Obviously this post will contain spoilers for the new Power Rangers movie. So, if you want to avoid any potential spoilers, turn back now.
It’s quite the time to be a movie fan if you were a child of the 80s or early 90s. There have been so many reboots of countless former kids’ shows, it’s hard to keep track of them all. We’ve had Transformers, Ninja Turtles, and even a horrendous, week-long theater run of Jem and the Holograms! So, it’s hard to believe of all the available programs to tap into, The Power Rangers may have given us the best rebooted franchise to date.
That once seemed like an unlikely scenario. Twenty years ago, The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers became an international phenomenon. Closely based on the Japanese tokusatsu series Super Sentai, this show about a group of teenagers who rides giant robots to fight monsters (that can grow) somehow became one of the biggest cultural movements of the 90s. With a deluge of merchandise including clothing, video games, and action figures — I even had the bed sheet set — there was nothing that couldn’t be branded with the colorful Rangers. Well, it looks like we could be in store for a similar ‘morphin’ good time’ thanks to the rebooted movie.
One of the best parts of Power Rangers is how loyal it is to the original show. Breaking it down to its core we have a story of five outcast teens who are drawn to the same destination where they uncover ancient, colored coins. The coins bring them to an ancient, crashed spaceship where they find the comical android Alpha-5, as well as the mind of an alien Zordon.
Zordon recruits the teens to become the next incarnation of The Power Rangers in order to stop an ancient evil Rita Repulsa. It’s up to the Rangers and their mechanical dinosaur-inspired Zords to destroy Rita and one of her monsters before she can destroy the world.
That’s the bones of it. However, it’s how director Dean Israelite builds off that structure that makes it successful. Instead of being relegated to just a floating head, Zordon (played brilliantly by Bryan Cranston) is seen in the opening sequence as the original Red Ranger. This isn’t a simple guiding voice. This version of Zordon is ambitious with his own agenda and is quick to scold and admonish the Rangers.
His former team of original Rangers is being killed off by their former ally the Green Ranger (another solid performance from Elizabeth Banks), who eventually becomes Rita (a villain that is more serial killer than her TV counterpart). When the main villain is actually a fallen Ranger — a narrative never before explored in the TV series — the stakes are raised significantly.
However, the real breakout points of the movie come from the new crop of Rangers themselves. Dacre Montgomery (Jason/Red Ranger), Naomi Scott (Kimberly/Pink Ranger), RJ Cyler (Billy/Blue Ranger), Becky G (Trini/Yellow Ranger) and Ludi Lin (Zack/Black Ranger) were all given time to shine.
The movie spent more time developing their characters and fleshing out their motives; the stars were more than just characters in shiny plastic suits. We understood why all characters were drawn to their power coins and why they were willing to pick up the Power Ranger mantles. These weren’t just stand-ins for amazing action sequences; this quintet carried the movie and brought a grounded, real-life perspective to the motion picture. The argument could be that more scenes were needed featuring the teenagers fully morphed, but this movie was more about becoming the heroes, not actually being them.
More proof of the film’s valid, emotional foundation lies in Power Rangers’ refusal to side-step controversial topics. Cyler’s Billy Cranston nearly stole the whole damn movie. From his much-needed humor to his emotional character climax, it was the Blue Ranger who etched himself into the memories of viewers. What’s going to be forgotten? the Blue Ranger’s autism. It was so nonchalantly mentioned that many might have missed it. The best part was how it didn’t matter. It was brought up and then never discussed again.
The same could be said when it was heavily implied (going as far as mentioning it without making it official) that Trini was gay. Power Rangers didn’t hide from controversial topics, it embraced its diverse cast as normal teenagers (not something every blockbuster does).
Is Power Rangers going to be the best, or most memorable big budget movie of the year? Probably not. However, it succeeds where other franchises like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or even recent Transformers movies have failed. While it’s always great to throw out a mindless action movie overflowing with nostalgia, Power Rangers completely rebrands the product as an adult-approved/teenage-focused movie that both blends those old timey happy feelings with a new-era movie experience. A surprisingly enjoyable movie experience that nicely blends action sequences, plot, and solid character development.
There are no rumors that there could be as many as six sequels, setting up an entire Power Rangers Universe. It’s too early to see how the franchise will finish. But for right now, it’s a good start.
Power Rangers is a solid building block for future adventures. We got an entire movie to show us who these characters are. Now, the path has been set to see how these morphin’ teens can handle more adversaries along with a certain verdant, armored hero joining the group in the near future