Power Rangers

The Final Verdict on ‘Power Rangers’ (2017)

Going into 2017, I can say pretty confidently that I did not need a new Power Rangers movie. It wasn’t even really on my radar. Sure, I had been a huge fan of Mighty Morphing Power Rangers as a young kid. I had tons of the action figures, games, you name it. But I’d started growing out of it around second grade, when all of my friends seemed to leave it behind them, too. I’ve held onto a lot of interests from childhood that my friends left behind, I’ll admit. When other kids stopped caring about the X-Men, well, that sure didn’t stop me. But for whatever reason, Power Rangers were a thing I found surprisingly easy to leave behind as a child. And then, while I knew they certainly had adult fans and knew the shows had just kept on going and going, I pretty much never really thought about it again. I was curious to see what they’d do with a new huge, theatrical movie, but it was a pretty mild curiosity. If I’d had anything else to do that fateful opening weekend, I might not have seen it at all. 

Luckily, I did. Even in the theater, I found myself stunned at how much I loved what I was seeing. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s just get into it. 

The Good

Power Rangers makes it approach, which can basically be boiled down to “superhero Breakfast Club” crystal clear right out of the gate. Admittedly, it’s a great approach. These are characters from all walks of life, and most of them fit those different, specific archetypes in the original series. At the same time, the movie is great at acknowledging that actual high school hierarchy is a little less rigid, and the “roles” that teens actually fill in that ecosystem are a little harder to define. In some cases we’re meeting these characters after they have already left those roles behind, particularly with Jason and Kimberly. Jason was a jock. He was the star quarterback, had his whole future pretty much laid out. Now, after a dumb prank involving an attempt to steal a rival school’s mascot cow, he’s a disgrace. He’s got an ankle bracelet, his dad seems disappointed in a way that there seems to be no way to bounce back from. Kim, on the other hand, is realizing how fast the tides of popularity can change, and how little that high school social status even means in the first place. Like Jason, she messed up big tame and faces consequences. Unlike Jason, she takes control over her new place at the bottom of the ladder and gives herself a drastic measure. This is a very teenage attempt to announce a “new me” but spontaneously cutting her own hair in the bathroom during detention is a great announcement that the “Princess” is well and truly dead. Instead, she gives herself a makeover that basically turns her into a punk Ted “Theodore” Logan in the best way possible. 

One thing that’s really great about this movie is that these aren’t just unlikely heroes, these are kids that people genuinely think aren’t good. In Angel Grove, both Jason and Kim are kind of pariahs, especially for having previously been likely prom king and queen material. These were the kids that other parents tell their own kids to aspire to be, the kind that whole towns project expectations onto, and when they fail to meet those expectations, they’re pretty much considered a lost cause. Trini doesn’t seem to fare much better. She’s the “basket case” of the group, after all. But it’s clear that her family has no idea what to do with their rebellious non-hetero daughter, especially when they have a drug test on-hand. Billy and Zack aren’t really considered dangerous or a lost cause, but that’s because they’re not really considered at all. They’re discounted in the sense that they’re totally overlooked. People tend to only interact with Billy to pick on him, otherwise people pretty much ignore him, even pretend he’s not there even when he’s trying to talk to them. Zack, on the other hand, appears to be purposefully unnoticed. He’s a loner who keeps to himself and blends into the background, the kid who would be asked if he’d even gone to their school if he showed up at a reunion. He seems to like it that way.

All of these kids are discounted, none of them believe they are in any way hero material, none of them have any friends until they find each other. It’s a tale as old as time, but it really works. The way these characters are fleshed out, the chemistry between the cast, these are the things that make Power Rangers so much better than I could had ever expected it to be. They are, for sure, the heart and soul of the movie. And they make it easy to live with the fact that they don’t really assume their classic suits and start saving the world until the third act. If these characters weren’t absolutely engaging, if we didn’t buy the burgeoning friendships between them, there is no way that would have worked. Thankfully, it really does. 

Yet another thing I love is that while the characters themselves are grounded, the world and mythology really isn’t. This is refreshingly not the kind of reboot that reimagines it’s wackier elements to attempt to make the story more palatable. Zordon, Rita Repulsa, Alpha-Five, they’re all there. We’ve still got color-coded alien power crystals and Zords that combine into Megazords, not to mention Putties and Rita’s penchant for making giant monsters. The movie embraces all of that inherent silliness. Elizabeth Banks chews every single ounce of scenery, probably even chews other movies’ scenery to sate her cravings, and appears to have the time of her life doing it. Her unabashedly campy performance provides a nice counterbalance to these genuine, earnest teenage relationships. 

While the action is a little light, it still yields some great stuff. Particularly when Jason has a major superhero moment as the Red Ranger, when he saves his own father from being trapped inside his burning truck. It’s so nice, having established how strained their relationship is, that he is there for his dad, helping him, telling him everything is going to be alright, without being able to tell him who he is. It’s Superhero 101, I know, but it really works here. Then there’s simply more great interplay between the characters, especially once they form the Megazord and have trouble coordinating it. Even as a kid, I often wondered how they didn’t stumble with that.

Ultimately, Power Rangers is a film about expectations and the pressure to meet them, and that’s felt by every character. Whether it’s to fit in, or the struggle to be who your parents want you to be, or even to live up to your expectations for yourself. That’s deeply echoed by Zordon as well, who is not remotely convinced that they have what it takes. He genuinely does not believe that they can live up to the previous Power Rangers, his team, who died in their attempt to save this world. There’s a great deal of pride in this version of Zordon, making him an endearing and almost pathetic character, who still believes he’s the best person for the job even millions of years after his own death. Ultimately, of course, it’s the group’s faith in themselves and each other, putting trust in that and not in who other people want them to be, that becomes the source of their strength. It’s an obvious message, a simple note, but one the movie still hits exceptionally well. 

The Bad 

While Power Rangers is heavy on on great teen drama and humor, it’s light on spectacle. Especially for a superhero blockbuster. The film is much more about the team’s journey to become friends first and forming that team so they can become the Power Rangers in the third act. Most of the fights we see before that are simply training. Even when they don their armor, we could have done with more action before the team take to their Zords. The other thing is that, once those bigger moments happen, like the Megazord in particular, they don’t ultimately look that interesting. Both the Megazord and Goldar really suffer in the design department, though I do think the Power Rangers themselves look really good. 

For a movie that is so embracive of its inherent campiness, it doesn’t visually reflect that and is not nearly as colorful as you would think a movie like this should be, especially once it really leans into those classic Power Rangers antics. It’s pretty bland to look at most of the time. That’s admittedly unfortunate for a movie as strong as this is, with moments that clearly deliver on the action and would look great if they… well… looked great. 

I also understand that the campiness of Rita and her Leprechaun-ish search for gold can feel at odds with the heartfelt coming of age story at the movie’s core. These things are often tonally at odds and while they actually juxtapose nicely, for the most part, there are definitely moments that do not work as well as others. 

The Verdict 

Honestly, though, even taking all of that into account, Power Rangers is great. This is a movie that should have spawned a sequel, should have launched a franchise, even. It’s a shame that, even though there does appear to be a new Power Rangers on the horizon, it won’t be a sequel to this one. I was blown away by how much I enjoyed this film and it is still one that I revisit regularly. It’s just fun. It’s got a great heart and it is, in general, such a delightful, unexpected surprise. I feel like more ill-conceived reboots should use this as their template, to show that nothing’s really ill-conceived if it’s executed properly. And this one definitely was.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *