Power Rangers should never have worked as a movie.
That is just a fact. The original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers television show was a Fox kids show that started in 1993 and was based on the Japanese Super Sentai franchise about kids who were chosen to become heroes and who could morph into superheroes to battle giant monsters. They could also morph together into a giant robot and – honestly – the reason the show was so popular was because it was so cheesy.
Since that time, the Power Rangers never died and, much like The Transformers, just recreated itself in different iterations over the next three decades. The newest iteration is a movie that makes the Power Rangers less goofy and makes them more like a young adult sci-fi series, with teen angst and self-discovery.
Without the cheese-factor, there is no reason a Power Rangers movie should ever have worked. However, it is that lack of cheese that helped it succeed despite all that standing against it.
Power Rangers actually starts out many, many years ago when the alien Power Rangers team were battling Rita Repulsa. The Red Ranger was the only member of the team left alive and signaled in a meteor strike to hit the Earth, killing him, burying the Crystals, and sending Rita to the bottom of the ocean – saving the Earth. Those Crystals would remain buried until a new team, worthy of becoming Rangers would find them.
That team is a modern-day Breakfast Club. That is not an empty statement either. There is the jock, the cheerleader, the outcast, the nerd, and the rebel. Only the jock, cheerleader, and nerd actually meet in detention (which is a huge callback to Breakfast Club). The jock is football star Jason, who led the police on a high-speed chase after a prank gone wrong and ends up with an injured knee, kicked off the football team, and in detention the rest of his senior year.
Kimberly is the cheerleader, suspended for punching her boyfriend in the mouth and knocking out a tooth after sending a raunchy picture of her friend to her friend’s boyfriend and blaming everyone else. Billy is the nerd, an Autistic boy whose dad died and still spends time exploring caves where his dad used to take him. Billy convinces Jason to take him to the caves to search for something and it is here that Jason sees Kimberly.
An outcast girl named Trini is there, as is a rebel named Zack, and they are all present when Billy accidentally blows a hole in the side of the hill, revealing the Crystals to them.
Power Rangers is an origin story for the new team, as they find the Crystals and develop superhuman powers, although they are unable to completely control them. They are also all untrusting of each other and it gets worse when they find an underground tunnel that leads to the original Rangers spaceship, the robot Alpha 5, and the giant face in a wall of Zordan, who just wants to return to stop Rita, who has also finally returned to destroy the Earth.
It helps that Power Rangers use the “ticking clock” device, as the group has 11 days to train, learn how to morph, and stop Rita and her monster Goldar from destroying the Earth. The training is a basic superhero montage but there are some nice moments where the kids start to slowly open up to each other and realize they are more than just five strangers thrown together and they are better as a team of friends than as individuals.
I love the fact that this group of kids is more diverse than any superhero movie I have ever seen. There are three boys and two girls, a black kid and an Asian kid, and a lesbian. These are more than just the stereotypes from the Breakfast Club. These are a good sample group of the actual youth of America and that makes them seem even more well-rounded.
The three name actors in this movie are the voice of Alpha 5 (Bill Hader), the voice of Zordan (Bryan Cranston), and Rita Rupulsa (Elizabeth Banks covered in prosthetics). That leaves the five newcomers to carry the movie and they do a great job of it. There really isn’t a weak link among the five of them and that is great since there are apparently five more movies planned in this franchise.
Of course, one thing you will notice is that there are only five Power Rangers here and the Green Ranger is missing. That is not exactly true, as there is a Green Ranger in the film and there is a nice post-credit scene that hints at Tommy’s arrival.
Now, I mentioned earlier about the cheesiness of the original TV series and anyone who might miss that won’t have too much to complain about. The Putties that Rita calls up to fight the Rangers are great callbacks to the ridiculous looking creatures fought in the TV show, although a little more realistic looking than the men in rubber suits from the show.
The giant Goldar is also a little too realistic looking to fit in with what the TV show brought but the way that Dean Israelite shot it was really reminiscent of the way the TV shows battles were shot – especially when they morphed into Megazord. Honestly, the minute they raced out in the robot dinosaurs, the “Go Go Power Rangers” song started and my son was singing along in the theater. That, mixed with the smile on my face, tells me that the filmmakers succeeded greatly when it came to this movie.
There was no reason that Power Rangers should ever have worked. However, thanks to the great casting of the group itself and solid characterization and storytelling, as well as just a touch of that old cheese, the movie brought them to a new generation and I can’t wait to see what is next.