No Go, 'Power Rangers'
Ross Reelachart | Technology Editor
There’s a scene in “Power Rangers” where the original theme song from the ‘90s television show played, and I momentarily got into the movie. The moment lasted barely ten seconds before the classic theme faded out, only to be replaced by the same old generic orchestral bombast and Kanye’s “POWER.” This best summarizes the feeling of watching franchise creator Haim Saban try to update this famous piece of media for the modern world of blockbuster cinema. “Power Rangers” tries so hard to be modern and serious that it almost completely forgets that it’s based on a silly children’s cartoon, which started as an American repurposing of a Japanese television show.
In an ill-advised attempt to modernize the over-20-year-old franchise into a superhero-esque movie, “Power Rangers” strips all the camp and color from its setting and characters. Angel Grove is no longer some kind of Californian sunny town. Instead, it’s now some downtrodden Midwestern(?) town that has both a mining industry and fishing industry, presumably because it makes the place feel more “real.” The eponymous Rangers are no longer afterschool special teens, and instead are all mopey teenage degenerates primarily defined by everyone having a uniquely sad background. Zordon is a fallen former Ranger, and the Rangers definitely do kill their enemies. Fun!
Perhaps it was foolish to assume that the modern movie version of the Power Rangers would be an exact rendition of its children’s show counterpart (especially since that failed miserably back in 1995 with the original movie). This version seems completely ashamed of its source material, yet is still bound to making something that is recognizably the Power Rangers. The world is dark, gritty and gloomy; but people are still saying things like “Zeo Crystal,” “Morphing Grid” and “Rita Repulsa” with poe-faced sincerity. It creates a weird dissonance where it’s impossible to take any of it seriously, much less generate any kind of emotional involvement or interest.
What’s worse is that there are moments of good ideas in this attempt to modernize the Power Rangers. The portion of the movie not dealing with any of the Power Ranger stuff, ironically, is almost good. Watching these dysfunctional teens try and work out their problems with each other is somewhat interesting, like a junior version of “The Breakfast Club.” Then, they start getting their powers and the movie remembers that it needs to be feature length. Thus, the character narratives get drowned-out by the “becoming a team” narrative and the movie pads out its good 45 minutes to over two hours.
Other parts of the movie that could be called “good,” or at least elevated above the rest of it, include RJ Cyler as Billy Cranston/the Blue Ranger. Cyler injects some much-needed life and energy into the movie by admirably playing a character who is on the Autistic spectrum, and ends up being the heart of the movie. In general, the composition and diversity of the rangers, which includes Becky G as an LGBT Trini/Yellow Ranger and Ludi Lin as a Chinese bilingual Zack/Black Ranger, is admirable and honestly worthy of praise. Then there’s Elizabeth Banks’ Rita Repulsa, who is basically from a different movie and there is some ironic joy to be had in watching her chew the scenery as if she was from the actual television show.
Then, those good moments are lost between the massively-blatant Krispy Kreme product placement (which ends up being a central plot point!), the horrendous-looking costumes and Zords, the cheap CGI and the fact that the actual Power Rangers don’t really show up until the last 20 minutes for a rushed final battle.
Worst of all, I don’t know who this movie is intended to appeal to. Younger children probably wouldn’t enjoy the slow, dour pace of the movie. Plus, the Power Rangers are still on TV anyway. Older fans probably won’t like the “dark and gritty” reboot. Everyone else might just be turned off by how sub-par the movie is compared to its contemporaries. So this time, it’s “No go, Power Rangers.” Also, buy Krispy Kreme.