It’s morphin’ time.
“Power Rangers” is a remake/adaptation of the classic 1993 television show, which itself is based on the 1975 Japanese superhero TV show “Super Sentai.” In other words, Power Rangers go way back, and now we’re getting a modern take on the pastel-colored super team.
In this new remake, the main antagonist, Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), plans to destroy the world, and five teenagers with attitude are tasked to stop her. They are Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery), Kimberly Hart (Naomi Scott), Billy Cranston (R.J. Cyler), Trini Kwan (Becky Gomez), and Zack Taylor (Ludi Lin). The film also has Bill Hader as the lovable Alpha-5, and Bryan Cranston is the voice of Zordon. There are also cameos from mainstays of the original show.
This is a tricky film to review. Movies like these aren’t made to be looked at in depth. They are best taken at face value: cheesy and over-the-top, but fun to see in theaters with friends. The actors work for what they are. Despite the more realistic tone, all the characters have an element of fun to make the film seem organic.
Two standouts are Cyler’s Billy and Gomez’s Trini. Billy is the comedic crutch of the film. Every scene he’s in is funny and smart and easily some of the best of the film. But in terms of bringing something new and different to the Power Rangers, Trini is the standout. She is the quiet type for most of the movie, as she is dealing with a heavy family life and also trying to answer questions about herself and her sexuality, which makes the characters relatable to a certain subgroup of teenagers. In fact, all of the characters have a relatable element: you have the guy wanting to bounce back (Jason), the popular girl wanting to find her place (Kimberly), the guy who wants to take care of his family (Zack), questioning sexuality (Trini), and then there’s the guy who wants to have friends (Billy).
Bill Hader is really good as Alpha-5, even if he is a bit cartoony compared to Bryan Cranston’s amazing performance as Zordon. Speaking of cartoony, it must be said that Banks’s role as Rita Repulsa is as hammy as it gets. It’s to be expected that Rita would be cheesy – this is the Power Rangers, after all – but when she is given a foot, she takes a mile. She is entertaining and charismatic as ever, but her overacting at times halts the grounded tone of the film.
The action is exciting and crisp, but if you’re looking for the nostalgia bomb action sequence after nostalgia bomb action sequence, you’ll be disappointed. What makes this film work is that it takes the time to develop the characters and doesn’t try to make them exact replicas of those from the show. Props to director Dean Israelite for taking the time to make a grounded film that still has action. And when the action begins in the third act, it’s everything a modern-day Power Rangers film should be and it’s a joy to see. The epicness amps up to 11 once the Zords come to play, with them comes that Power Rangers theme song we love so much.
That said, this movie isn’t a masterpiece. As I mentioned, Banks’s performance as Rita Repulsa becomes campy quickly. In addition, the film introduces side characters that are solely to help show how Jason, Kimberly, Billy, and the company figure out they are super special. And some of the visuals are poor. At times the CGI looks unfinished or hastily done. It doesn’t ruin the movie, but it does bring it down. Finally, while the film gets most of the characters right, it messed up on Goldar. He’s more or less a faceless, dialogue-less, giant monster made of gold. The charm from the original show is lost in place of a generic monster.
In the end, your enjoyment of this new reboot depends on whether you grew up with Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers as a kid. If, like me, you grew up with the show, you’ll like the movie a lot more. You might even love it. However, don’t expect a masterpiece. Expect a fun romp that will have you singing “Go Go Power Rangers” as you leave.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.