I should apologize in advance to any Power Rangers fans. I never watched the show, so this movie had very little to offer me, and so I have very little to offer you. But, as usual, movies need to carry themselves above their source material. But with the way this movie is carried out, it almost feels like anything Power Rangers was left as an afterthought.
I think it’s fair to assume everyone has a passing familiarity with Power Rangers. If you didn’t watch the show, you saw the commercials. If you didn’t know the characters, you knew the theme song. It’s really no different from Transformers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It’s corny, colourful Saturday morning junk food that isn’t trying to convince you it’s anything but. All they’re really there for is to sell toys, and I’m sure this movie is no different. The only difference here is that unlike the Bayham of the Transformers franchise and the first TMNT reboot, Power Rangers seems eager to elevate itself above its commercial premise. At least until it becomes a giant Krispie Kreme commercial.
“Are we more like Iron Man or Spider-Man?”
Behind the standard superhero plot formula, minus a few important beats, Power Rangers shows slivers of a character story with flavours of The Breakfast Club. Every Ranger has an attitude, and despite some heavy exposition, they all have motivations. Still, it’s complete happenstance that they all find themselves in the same spot at the same time. Is it destiny? Or clumsy screenwriting? Fortunately, it’s the Rangers that end up saving the film with their natural and serviceable performances. They outdo most of their older co-stars, who just can’t be bothered. At the very least, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks, and Bill Hader seem to be having fun with their roles as Zordon, Rita, and Alpha 5 respectively.
And that’s all you would expect from a movie based on anything as forwardly silly as Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. But as is the norm with these big-studio TV-to-film transitions, Power Rangers is unnecessarily dark (tonally and visually). It’s injected with so much moodiness that it loses all its energy before the Rangers can even morph (which isn’t until the last 20 minutes of the movie). And by the time they get in their zords and ride into battle, theme song playing, you pull back in your chair and realize, “Oh right, I’m watching a Power Rangers movie.” By that time, you’re so disengaged with everything that the climax doesn’t matter. It’s just another generic boss battle.
“This is your destiny. This is your time.”
Power Rangers is clearly trying to update the source material for a fresh audience (even switching around the nationalities of the Rangers, for obvious and tasteful reasons). But it forgets the audience that grew up with the show. Again, I’ve never seen a full episode, but I can tell that one of these things is nothing like the other. The Rangers work fine as an ensemble, but the story and tone are all over the map. For a film touting the importance of teamwork, there’s very little holding Power Rangers together. Watch Pacific Rim or Voltron. Either one is closer to Power Rangers than this. Take it from a person who has no idea.