Let me take you to a wondrous time in your life when for some reason, you always got up at 6am so you could watch the TV. There were many great shows to choose from but we all tuned into Power Rangers. Yes, there was some boring stuff with teenagers, but there was also brightly coloured superheroes who fought monsters. Then at the end, one of the monsters would turn giant but our heroes would form a giant robot then win in an epic fight. The series has aged badly though so the hopes for the movie reboot Power Rangers wasn’t very high. But can they surpass these low expectations?
Jason (Dacre Montgomery, Stranger Things) has seemingly ruined his life after ending his promising American football career due to a stupid prank gone wrong. However, he and four other students that are stuck in detention end up discovering coloured stones in a local quarry which give them super powers. Upon further investigation, they discover this means they are the Power Rangers and need to fight to save the Earth from the evil Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks, The LEGO Movie).
So when this got announced a few years ago and we were getting closer to the release, we all thought we knew what sort of film we’d be getting. Considering the reason we all watched the show back in the day was for the fun, though amazingly cheap, action, we were all expecting something to put all the focus on that. So if we were lucky, we’d end up with something along the lines of Pacific Rim. And if things went badly, as we all thought it would, it was going to be Transformers. But surprisingly, the director Dean Israelite (Project Almanac) decides to go in a completely different direction. He decides to make this a very intimate and character driven movie where we really get to know the Power Rangers before they take on a massive monster. Yeah, not what you expect from a Power Rangers movie.
And while I’m still wondering how on earth they got all of this past the financiers, it really does work. All five of the Power Rangers feel like real people and you do enjoy your time with them. In the original series, the characters were paper thin and basically perfect role models for the children watching at home. Here we get incredibly flawed but likeable characters. Jason is a bit of an idiot, he has messed up his future doing a childish prank. But he’s obviously a good guy who did a silly mistake. It’s similar for Kimberly (Naomi Scott, Lemonade Mouth) who has done a heinous act, but realises it and is trying to move on and be a better person. These are really well-drawn characters who have problems they are working on, it just happens they are awesome super heroes as well.
With this and the shots you see on this page, you might be worried that this is overly serious. This is a movie with a revenge porn subplot, so it’s definitely not as kid friendly as the show. But this movie does have some fun. There are jokes, an especially terrible one involving a cow’s penis though seems to be from a completely different movie, and most do work because of the energy of the young actors playing the main characters. But the big smiles you’ll get is thanks to Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa. She does not have the same sort of character depth as the Rangers do so in order to make sure you remember her, she eats all of the scenery she can. She is great fun in the role and some how even though the rest of the film can be rather dark and serious, it isn’t a tonal whiplash when she appears in the movie because she can be intimidating when the movie calls for it.
There’s a certain irony then that the film takes a down turn when the Power Rangers stuff you expect from this film actually happens. It takes an hour and a half before the famous suits are donned, it’s credit to the film’s quality before then that you aren’t desperate for them to appear, and that’s when things turn a little generic. Everything’s too CGI with the Rangers themselves being pixels on a hard drive rather than actually being there. The action is reasonably well shot and Israelite does make everything look really good, it’s just a bit disappointing the film did turn so regular at this junction. However the film manages to use the classic theme tune really well and yes, you will turn into that 5-year-old that got up early in the money to watch the show when it appears.
The biggest failing of the film though lies in its product placement. Now, almost every film has some sort of product placement and I usually like it. If done well, it can actually make a film world seem more real because having a character drink Budweiser over beer branded beer makes it more like our own. But Power Rangers takes it too far. Krispy Kreme, that’s the doughnuts that are heart attacks in a box, have obviously paid a lot to be in this movie and that’s why they are the focus. The shop in the town of Angel Grove is an integral part of the plot, as in if they removed Krispy Kreme the plot would no longer work. The characters talk about Krispy Kreme as if the doughnuts are glazed with gold and don’t add inches to your waistline at a time. It’s amazing for the company, but it’s laughable in the movie and it’s some of the worst product placement I’ve ever seen.
Even with all of that, Power Rangers had no right to be as good as it was. This is a movie rebooting an old TV series that has aged badly over the years in a time where nostalgic products are coming back every week to make a quick buck. But the people behind this movie put serious time into making it good, making the characters so real and relatable. They’ve added some mature themes without it seeming like the most embarrassing thing in the world and it’s just a huge shock it’s all done so well. Yeah the product placement is historically bad and the action relied too much on CGI but this film is so much better than we all thought it was going to be. Let’s all raise a glass to one of the surprises of the year.