Five teenagers — Jason, Billy, Kimberly, Trini, and Zach — stumble upon an ancient spaceship and some mystical coins. Turns out they’ve been chosen to be the Power Rangers, a superpowered team of guardians that must defeat the evil sorceress Rita Repulsa before she obtains the Zeo Crystal and uses it to conquer the universe. It’s up to the Rangers and their giant robots called Zords to stop Rita and her evil minions once and for all.
Not Your Daddy’s Power Rangers
It’s pretty clear at this point that Power Rangers is going to be divisive. This new feature film adaptation takes a lot of creative license with the look and feel of the Power Rangers, and fans who are nostalgic for the poppy, rainbow aesthetic of the ’90s show are in for a shock. Visually, this is a darker take on the property and that’s often at odds with the silly nature of the concept.
That’s a shame because the movie works very well when it’s being silly. The comedic talents of the cast — especially RJ Cyler as Billy, the show-stealer of the entire picture — come across nicely. Not to mention that the inherent goofiness of the Power Rangers and their world is put to good use by the time the big showdown comes around. It’s hard not to get a kick out of two giant creatures punching each other.
It’s worth mentioning that there’s a joke at the expense of the Transformers movies in Power Rangers. That’s an odd decision since the look of this world feels so indebted to Michael Bay’s robot mega-series. The Zords are metallic tangles of confusion that look just close enough to their progenitors to work, but there is still some serious disconnect going on. The same can be said of the Rangers’ spaceship base and the bizarrely alien Alpha-5. With one distinct difference, this almost feels like it could exist in the Transformers universe.
The Real Hero: Director Dean Israelite
That difference is director Dean Israelite. Where Michael Bay’s directing style is chaotic and jarring, Israelite has a surprisingly assured hand behind his camera. The action is framed extremely well so that there is no worry about geography or sequential disorientation. Everything lines up on a shot-by-shot basis and the action is pretty impacting for the most part. Israelite even throws in some fun visual tricks like how the Rangers enter their spaceship base through an upside down pool. Though the design of the film might leave you a bit wanting, the construction of the film keeps you invested in the over-the-top action.
The Villain Problem
But the film’s dark tone really goes into overboard with Rita Repulsa. Granted, Elizabeth Banks plays the part with a pitch perfect archness. She’s on a level of ridiculousness that the rest of the movie would have done well to catch up with. However, there are horror elements grafted onto her character that feel so incongruous. Not going to spoil anything, but there is a point where Rita straight up murders someone and it is genuinely horrific. Exactly why this needed to be in the movie is a mystery. When Rita Repulsa is showboating as a larger than life cartoon baddie, she’s an absolute treat.
Is Power Rangers Good?
Look, if you’re so attached to the original version of this property that any serious deviation will ruffle your feathers, you’re probably going to dislike this movie. As someone who grew up with the Power Rangers and even subscribed to the fan club and bought the martial arts training video, this seemed like a decent enough rebranding for a new generation. Because that’s what Power Rangers is: a new take for the kids of today. Will the slightly scary tone be off-putting for some youngsters? Probably. If that’s a big strike against the film, it’s definitely the most warranted one.
Otherwise, this is a wacky movie based on a wacky television show. The cast is good — again, major props to RJ Cyler — and the ride is a fun one. It’s not going to be anyone’s favorite movie but so what? There is plenty of fun to be had in Power Rangers. And for all you old-timers out there, the movie has some gifts to give you. Get ready to cheer when that theme song finally drops on the soundtrack.