Thursday, 30 March 2017

Power Rangers - Movie Review

As a child I never really watched Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. I was certainly aware of the series; I knew of the colourful suited heroes, the very fake looking monsters and villains and of the awesome theme song, but I was never a devoted fan of the series. Having watched a bit of it as an adult I can see the appeal of the show; it’s a gloriously cheesy and ridiculously low budget affair, mainly due to utilising archive footage of a Japanese series entitled Super Sentai for the fights between the Rangers and the monsters. It was cheap, the acting was hammy and the “teenagers with attitude” referred to by the Rangers’ mentor Zordon demonstrated a distinct lack of attitude, but overall it’s a fun little show, especially for kids just getting into superheroes for the first time.

With the success of other action shows aimed for kids on the big screen, such as Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, there was an inevitability that the Rangers would make a return to the big screen (they had previously hit the big screen twice in the mid-1990s) and sure enough the series has been rebooted for a new generation. This incarnation once again follows upon the adventures of five troubled high school kids, Jason (Dacre Montgomery), Kimberly (Naomi Scott), Billy (RJ Cyler), Trini (Becky G) and Zack (Ludi Lin) who encounter five mysterious stones in an abandoned mine. With the stones giving them superhuman abilities, including strength and flight, they stumble across an ancient spaceship where they are informed by deceased former Red Ranger Zordon (Bryan Cranston) that they have inherited the position of the Power Rangers, a group of heroes who protect the Earth, and that former Green Ranger Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) is coming back to wipe out all life on Earth. This leads them to need to train in order to become strong enough to fight Rita and protect their hometown of Angel Grove.

There is definitely a lot wrong with this new incarnation of Power Rangers. The film gets bogged down a lot in the backstory of the five kids who are all outcasts in school; this leads to a lot of a number of over the top high school clichés, to the point where Jason, Billy and Kimberly all meet in detention in what clearly seems like a reference to The Breakfast Club (though this does make the aforementioned “teenagers with attitude” line feel more appropriate). The direction by Project Almanac’s Dean Israelite is overall very poor, littered with shaky cam throughout, even during scenes of the kids simply talking to each other, whilst the action suffers from an overabundance of slow motion that helps to take down some of the better scenes of the movie. It takes far too long for the Rangers to transform, taking about ninety minutes in this two hour film for all five teenagers to don their suits, which therefore makes the final battle seem a little rushed. And there’s once again a LOT of absolutely ridiculous moments throughout the film, from the new design of Zordan (who looks like a head stuck into a pin art toy) to Elizabeth Banks’ utterly over the top performance as Rita Repulsa to the fact that a lot of the plot hinges on a crystal buried under a Krispy Kreme… product placement is a plot point! These all add up to show just how cheesy this new movie is.

But this cheesiness somehow manages to work in the favour of the movie – Power Rangers has consistently been very cheesy and over the top. As such, the ridiculous moments seem to work because it’s in the spirit of the TV series and there are many moments that are an utter blast to watch in spite of the cheese. Most notable is the scene where the Rangers rush off to fight Rita in their mechas the Zords; as the Zords run along the classic Power Rangers theme plays in the background, and whilst that ought to be hilarious in how silly it is it manages to come across as absolutely awesome. Meanwhile the new designs of the suits of the Rangers and the Zords look great, sleek and shiny whilst not losing their cheesy charm. The five actors who play the Rangers overall do well enough in their roles (the only dud is the annoyingly sulky and sullen Becky G as Trini the Yellow Ranger), with the stand out being RJ Cyler as the sweet but slightly strange Billy the Blue Ranger and Ludi Lin as the wacky and cocky Black Ranger Zack. Bryan Cranston also delivers his fine gravitas as Zordon whilst Bill Hader delivers fine comic relief as the Rangers robot Alpha 5. Finally, whilst Elizabeth Banks is ridiculously over the top as Rita she’s still a complete joy to watch.

Overall, Power Rangers is a complete guilty pleasure; there’s certainly a lot wrong with it with the weak direction and the clichéd high school drama that bogs down the start of the film but overall it’s charming in just how absolutely cheesy it is and it certainly feels faithful to the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series. It’s thankful that the ludicrously dark tone that the first trailer exuded that made the film look worrying like Fant4stic is generally absent as the whole movie is overall a load of fun in its over-the-top scope. As such, this is far above other kids show adaptations such as Transformers and is a complete blast to watch.

Power Rangers – Directed by Dean Israelite, screenplay by John Gatins, story by Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Michelle Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney, produced by Haim Saban, Brian Casentini, Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey, starring Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin, Bill Hader, Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks. A Temple Hill Entertainment production, a Lionsgate film

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