If there was one show I watched as a kid it was Power Rangers. This was awesome. I was into things like Ninja Turtles, but these things felt like the spiritual successor to them, it had everything, fight scenes, super heroes, monsters to battle, giant robots. I knew the show was formulated, but it was a formula that worked. Rita Repulsa escapes from the moon, sends monsters to destroy city, stopped by teenagers from Saved by the Bell that had been recruited by Giant Head and the Tube, what’s not to love. Ok Power Rangers is very goofy and is completely over the top, but that’s the charm and appeal to it. It’s not made to be this amazing piece of work, it’s just made to be itself, right down to the fantastic theme song. Now many people say they dropped off after the initial run and didn’t go very far with it, but I wasn’t one of those people. I bought it up to Dino Thunder the ninth incarnation of the characters and I even went back years later to do the rest of the seasons. Basically, I’m a Power Rangers fan boy! Now, when I heard Power Rangers were going to be turned into a film I thought, brilliant, with the way franchises are going at the minute, this could be a very good film. The super hero genre is working out really well and there is a market for this, especially considering the level of 90’s nostalgia. It even suggested it would be a re-boot of the incarnation of the characters, since 90’s nostalgia is very “in” right now. This also presented a challenge because this is the second time that there had to be a Power Rangers project made using absolutely no footage from Japan, if you don’t know, Power Rangers is dubbed over footage from, what is known as Super Sentai shows. This will be the first time that there will be no reliance on that footage since the original Power Rangers movie in the 90’s. If you want my brief thoughts on that film, I thought it was very rather passable for the most part but nothing really to write home about, especially considering that anything that was long lasting that came about from it was Retcon and the TV series almost a couple of weeks later.
Now Power Rangers needed to be taken seriously if it was going to be a good film, so therefore, you want a good writer and director. Well, these guys are a mixed bunch to say the least. In the director’s chair we have Dean Israelite who only has one previous feature film credit to his name prior to this film, that being the 2015 found footage film Project Almanac. A film, which as you would expect from a time travel plot, full of a lot of plot holes and wasn’t helped by the fact that the characters weren’t all that likeable, plus was ruined by an incredibly stupid ending. However, the screenplay has been written by John Gatins, an Oscar nominated writer for the film Flight and he even developed the story of Kong Skull Island, which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago. However, he also developed the story for the profoundly crap Need for Speed adaptation. This film could go either way and it opened to rather lukewarm reviews at best, but that was always going to be the case, this was never going to be a film made for the critics. So, how did this film really turn out? I am going to be checking this film out from two perspectives, the first being a Power Rangers fan and the second being someone who is just slightly curious going to see the film.
If you have seen the original Power Rangers the plot is not too different from what you would expect. Taking place in the city of Angel Grove, five teenagers Jason, Kimberly, Billy, Zack and Trini (played by Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin and Becky G respectively), discover five Power coins embedded in a rock at the local gold mine. After they uncover them in the most destructive manner possible, they discover that they are developing powers, including super strength and increased agility. After returning to the site they discover a Spaceship which contains the alien consciousness of Zordon (played by Bryan Cranston) along with his assistant, a robot named Alpha 5 (played by Bill Hader). He informs them that they are the Power Rangers and they have to stop Rita Repulsa, (played by Elizabeth Banks) from resurrecting a monster called Goldar who can uncover and destroy the Zeo Crystal which would cause all life to end on the planet. Ok, firm warning here, if you have seen the trailer, you pretty much know what you are going to expect from this film. In fact, this is a very much a ‘the film is in the trailer’, there’s not much you can expect outside of it, but having said that, it’s pretty good. Yes, I’m not going to lie, this is an entertaining film. There’s nothing really amazing about this film’s plot, it is essentially the same five teenagers, though they are given a somewhat contemporary update. The film is a decent action romp. The five teenagers have an interesting dynamic. Some of them receive some interesting updates, for example, Billy the Blue Ranger is Autistic in this version and this isn’t saying he’s interpreted in that way, they outright state it. There is also a hint to one of them being an LGBT character, though that doesn’t really go anywhere, and I would say the kids are very complex to an extent. As I said, most of their issues don’t really go anywhere and if anything Jason is given a lot more screen time than most of the other characters. However, it’s at least a decent character arc. If there is one thing that I really liked about the film, however, it’s the fact that this feels a very fun film. It could easily have been a very dark re-boot and it chooses to avoid that. It never forgets what its source material was. The film is a very ‘paint by numbers’ action plot, it’s not going to give anything amazing that you haven’t seen before. I do think Power Rangers fans will get something out of this. There’s a few Easter Eggs, as most of the stuff is kept the same from the TV show, bar a few revised origins. The Zeo Crystal, for example, is slightly different to how it was in the TV show, however, there are no changes that I think will upset Power Rangers fans, but equally, I don’t think this will ‘wow’ any Power Rangers fans.
While the characters may have slight differences, I think the closest one to her Television counterpart is Rita Repulsa. It’s a darker take on the character than the TV show but she still feels like she has taken a lot of influence from the original character and the villain is written to be very devious and very threatening, it ticks the boxes. Zordon, however, really doesn’t come off being that interesting a character, he is less the kind mentor that he was in the TV show and he comes off more as being frustrated than anything else. He’s playing a character that feels like he is struggling to hand over the reins of his previous job to the new generation, yes, in this version Zordon was a Power Ranger from another team, I’m not too happy with this change, but only because I think it rather ruins the mystique of Zordon, I don’t get what was wrong with the space wizard. While there are a lot of Easter Eggs for the Power Rangers fans, there is also a lot of issue with it. For one thing, there’s not nearly enough Power Rangers in this Power Rangers movie. You thought it took a long time for them to morph in the Turbo Power Rangers movie, this film takes forever!! Most of the film is them just getting up to the stage of being able to morph, which, admittedly, is a decent excuse for having them not morph for a long time, which the Turbo Power Rangers did not manage to do and kept us going despite the fact that they were able to morph at this point in the shows continuity. When we do finally get to them being the Power Rangers they don’t spend too much time fighting many of the villains. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, so I won’t explain about the climax of the film, but, to put it shortly, I can’t go into too much detail about the action scenes as a result, because most of them are reserved for the final portion of the film. This film definitely feels like it has taken a lot of influence from the Transformers film, which in the one sense could be a negative considering that I hate the Transformers films, but I will say that these films are much better than the Transformers films. I will talk about the reliance on the CGI and the special effects development, but there’s not nearly the amount of hateful characters and lurid sexism that is present in the Transformers films, oh and don’t forget the dialogue that someone in a focus group thought was funny, but when you actually play it out loud, you will find that no one is actually laughing!! However, there is weirdly a point in this film where there is a bestiality masturbation joke five minutes in, RATED 12A. The crude humour though, is rather toned down, there is some slight sexing up of the characters and I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a slight element of making one of the characters potentially LBGT was a way of appeasing “horny” teenagers. But if I’m honest, it’s much better than stuff we have had to deal with in the Transformers films, but I will be going back to my Transformers comparisons later in the review.
As for the plot structure, well it’s decent. It has a decent running plot, it has a clear beginning, middle and end and it doesn’t have too many plot holes, apart from one gaping one that made no sense to me whatsoever. Though there are a few things missing that I think will annoy Power Rangers fans, for example, the Juice bar isn’t around since, well, these kids are all in detention half the time so they are going to hang around there. There’s not that many cameos from former Power Rangers actors, which I thought was a bit of a mistake, and no Jason David Frank cameo, I would have thought he would be ecstatic to appear in this since he has reprised his role at the Green Ranger on a few occasions and has even played the character on the Internet in recent memory. But, more importantly no Bulk and Skull, what the hell, you make a Power Rangers movie and there is no Bulk and Skull, they were one of the best parts of the original show, you could not date them, you have got one bully in this one, one bully, and he wasn’t even called Bulk!! What are you doing!!! If this film gets a sequel, there must be a Bulk and Skull. But really, if that’s your biggest complaint, then really you have come off quite well. This film’s plot doesn’t reach many heights, but it doesn’t reach than many lows either. It’s fairly decent, all things considered.
Now, as for the actors. Well, they are a bit of a mixed bunch. I think the standout in the cast is Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa who hams it up brilliantly as the villain. Bryan Cranston, however, looks bored out of his skull playing this role, his motion capture performance is at least decent, but he is only allowed to act with his face which rather limits a very good actor, even if one of the mean Tweets he has to read out on Jimmy Kimmels programme, described him as looking like Matthew McConaughy doing an impression of Jim Carey! Bill Hader is good as Alpha 5 and even gets a few aye, aye aye’s like he had in the original series, which was nice, though I’m not too keen on his redesign, more about that later. The main one to talk about is the five teenagers. Now the teenagers that were chosen to be in this film were all unknown actors and I actually think that benefits the film because it allow us to see them more as the characters. Let’s face it, it would be very difficult to find five named actors in the correct age range that could pull off this role, so I think the sacrifice was worth it. The standout would probably be RJ Cyler as Billy, he probably gives the best performance of the film. Though I think a lot of people will think that Dacre Montgomery is Zac Effron because at least for this film, he appears to have been carved into being Zac Effron 2.0. Overall, a fairly decent cast, all things considered.
As for the aesthetics. Well, it may be a bit CGI heavy, but at least the CGI is somewhat decent and I do like the designs of the new suits. I don’t think there’s enough of a mix of colours with them, like the original had, however, I do think they at least show a bit of love and affection to the designs of the original suits. However, I’m not that huge a fan of the redesigned Zorbs and the Mega Zorb looks like it’s straight out of a Transformers film, which is what most of the action feels like with the Zorbs. In fact there’s even a Transformers joke in the film. Now the Mega Zorb fight is pretty good and the Kung Fu fights are good, in fact some of the fight scenes are shot very well. Nothing too amazing, but still pretty good and I have certainly seen some worse action scenes this year. I certainly can tell what is going on better in this film than, say, Assassins Creed. The thing though, is that the CGI is not blended into the background brilliantly if I am honest and it can be rather distracting, however, there has obviously been a lot of excellent work done with the wire work and the stunt choreographers so there is some kudos to be handed out there. As for the redesigns, well they kind of vary. Alpha’s redesign isn’t brilliant looking although he does at least have some recognisable features of his TV counterparts. I am also not really a fan of the new Zordon look, I don’t see why Zordon couldn’t just be a head and a tube, I still think you could have got away with that instead of the pixelated head on a wall thing that they have going on in this film. I do like Rita Repulsa’s redesign though, it definitely suits the original character, whilst also adding its own edge. I will admit Goldar’s redesign is pretty good.
If there is one thing that really bugs me about this film though, it’s the soundtrack. The soundtrack is horrendous in this film. I do admit that this is a matter of personal taste, but the songs all feel out of place, don’t suit the nature of the film or the fight scenes and they’re all rather jarry. You know that iconic theme song, I was speculating all year who was going to do the famous theme song that Ron Wasserman developed ‘Go Go Power Rangers’, you know how much of this is in the film? Barely anything!!! They didn’t even get a new band or whatever to record the song, you just get a slight rip of it from the previous film and even then, it’s played in such a low volume, that it doesn’t mean anything. Come on, this is one of the most iconic film songs ever!! You could have got Megadeth in to re-record it or even Green Day would have been pretty good, someone, anyone!! Even the Ninja Turtle theme was covered for Out of the Shadows, it was done by a terrible boy band, but at least they attempted to have a cover of it in there.
The soundtrack is my biggest issue. Other than that, I actually kind of like it on a lot of levels. It’s not a great film, but it’s not as awful as some reviewers have made it out to be. Although I can only recommend it to a Power Rangers fan. It’s just not really anything, it does have some decent action scenes, even though they are a bit too infrequent, its comedy doesn’t always hit and the characters aren’t all amazing, but let’s face it, that’s always a problem for the TV series. I actually think this one is pretty good, all things considered, and I would gladly watch it again. It’s a nice film for Power Rangers fans, but it’s nothing that anyone else should go out and see. But, if you are expecting a really, terrible film, don’t see it for irony’s sake, there’s much worse films out there. I was never bored watching this and I always felt entertained. Stick around for most of the credits though, because there is a mid-credit scene that alludes to a sequel and I hope they get one because I would like to see this expanded out.
Mini review time. I have only got one this week and it’s the writing and directing film debut of Jordan Peel, Get Out.
So that’s my thoughts on these two films. Please leave a comment if you saw either of these films and I would recommend them both.
Thanks a lot for reading my review. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it and if this film has taught me anything, I need to call up 4 of my friends and blow up a gold mine, because then I will get super powers (I wish, not in the real world though).
Calvin – Nerd Consultant
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