By Caleb Fox
A word of warning to fans who may be tempted to revisit the 1990s live-action television series which gave birth to the Power Rangers franchise before seeing this new Hollywood adaptation: don’t do it. The show is so bad that it’s nearly unwatchable; in fact, it’s hard to understand what made an entire generation of children fall in love with the brand. Whatever the reasons, though, a generation did fall in love with it, and the Power Rangers are close to the hearts of a large fan base. It’s just that the show should be left firmly in the past, in the memories of viewers.
So then, how does one bring something that belongs in the past into the present? That’s the question director Dean Israelite attempts to answer with Power Rangers (or Saban’s Power Rangers—the film actually credits itself as both), a new live-action theatrical reboot of the franchise. Given that the source material is objectively awful, this movie probably didn’t even need to be good for fans to enjoy it. Fortunately, it’s not actually half bad.
The plot is generally similar to the pilot of the original show: Teenagers become superheroes with giant robots to fight some evil witch freed from hibernation, blah blah. Something about crystals, an old wizard, giant monsters, world-ending doom, and so forth. It’s not original and it barely makes any sense, not to mention having a few plot holes that are good for a confused head scratch and terms like “morphing grid” and “megazord” which are literally impossible to take seriously. However, by the end of the movie when a giant robot is fighting a monster made of gold amidst Michael Bay-sized explosions, the spectacle of it all will make you feel like a kid again, and you’ll forget what a plot even is.
What does set the film apart from its predecessors is the characters. It plays more like an extended CW pilot, but that’s to its benefit. The movie spends almost its entire running time following the five heroes on their journey to become Rangers, and they don’t don the brightly coloured CGI costumes (which look only slightly less goofy than the originals) until immediately before the final climactic battle. Because of this, the film actually builds up to that moment, and the climax feels like a huge payoff. The journey to that huge finale is so entertaining because the teenagers are actually interesting characters, not stereotypes, and the film takes steps to showcase their diversity (in more ways than just race) without feeling too forced. Watching the five teens train, bond, and come together as friends and teammates is really enjoyable, especially when films of this nature often fail to deliver any solid character development at all (cough—Transformers—cough).
The supporting cast is also a lot of fun to watch. Bryan Cranston and Bill Hader give solid vocal performances (Hader is especially funny), but the real stand out is Elizabeth Banks as the villainous Rita Repulsa. Banks chews so much scenery that is a surprise there’s room left for any of the other actors, and it’s easy to imagine that she had a blast in the role. Her performance is extremely memorable; every moment she’s on screen is entertaining.
Whether or not you enjoy this film will likely come down to how you feel about the franchise as a whole. If you think the whole idea is stupid, or never enjoyed the television series as a child, then odds are that you will not find much to like here, but if you are, or ever were, a Power Rangers fan, then this film will likely give you a blast of nostalgia-fuelled movie-going fun, best enjoyed with a large bag of popcorn. Ultimately Power Rangers is like cinematic cotton candy; it has no lasting value, nutritional or otherwise, but you’ll sure enjoy consuming it, and it leaves a sweet taste behind.
Grade: Go Go Power Rangers! B+
(Featured Image: Power Rangers, Lionsgate)