Directed by Dean Israelite
Produced by Haim Saban, Brian Casentini, Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey
Written by John Gatins, Matt Sazama Burk Sharpless, Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney
Cast: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin, Bill Hader, Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks
With superhero movies at their peak popularity, it is this climate that the new Power Rangers film is released in. There is little doubt the makers of the film wanted to take advantage of the current public’s fascination with superheroes. But, unfortunately, the power rangers always had the poor reputation of being viewed as ”second rate” superheroes compared to the likes of Superman or Spiderman. The new film seeks to fix this by casting the power rangers in a different light. Dropping the so-called ”campy” tone of the original TV series than trying to reimagine Power Rangers in a style and tone closer to current superhero movies. So this film had a lot to prove to non-fans and fans alike. Speaking for myself, I was quite ambivalent towards the film. After the initial excitement at the possibility of a new Power Rangers movie, my interest wavered after I found the designs of the suits not very pleasing. Also, I kept my expectations down in the hopes of not being too disappointed.
The plot of Saban’s Power Rangers is the following: 5 teenagers who are all going through a troubled period in their lives stumble upon powers that will make them ”Power Rangers. They’re drawn into a conflict; they don’t want to be part of, but when an evil that is thought to be dead rises once again, these new Power Rangers must fight or see their town destroyed.
A reimagination that’s hailed by its director Dean Israelite as having a vibe similar to the 80s classic ”The Breakfast Club”. I didn’t see Breakfast Club yet, but the initial set up of the film follows the beats of Breakfast Club quite well if the striking similarities of the detention scenes from both films are any indication. Tonally, the 90s camp gets replaced for hard-hitting teen drama. It’s probably reflected in the film’s visual style rather the typical bright colors; we’re treated to more phased out colors. I took this as the film’s deliberate attempt to show that it had a much different atmosphere from its source material. No longer the overly happy going show that likes to shoot ham-fisted moral messages at its audience. Rather a superhero film that is more tuned to the tastes of today. The result 2017’s Power Rangers is a more serious product than the TV show that spawned the movie. But, that isn’t to suggest 2017’s Power Rangers is an overly gloomy movie. Nothing could be farther from the truth, much like the films of Marvel Studios, wit and humor play a big part. Also, like Marvel films, the comradery of the characters is reflected in the humor.
Perhaps, more than the tone or visual style of the film, the most striking difference in the new film with the original series are the characters. Taking the famous catchphrase ”teenagers with attitude” ” from the TV show then running with it. The Rangers here more than ever filled with ”attitude”; no longer the teenagers who are the perfect role models, they’re a troubled bunch now in the hopes to create more human and vulnerable characters.
My greatest fear for this film was that I would hate the new characters or just not find them very pleasing. Luckily, to my delight, my fears were dashed. I’m willing to say that the characters are my favorite element of the film. Hitting the right balance between emotionally resonant and being charming, the cast is pleasing to watch. Each ranger in the cast complement each other very well; elevated by the strong chemistry exhibited in the cast. Believe me, when I say you can believe these people would be actual friends in real life. For a movie is so grounded on their friendship, the importance of this cannot be understated. Jason, the red ranger enjoys the most development, but since he is the leader and this film is about their team’s formulation, it makes sense. The others get developed enough to be distinguishable. This movie’s Billy should get special attention for being a believable autistic character. An inclusion of an autistic character is probably a very bold move on the part of the filmmakers. Zack is probably the weakest link in the main cast, but he is pretty charismatic. The two females in the group Kimberly and Trini are great as well. Both are strong characters although Trini may come off a bit too brash for her own good. But, it fits her and it’s connected to her whole ordeal. I should make my thoughts on the Rangers more in-depth, but I would like to dedicate an entire blog post to such a thing someday.
The remake is in effect a retelling of the first episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Day of the Dumpster. It keeps the plot structure of that episode for the most part but retells that episode with more modern conventions. The purpose of that episode was to tell how the rangers came across their powers; this movie serves the same purpose. Not a mere extension, 2017’s Power Ranger retells that episode with a more character driven story. For some, it might be too character driven for its own good as when they don’t become actual Rangers until the last parts of the film. This is the practice of many superhero origin stories. However, the heroes here take quite a bit of time to become full blown superheroes even by those standards. I know, some people will find this aspect off-putting. I felt like it gave us better-developed characters, so it doesn’t bother me. Rather the focus or even the ”essence” of the movie is their journey to become Rangers.
To realize themselves as Rangers but importantly as a team, Jason, Billy, Trini, Kimberly, and Zack must establish proper communication. Building this sense of communication turns out to be the foundation of their solidarity. Once established, our heroes can finally see themselves as a team. By having proper communications with each other, they get to see how each one of them actually are; the best sense of trust happens when you get to see the ”true face” of someone, not covered by an ego or insecurities. This becomes the focal point of their journey. Bits of their true selves is exposed to each other over the course of their journey until a pivotal moment where all of it comes ahead.
The villains of Power Rangers are nothing to write home about. Rita Repulsa isn’t the bumbling witch, but instead, she is reborn-ed as a terrifying minx. Her motivations aren’t much beyond the usual mad grab for power but there are hints more to her which I have no doubt is something for potential sequels will explore. Her connection with Zordon is the best example of this. Speaking of Zordon, this version of Zordon is much in common with the TV version. Like the Rangers, he isn’t the complete paragon of virtue so more vulnerable to his emotions. Zordon coming to terms with his weakness intersects nicely with Jason’s development. Mirroring both of these characters development speaks volume about the importance of a leader. And Alpha, he is the still the comedic sidekick he was once was but with a ”smart mouth” in this. Aesthetically, he might take some time to get used to, but his design doesn’t bother me.
The showdown is the culmination of the burgeoning friendship of the Rangers. No moment drives this point home than the ferocious last stand the Rangers make in an attempt to stop Goldar from reaching a certain location. To digress a bit: many fans might find this portrayal of Goldar displeasing since he isn’t sentient and almost like a weapon rather. The emotions are running at their highest; furthermore, it’s the shining moment that shows the characters have become more than just ”teenagers with attitude” who can be determined warriors; determined warriors that gained a strong sense of comradery, no less! The finale may stick too close to the typical formula found on the tv show, but the strong character development elevates it. Rita Replusa’s fate gets dealt in a sloppy manner to keep her in future sequels.
When the dust settles, Power Rangers is a great film that accomplishes what it sets out to do. Some people will be bothered by the slow burner, but those who like the characters will be more forgiving.