Power Rangers exists for a specific audience. An audience of people who grew up watching the television show and children. For the rest of us, it’s a long and bumpy ride.To put it plainly, this movie was not made for me.
This is not to say I didn’t enjoy myself at times. The makers behind Power Rangers have at best at least one trick up their sleeve. There are some nice big moments mixed in with some even better smaller ones. The problem comes when we’re left to deal with the stuff in between.
Bottom line: If you grew up watching The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers kids show then you will love this movie. The way the film shifts tone wildly from scene to scene probably won’t trouble you in the least. You’ll sit in awe of the special effects as the Power Zords roar to life on the big screen. The fact the Zords lack any real color, character, or definable features, resembling instead cheap knock-offs of the giant gear grinding robots of Michael Bay’s Transformers, won’t bother you in the slightest.
This is a film made from concept drawings and little else. From the impractical and oddly fetishized outfit of Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) to the bland, featureless spaceship the five teens find themselves in as they discover their destiny. The ship seems designed for easy camera composition and shot set up more than anything else.
If the movie works at all, it is in spite of its spectacularly tedious attempts at intergalactic grandiosity and more to do with the human elements. Jason (Dacre Montgomery), Kimberly (Naomi Scott), and Billy (RJ Cyler) are three disparate high schoolers who meet while in Saturday detention. Jason sticks up for Billy who is being bullied. While Kimberly is ostracized from her cheerleading friends for punching a guy’s tooth out.
The movie hints, murkily, as to why Kimberly’s friends have abandoned her. Still, the movie is forthright in telling us why she punched the guy in the mouth. She shared a nude picture of a friend with said boy. The boy, in turn, called her ‘the meanest girl he had ever known.’ He’s not wrong. The problem is throughout the movie the two friends who ostracized Kimberly are seen in the background getting their comedic comeuppance for ditching her.
When Billy, Jason, and Kimberly put their newly found power coins on the counter in the cafeteria, they glow so hotly the food explodes, all over the two girls in the background. During the giant ‘climatic’ battle debris lands on their car. Now to be clear, the movie acknowledges what Kimberley did was morally reprehensible. Jason says so outright.
Jason also tells her her doing a bad thing doesn’t necessarily make her a bad person. Kimberly is genuinely sorry and disgusted with what she’s done. But why are we to root for the constant humiliation for the other two girls? Who are they exactly? Who are they in relation to the scandal of the leaked nude?
The movie never really cares, but it bothered me. I’ll admit this is the least of the movie’s problems. Here is a film that goes from an operatic last stand between Zordon (Bryan Cranston) and Rita to a scene to which in mere seconds there will be a close up of a cow penis. This movie is a mess.
You have little moments where the Rangers are seated around a fire in a sort of Power Rangers H.R. retreat. Trini (Becky G.) has a quiet little moment where she confides in the group that she and her family aren’t getting along. When asked why she hints it’s because she may be at the very least queer.
This is a sweet, powerful moment. Becky G. nails the confusion and loss of words of a small town girl trying desperately to figure out these feelings that seem to have no label. Some have criticized this moment as a cheap hollow ploy at representation. I think those people are just plain wrong. It’s a very real moment about a girl trying to put into words feelings she doesn’t understand using a vocabulary she’s never really been familiar with.
If Power Rangers works at all, it’s because of the performances. Elizabeth Banks seems to be having a rip-roaring good time as Rita Repulsa. She has a way of majestically stalking onto the screen that exudes the sheer joy of malevolence. There’s a scene between Trini and Rita that is destined to be the launching of a terribly unhealthy femslash ship for an entire generation. It’s also just good campy wack-a-doodle fun.
Still, this movie is a lumbering mess. It can’t seem to make up its mind what it wants to be; realistic or Saturday morning cartoon fun. If this is your childhood, you’ll most likely love it. I did not.