Associate Arts and Culture Editor
“Power Rangers” is a property—and brand name—which means much more to members of the Millennial generation than it does to most people who are older than thirty. A true phenomenon in the mid-to-late nineties, the campy show “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” is at least familiar to most people who currently identify as young-adults. The recent film adaptation, ”Saban’s Power Rangers”, flounders at times, but mostly offers a fun experience delivered by people clearly excited about the property.
Jason (Dacre Montgomery), Billy (RJ Cyler), Kimberly (Naomi Scott), Zack (Ludi Lin), and Trini (Becky G.) are all outsiders in their high school in the town of Angel Grove. One fateful day, the five stumble upon a cliff on the outskirts of town which conceals five power coins corresponding to a different color, the quirky alien robot Alpha Five (Bill Hader), and a floating head on a wall named Zordon (Bryan Cranston). Alpha and Zordon inform the five that they have been chosen as Power Rangers, a group of warmers who defend the universe from the forces of evil. As you may guess, that premise is inherently silly, but offers the potential for dramatic stories and great character development. Director Dean Israelite does his absolute best to balance fun and the dramatic elements available to this premise, and mostly succeeds.
After dramatic and exciting prologue in prehistoric times featuring the conflict between a then-warrior Zordon and the insane and powerful Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), the film opens in modern times with a low-brow joke about the reproductive organs of a cow. These two scenes illustrate the disparate tones present in the film. Most of the time, these tones blend well—such as Blue Ranger Billy’s quirky but serious attitude, and the genuineness of Zordon’s interactions with the Rangers even though he’s just a floating head on a wall by the middle of the film. Other times, such as the previously discussed opening of the film, and most scenes with the over-the-top Rita, some viewers may struggle taking the script seriously.
The highlight of the film is the incredible cast. All five lead actors turn in star-making performances, particularly Dacre Montgomery’s Red Ranger, RJ Cyler’s Blue Ranger, and Naomi Scott’s Pink Ranger. Ludi Lin is great as the comic-relief Black Ranger, and Becky G. excels as the emotionally tortured Yellow Ranger; however, the script doesn’t require as much of them as it does of the other three, whose backstories, personalities, and motivations get the lion’s share of the screen-time.
The script itself isn’t exactly a masterpiece, with several dumb/cheesy lines, some plot devices that require an understanding/appreciation of Power Rangers lore to accept at face value, and the fact that most of your investment in the various characters stems more from their actors’ great performances than any details your learn about them which go beyond the surface level. There’s also product placement in the third act of the film that’s so egregious it may take you out of the movie completely.
None of that is to say that the movie isn’t tons of fun to watch, or that the script is a complete disaster. The story is set up well and the characters, particularly the five Rangers and Zordon, are given just enough depth that the actors have sturdy ground to stand on when delivering their great performances. Elizabeth Banks is appropriately menacing as Rita, while also clearly having fun making the villain as enjoyable to watch as possible without quite crossing the threshold of being too campy. The third-act giant robot action, also known as Zords in the show, occasionally reaches “Transformers” levels of incomprehensibility, but not enough that you can’t follow what’s happening or enjoy the spectacle.
“Saban’s Power Rangers” is a fun but imperfect film that may well “Morph” into a brand new franchise.