Hot Take: The only thing disappointing about Power Rangers is that I was completely ready to write, “No, no Power Rangers!” as the Hot Take. Then I watched it and I actually enjoyed it!
Rarely are reboots something I look forward to. Power Rangers was not the exception to the rule. If you ever caught a glimpse of the ’90s live action TV show, you’d expect this reboot to be nothing more than a cash grab. However, Power Rangers delivers something unexpected. No, not just because it doesn’t suck. Director Dean Israelite and writer John Gatins take the cheesy concept of the ’90s show and update it by serving up meatier characters and then glazing them with the cheese of the show but without ever fully losing its new identity. It’s weird to say it but Power Rangers is done well enough that its opening box office numbers and the thought of its inevitable sequel don’t make me cringe. That’s actually saying a lot.
That paragraph might make it sound like Power Rangers is a perfect film when it most certainly is not. The film’s dual opening is rather annoying before plunging into its origin story plot which rips itself right from The Breakfast Club. It borrows so much from the iconic film, a Judd Nelson cameo would have been completely appropriate. It also spends some time trying to check a lot of boxes when it comes to diverse characters. Beyond the two that are the popular kids in school — Jason Scott/Red Ranger (Dacre Montgomery) and Kimberly Hart/Pink Ranger (Naomi Scott) — there’s Billy Cranston/Blue Ranger (RJ Cyler) who is autistic, Zack Taylor/Black Ranger (Ludi Lin) who is a bilingual Asian and Trini Kwan/Yellow Ranger (Becky G) who is homosexual.
With a quintet of relative newcomers, the cast is supported by veteran talent with Bill Hader as the voice of Alpha 5, Bryan Cranston (I wonder if he had anything to do with the lame jokes about the last name Cranston?) who provides the voice of Zordon, the team’s mentor and literally a talking wall and Elizabeth Banks as villain Rita Repulsa. Banks is the home run here as she relishes the role and provides a number of great on-screen moments.
Back to the Power Rangers whose origin story which takes up the first two acts of the film is the surprising win. During those first two acts, there’s a surprisingly human element that provides unexpected depth while giving just the right amount of fan service to provide thrills for those nostalgia-thirsty audience members without alienating a potential new audience that may have never seen the original show. Where Power Rangers goes wrong is in its third act which feels almost completely dedicated to fan service and extends the film to an unwieldy 2 hours and 4 minutes in length. It doesn’t completely destroy what the first two acts built but it erodes it enough to keep the film from being anything better than just good. We’ll find out if this franchise can regain the momentum it established in the first 2 acts because there’s no way we’re not getting a sequel.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- If You Love the CW…
Even if you’ve never watched one episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, there’s another litmus test out there to find out how much you might enjoy the reboot: Watch any CW pilot and if you find yourself saying, “Man, this is great but an extra $100 million spent on effects would make it phenomenal.” Power Rangers is the movie for you.
- Elizabeth Banks
When you play a character with a name as ridiculous as Rita Repulsa, you better ham it up pretty good. Banks does that and so much more in her role as the show’s best known villain brought to life for this big screen reboot.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Maybe This Would Have Been Better as a Show on the CW Though?
Occasionally, Power Rangers felt a little off the rails. What could have helped it stay on track was a more episodic beat that a gig on the CW as an hour long episodic teen drama would have been more suitable. The film has a shirtless teen boy in it with ripped abs which fits right in with the network’s requirements.
- Were They Trying to Go For Lookalikes?
As we tossed it back to the 80s teen movies and 90s cheese of MMPR, the filmmakers also decided to form a cast that looked ripped from the Disney Channel of the 2000s. It could have been ripped from any iteration of Degrassi, too, but the black kid isn’t in a wheelchair.