A group of high-school kids, who are infused with unique superpowers, harness their abilities in order to save the world.
Sometimes a property needs a big budget reboot to achieve its full potential. Other times, and Power Rangers is most definitely one of those times, spending big money seems like missing the point. After all, much of the fun of the original Power Rangers television show came from the way that it was, well… kind of rubbish. Bolted together from a combination of fight scenes from the Japanese series Super Sentai and out-of-costume footage shot with English-speaking actors, the increasingly convoluted but always trashy series mixed '90s teen television with entertainingly ludicrous battles (featuring both kinds of fighting: martial arts and giant robots). It was about as dumb as dumb fun gets: the good news is that this time a big budget equals big dumb fun.
After a prologue set 65 million years ago because why not, we jump to the present day, where various teens in the small town of Angel Grove are screwing up their lives and feeling isolated and alone. Those teens would be, in no particular order, Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery), a football star turned detention regular after a cow-related prank goes wrong; Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler) “on the spectrum” geology nerd with a dead dad; Kimberly Hart (Naomi Scott) former cheerleader turned outcast after taking bitchiness a little too far; Zack Taylor (Ludi Lin) who lives in an abandoned train carriage with his sick mum; and Trini Kwan (Becky G.), who has a mysterious reason for not wanting to get too close to anyone which is that she’s gay.
Then Billy blows up a cliff, everyone gets magic glowing coins and suddenly they have superpowers, which is handy because Jason’s dad just pulled a mysterious corpse out of the ocean and now ancient supervillain Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) is back stealing gold to create a giant gold monster named Goldar to destroy all life on earth and only Bryan Cranston’s giant face in a wall on a spaceship can train them to defeat her. Fortunately, Dean Israelite and screenwriter John Gatins take all this exactly seriously enough, which is to say they take the characters seriously and have fun with just about everything else. Jokes about masturbating a bull by mistake? Character development based on sharing someone else’s nude selfie? The source of all life on Earth buried under a Krispy Kreme donut shop? Why not?
That said, not everything here works. The middle stretch has some flat moments where the mix of camp and high drama don’t quite gel, Banks’ performance is both campy and creepy but never in ways that fit the film, and of the five Rangers, Zack and Trini get a little short-changed. This is still a Power Rangers reboot, and in a world currently awash with superhero movies, even hard-core Power Rangers fans might find themselves wondering exactly why we needed a 2017 version.
"In a world currently awash with superhero movies, even hard-core Power Rangers fans might find themselves wondering exactly why we needed a 2017 version."
What does work is that way that – whether for budget reasons or a desire to stay true to the original series – much of this film involves the five leads just hanging out. The middle stretch, where they have their powers but are yet to “morph” (develop the colour-coded suits of armour required in the original series to disguise the fact they’re now being played by a Japanese stunt team) echoes the recent Chronicle in exploring the joy that comes from suddenly being able to do super-stuff, and the time taken to establish the characters means that when the traditional campfire bonding session takes place… okay it’s still pretty cheesy.
But by the big final battle – which goes from the Power Rangers kicking rock monsters all the way up to them kicking a giant gold monster – it’s hard not to feel this film has earned its cheese. An end credits shock reveal will confuse everybody but fans of the original television series; the idea of ending this firmly inessential film on a set-up for a sequel is both ridiculous and kind of awesome. Which makes it somehow totally fitting.
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