Power Rangers presents a colorful take on the superhero movie.
Power Rangers as a movie has to give so many pounds of flesh as penance for the sins of the brand; racism, sexism, misappropriation, and even homophobia are just the ones that have become clear in the public conscious. That’s to say nothing of the cheese factor of the original, that has apparently become a sin punishable by death according to older nerds. On top of all that this still has to be a working movie with the heart of the original and a serious sci-fi concept without irony…and robot dinosaurs. No pressure. Maybe there’s a part of me who has set my standards so low that I consider Power Rangers to be a massive success, rather than what it actually is which is a pretty good movie. Make no mistake, I very much enjoyed Power Rangers as a film, probably more than most, but more than anything I’m relieved that I didn’t have to force myself to.
Breakfast Club with martial arts. No, that’s inaccurate because this has almost nothing to do with martial arts. Breakfast Club though? Absolutely, but only in the sense that Power Rangers holds a mirror up to modern society like Breakfast Club did in the 80’s and we can see how the perspectives have shifted from clique culture and teen movies being the go to genre, to ethnic and social diversity with superheroes as the most widely spoken film language today. Social tension, or tension between social circles is there, but this is a more modern interpretation of diversity. Instead of just rearranging the races, the movie’s characters now exhibit hang ups and backgrounds that are incredibly common nowadays, but still put empathetic strain on the the other characters and audience. That seems harsh, but therein lies a major success of the movie in the slightly uncomfortable way they deal with each other’s respective identities and fears. As they’re revealed, some are obvious and somewhat obligatory, but some come as sort of a surprise; and go so far as to paint a couple of characters in an unflattering and even cowardly light. It proves that this is not just a liberal repaint, but thought was put in to who these characters are, given their situations.
A lot of thought, as actual Power Rangers stuff is delegated to a final 15 minute fight sequence that is worth the admission, but still kind of makes you think “Where was this for the rest of the movie!?” The aesthetics succeed and fail to exactly the same degree. Ranger Suits: Cool, Putties: Awful. Command Center, Zordon, Alpha 5: Just alien enough, Zords: Barely distinguishable tech monsters. Elizabeth Banks’ Rita: Effective mix of new and old within the movie’s context, Goldar: amalgamation and bastardization of the arguably best monster design from the original. All that is my opinion based on my history of being a fan of the show, in truth all of it fits in to the movie’s personal identity. Now let me address the biggass donut in the room. Krispy Kreme paid good money for this one, and that’s how movies are made, but this is the ugliest part of franchising.
A major plot point of the film revolves around a Krispy Kreme location, but this is talked about by the characters by name. Not “the donut place” or “donut shop” the words “Krispy Kreme” are spoken urgently by characters no less than ten times! Complete, I might add, with a cheeky scene of Rita eating a donut! If this is a joke, it goes on too long. If it’s product placement, they might as well have put the logo in the center of the screen for the whole movie. I never thought I’d say this, but Power Rangers made me hate donuts. This is also in the big zord fight, so it’s kind of like being told by your mom to take your medicine in the middle of your favorite show. Only your favorite show is a movie you might not even be sure you like, that you paid for, and your mom is the frickin’ Krispy Kreme Donut Corporation! I liked everything else enough to recommend Power Rangers to anyone who likes action and sci-fi. There’s a few hackneyed attempts to fit some of the tropes from the show in there and a little too much “bully-revenge”, but that was always gonna be the case. Like a teenager though, Power Rangers seeks to find it’s own identity outside of it’s immediate influences, and for the most part it succeeds. The new twists on the mythos play well including Zordon’s history, the origin of the Zords, and Rita’s history which are all fascinating plot points that I hope are expanded upon in later films because in all likelihood this is far from over.
The movie is surprisingly sincere in its intentions which given the circumstances of its inception might be the biggest surprise of all. Despite significant flaws, coincidences, and a sweet tooth that can’t die quickly enough, Power Rangers is a solid serious enough sci-fi superhero film that takes heart and empathy over stereotype and irony.