A Stylized Reboot Bolstered By An Engaging Cast
2017’s Power Rangers, directed by Dean Israelite (Project Almanac), marks a return to the big screen for the 90’s era television series/merchandise behemoth. The third theatrical release for the franchise, and the first in 20 years; Power Rangers is a reboot in both story and stylization of the series that centers on teenagers who become martial arts superheroes.
Director Dean Israelite sets the tone quickly, and clues in viewers that this isn’t the weekday afternoon kid’s show its based on with an opening scene much darker than viewers might expect. A primordial duel between Bryan Cranston’s Zordon and Elizabeth Banks’ Rita Repulsa gets the ball rolling for the film’s plot. After the prologue, we move to present-day Angel Grove; home of the young soon-to-be superheroes. Israelite draws obvious influences from other teen dramas, most especially Peter Berg’s Friday Night Lights series based on his film of the same name. Moody teens skirt the line between mischievous and criminal in a rustic small town set against nostalgia inducing background music.
This action blockbuster banks on a cast of mostly unknown actors as the titular ‘Power Rangers’; and Israelite gets the most out of his young actors. His cast shows real chemistry on screen, giving the film heart. Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), Becky G, and Ludi Lin are collectively the ‘Power Rangers’; and the actors look like they are having a lot of fun. Even with this being the biggest production of most of these actors’ young careers, viewers aren’t subjected to any wooden performances. Instead, the ‘Rangers’ work in lock-step from the moment they all meet in Saturday morning detention; an obvious homage to one of the best teen films of all time; The Breakfast Club. For just a taste of the camaraderie between this engaging cast, watch the ‘fork fight’ between Scott’s Kimberly and Becky G’s Trini.
John Gatins’ script should be given its proper due for making Power Rangers a bit of a surprise in story quality. The story arc isn’t perfect, with an overly long first act that might have younger viewers crawling up the wall waiting 90 minutes to finally see all five Power Rangers in ‘battle mode’. Nevertheless, Gatins (Kong: Skull Island) makes up for it with an emotionally driven story; if a bit melodramatic. Being based on 22 minute episodic source material, Gatins’ story doesn’t feel like a bloated television episode; but character arcs worthy of a feature film. There are also some pretty good jokes thrown in too; like the Transformers dig in the middle of the final action sequence.
Costing $100 Million; about 2/3s of a traditional Marvel Cinematic Universe property, the financier’s money was well spent. Special effects, make-up, set locations, and costume design all look great on the big screen. Fans of the original series will be happy to know that this doesn’t look like a quick cash grab; production was out to make a good film in its own right.
With all the compliments being heaped on Power Rangers, there are some drawbacks worth mentioning. Bill Hader’s bio-robotic Alpha 5 character was criminally underused throughout. This could have been a really funny character, but instead they settled for a few laughs; bogged down by hard-to-hear voice work. Also worth mentioning, product placement is an unfortunate reality to fund major blockbusters, but the overt nature of the Krispy Kreme/Power Rangers team-up, and its intricate link to the plot, is embarrassing and gauche. Lastly, the ‘final battle’ pits Rita Repula and her henchman Goldar up against the Power Rangers’ ‘Megazord’. The ending is convoluted and it was a bit confusing figuring out what even happened to Rita at the end.
- Directing: 7/10 – Definitely not original, but it works well enough
- Acting: 9/10 – An engaging cast that oozes chemistry
- Screenwriting: 7/10 – Avoids being a bloated television episode with character driven arcs; a bit long in the first act
- Special Effects: 8/10 – As good as you’ll see in most summer blockbusters
8/10 – Relying on its’ talented ensemble of young actors, Dean Israelite’s Power Rangers doesn’t break any new ground, but is still a very fun 2 hours.