Is there a specific name or term for a production that compiles stock action scenes from a foreign property and rewrites the context by filling in the gaps with a domestic production? Because between old distribution of kaiju films and the 24 year old series in question, a one-word description would be quite helpful. “Clip show” just doesn’t seem to fit. Either way . . .
Power Rangers. Most have at least a passing knowledge of the franchise. I myself was a fan of the series until about 2005, when “Power Rangers S.P.D.” was in full force, so I at least have some semblance of familiarity with the series direction. I can’t say the marketing for this film dug up any old nostalgia since this was clearly a modern reinvention, so I walked in with neutral preconceptions.
This interpretation follows a handful of angst-ridden teens (so just teens) — Jason (Dacre Montgomery, “Stranger Things” TV series), Kim (Naomi Scott, “The 33”), Billy (RJ Cyler, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”), Zack (Ludi Lin, “Monster Hunt”), and Trini (Becky G., “House of Sin”) — who stumble upon ancient power coins that grant them superhuman strength and agility. They discover a command center underground where they are tutored by Alpha-5 (voice of Bill Hader, “Trainwreck”) and Zordon (Bryan Cranston, “The Infiltrator”) to become the latest in a long line of Power Rangers and stop Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks, “Love & Mercy”), an ally turned enemy of Zordon’s, from destroying and/or taking over the world with the help of the Zeo Crystal.
So fairly standard stuff, not unlike the show.
Of course Power Rangers boasts a slightly “darker and grimmer” reboot, as one does nowadays. Thankfully, though, this outing is far from joyless. It’s certainly more mature, but in a John Hughes, PG sort of way. PG before PG-13 came to fruition, anyway. The new cast fares well enough, even with the occasional instances of awkward dialogue. Billy, however, is a particular standout. He’s certainly the heart of the group, and his being on the autism spectrum is handled with more tact then you’d expect from a piece like this. It would’ve been so easy to falter on that kind of characterization, and yet it’s very endearing.
It’s a benefit that the cast is as likeable as presented, because most of the film is dedicated to their interactions. For those of you going in expecting a bloated CGI-fest throughout, you may be disappointed, as most of the set pieces are saved for the climax. This is an origin story, tried and true, and saves the big guns for later. But, something to chew on in-between might’ve helped. The proceedings just come off as aimless most of the time.
As for the antagonist, I wouldn’t call Rita a memorable presence, but it does seem like Banks is having the time of her life in the part. I feel like it’s every actor’s secret desire to play a hammy villain at some point in their career. She even makes blatant product placement somewhat comical. Speaking of which, after seeing this, I never want to hear a single complaint about the product placement in “Man of Steel” ever again. I can accept product placement most of the time — it exists, it happens, we move on. But I cannot recall so blatant and awkward a tie-in that broke my immersion more times in recent memory outside of recent Adam Sandler movies. Krispy Kremes isn’t just a running gag, it’s a PLOT POINT.
Between that and the adequate CGI, the film’s budget is very conspicuous. This clearly wasn’t a project with major backing. Were it not for engaging characters and passable plot (give or take some holes), it could’ve fallen apart at the seams. This isn’t an episode of the TV show with a higher budget, we already had that in ’95 and it was a good time. No, this is a reinvention with modern sensibilities and a more contemporary alien aesthetic, to both its advantage and detriment (“Transformers” comparisons are never going to end, are they?). Accept for what it is, and have a decent time, or ignore it and hit Shout Factory for the DVD sets. Either way, Power Rangers is a harmless, albeit standard, venture.