Action Adventure

'Power Rangers' Film Review: Reboot delivers solid fan service, but it's almost too little, too late

March 24, 2017Ben Mk



   
A staple of Saturday morning kids' programming throughout the 1990s, the Power Rangers have a long and storied history as colorful as the costumes they wear. Initially conceived for Japanese audiences a decade earlier as Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, it wasn't until the show made its way to North American television screens in 1993 — rebranded as the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers — that the series' popularity truly skyrocketed, and it became a global phenomenon.

Of course, Power Rangers isn't the first attempt to bring the franchise to the big screen. On the contrary, that honor goes to 1995's Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie. Now, more than two decades later, the power coin has been passed to Project Almanac director Dean Israelite and Real Steel screenwriter John Gatins, whose vision of the Power Rangers mythos is undeniably darker in tone than that which Millennials may have grown up on. Yet, it still manages to deliver enough fan service to make it recognizable to ardent admirers of the show that inspired it.

This time around, our five teenagers-turned-superheroes — Jason, Kimberly, Billy, Zack and Trini — are played by Freddie Prinze Jr. lookalike Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott (a dead ringer for Amy Jo Johnson, who also makes a cameo), RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin and singer/actress Becky G., with support from Bryan Cranston as Zordon, the giant, floating head who also happens to be the original Red Ranger, Bill Hader as the voice of Alpha 5, the robot comic relief, and Elizabeth Banks, chewing the scenery as a reimagined version of Rita Repulsa, the Rangers' iconic foe.

As for the plot, it's more or less your standard origin story narrative. Using the film's brief prologue to set up the age-old conflict between Zordon and Rita and explain how the power coins ended up on Earth, its primary focus lies with the trials and tribulations of its five main protagonists, who must each overcome their own issues and angst-ridden insecurities before they can finally morph into their Power Rangers armor to take on Rita, who's embarked on a killing spree through Angel Grove as she searches for a powerful, ancient artifact called the Zeo Crystal.

Unfortunately, that focus on building out these characters ends up being the movie's greatest faux pas. Which is not to say that a film such as this shouldn't devote the necessary screen time to fleshing out backstories and developing team dynamics. However, Power Rangers spends an inordinate percentage of its surprisingly lengthy, two-hour running time doing just that, only pausing occasionally to tease viewers with fleeting sequences involving Rita and such Mighty Morphin Power Rangers mainstays as her Putty warriors and the Rangers' Zords.

When Power Rangers does finally make good on the promise of its title, however, it goes all in. From a reprise of the classic theme song, to Iron Man-inspired updates of the Rangers' uniforms, to an appearance by Megazord and a showdown with Goldar — plus a tongue-in-cheek nod to Michael Bay's Transformers films and some glaring product placement for Krispy Kreme thrown in for good measure — the movie packs a ton of fun fan service into its final act. The only shame is that viewers will have to wade through 90-something minutes of exposition to get there.


Power Rangers releases March 24th, 2017 from eOne Films. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, language, and for some crude humor. Its runtime is 2 Hrs. 4 Mins.








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