MOVIE: POWER RANGERS
STARRING: DACRE MONTGOMERY; NAOMI SCOTT; RJ CYLER; ELIZABETH BANKS
DIRECTED BY: DEAN ISRAELITE
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
The Power Rangers kicked into action in 1993, which was after I'd stopped loving the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and before my appreciation for the entertainment of WWE wrestling. I knew of the kung-fu fighting five, multi-colored spandex wearing teenagers, I just never thought they were all that cool. I've watched episodes of the show and even watched the 1995 Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie. I'm not entirely unqualified to write this review, I'm just surprised they're still around. So here we are in 2017, where the Power Rangers are still on Saturday morning television and carrying some promise with this new modernized movie version from Project Almanac director Dean Israelite.
If you were sick of Marvel or DC movies introducing new characters with origin stories that feel recycled, then you will not enjoy the new Power Rangers. Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery) is the red ranger, who we meet in the middle of his high school hi-jinx, attempting to put a cow in the football team locker room. Angel Grove cops chase him leading to a car accident, a spot in summer detention, and a new ankle monitor. During the weekend of school penalty, we meet genius, science lover, and future Blue Ranger- Billy (played by the real star of the film, RJ Cyler) and popular Pink Ranger- Kimberly (Naomi Scott). It's not long before the three run into future Black Ranger Zach (Ludi Lin) and Yellow Ranger Trini (Becky G) at a salt mine where the Zord Coins lay buried in the ground. It gives the teens their mighty powers and they discover a ship with the all-powerful Oz-head known as Zordon (Bryan Cranston).
The script from writers John Gatins is a peculiar combination of The Breakfast Club meets Fantastic Four. And instead of Power Rangers being just the standard origin story, it feels like a combination of five different ones at the same time. Of course, every team has to bond together, but the sluggish pace, after the initial charm, radiating from the cast in the first act, quickly turns to quicksand, as if director Dean Israelite wanted to make the entire film about the Rangers kumbaya moments. When Elizabeth Banks, as the villainess Rita Repulsa arrives, that's when the film at least perks up a bit.
It's not all terrible news for fans of the Power Rangers universe. There is a great deal of charisma from the cast of young actors, including a fun back and forth banter between Cyler and the Red leader Montgomery. The real fun, however, is from Banks, who is relishing every moment she inhabits on screen. The Hunger Games star delivers a devilishly wicked laughter for the back row and flares her long nails at her teenage enemies, hoping to destroy them along with their leader- Zordon. As for Cranston as the talking head? He's just a presence, followed around by his sidekick Alpha-5 (voiced by Bill Hader), whose jokes approach Jar Jar Binks level.
When the real action kicks in, it's not till long after the second or maybe it's the third training montage. One of the biggest problems is how Israel seems laid back in giving us this groups bonding time, but in a rush to get through the fun stuff. Rita assembles a team of rock-like henchmen and it turns into a messy glob of Michael Bay/Transformers action styles. Rocks fly everywhere and I couldn't make sense of much. And when the team comes together as a Mega-Zord to fight with Rita's personal monster- Goldar, the action is swift and their success feels like an easy beating to the bad guy in the 1st level of a video game.
I didn't hate Power Rangers by any stretch, but it felt like a Mega-Zord size missed opportunity to start this franchise on the right foot to catch new fans. Maybe, in the service of a better script, I could be looking forward what the sequel brings. I just hope it's better action and more of Elizabeth Banks. She's a lot of fun, the rest of Power Rangers is not.
Written by: Leo Brady