally, the first Blue Ranger Billy Cranston was named after Cranston himself.