For better or worse, the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers have been popular with people across multiple generations around the world, starting in the 1990’s, and continuing right into today. Since nostalgia is hot (and very profitable), studio Lionsgate obtained the rights to bring the television and action figure stars to the big screen, backed by a moderate budget and a photogenic cast. The trailers for ‘Power Rangers’ presented a grittier, ‘The Breakfast Club’-like, teen angst version of the diverse heroes. While the movie certainly crafts an origin story abounding with team-building tropes, it never gets out of first gear and leaves one wondering who exactly this movie is supposed to appeal to.
Right from the effects-heavy opening sequence of the movie, it’s apparent that the marketing minds behind ‘Power Rangers’ are attempting to set up a mythology-laden world to build upon in future installments. What is more shocking is what immediately follows, a scene introducing Jason (young Zac Efron clone Dacre Montgomery), who will become the Red Ranger and ostensible leader of the team. The scene involves a delinquent act involving a bull (there is a gasp-inducing reference and jarring cut to the animal’s manhood), intentionally played for laughs, where he and a cohort are chased by the police until he wrecks his pick-up, leaving this town football star sidelined. Further introductions resume as he gets sentenced to long-term Saturday detention (cue Simple Minds, although not sure why jail wasn’t involved) and meets two more of the future five Rangers, Naomi Scott as Kimberly, the Pink Ranger, and probably most offensively, RJ Cyler as Billy, the Blue Ranger, played with twitchy quirks in an attempt to portray a teenager on ‘the spectrum’ of autism. While it is refreshing to see a hero with this all-too-common social issue, the screenwriters don’t seem to have an understanding of it, making the performance almost a mockery, and again resulting in a serious angle played mostly for laughs.
Despite the above poster of the Rangers in action alongside their animal robot vehicle/companion Zords, the vast bulk of this adaptation is dedicated to set-up, repetitive team-building exercises, and silly exposition relayed by Bryan Cranston’s unbelievable extended cameo as the voice of Zordon, the source of the alien power bestowed upon the hapless heroes. It’s a jarring experience to witness a drawn out establishing narrative, only to have the Rangers finally don their distinctive color-coded gear, expertly guide their alien vehicles with no practice, and come after Rita Repulsa (a not quite campy enough Elizabeth Banks who appears to be having some fun with the outlandish material) and her hordes of inexplicably conjured, non-descript rock-men as well as a gold-dripping, oozy redesigned Goldar. This short final sequence finally displays what fans are looking for, but it is too little, too late, and too lame . . .
Directed By: Dean Israelite
Written By: John Gatins
Running Time: 124 min.
* ½ (out of 4 stars) -OR- C-