As a child of the 90s, I watched Power Rangers avidly, right from the first series, whilst growing up. I had all the toys, all the videos and all the books, and used to spend a lot of time running around the garden with my friends pretending to be the Red Ranger (or the White Ranger), battling Rita Repulsa, Lord Zedd, Goldar and the Putty Patrol for hours on end. As time wore on and I grew older, this happened less and less (honest!), but time, it seems, has not forgotten the Power Rangers. Whilst today’s television incarnation hardly resembles the extra-terrestrial fighting gang of high schoolers I grew up with, it’s unbelievable to think that in 2017 the Power Rangers are still just as much a part of children’s TV as they were back when I was a nipper.
When rumours of a big-screen reboot first started swirling last year, I cringed but, now Hollywood has finally unleashed its take on the original saga, I’m both surprised and pleased to say that it’s not actually as bad as I’d thought it would be!
Playing out in fictional US town of Angel Grove, Power Rangers revolves around a group of misfit teenagers who are involuntarily thrust together when they stumble across a set of coins which unlock an ancient power, leading them to discover Zordon, played by Breaking Bad’s Brian Cranston, and his robotic sidekick, Alpha-5. Of course, it’s not all training montages and knocking around the town in fancy suits, as the villainous Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks, The Hunger Games) is reborn to wreak havoc on Angel Grove in her search for the Zeo Crystal, a mysterious object that will give her the power to destroy worlds. The Rangers must put aside their squabbling and find their inner strength to come together, stop Rita and foil her nefarious plans for world domination.
If that all sounds a little cheesy, that’s probably because it totally is. Power Rangers works because it’s not trying to take itself too seriously – albeit if it feels a little like a film of two halves. The first features your stereotypical teenage angst motifs, whilst the second abandons all sense and sensibility and sees the gang battling giant gold monsters in mechanical dinosaur machines which eventually all combine together in nonsensical fashion. As you do.
It does feel a bit like there’s two agendas at work here – one where the goal is to make a Power Rangers film and the other to make a character piece about the trials and tribulations of teenagers in modern day America.
That said, there are a few flaws – the main cast are a bit one-dimensional and the characters aren’t fleshed out very well, despite the fact that a good two-thirds of the film is spent getting to know each member of the team and their respective ‘issues’. There’s a lot of angst and moping around, but it all gets a bit… whiny… and you can’t help thinking that it’d be a lot better if the actual morphin’ and butt-kicking turned up far quicker than it actually does. Whilst not necessarily a bad thing, one of Power Rangers’s main flaws is that it spends far too much time trying to get you to care about its characters as actual teenagers, but that’s not really what it’s about or, certainly, it’s not what the original TV show was about. It does feel a bit like there’s two agendas at work here – one where the goal is to make a Power Rangers film and the other to make a character piece about the trials and tribulations of teenagers in modern day America.
One of the best aspects of Power Rangers, though, is of course the nostalgia. It’s thrilling to see Zordon again, as well as Alpha-5, even if the latter has had a bit of a strange makeover. Cranston manages a half-decent attempt at Zordon, but it’s a bit difficult to make a role your own when you don’t get that much screen time and you’re literally just a featureless face made up of overly large, pulsing pixels on a massive screen. There’s snippets of the original theme tune, the Megazord, catchphrases and memories galore, which can only work in the film’s favour – it’s clearly embracing its original heritage pretty well, and works all the better for it.
Elizabeth Banks is a bit ropey as Rita, primarily because she doesn’t really get much to do, despite her being the lead villain, although there are times when her performance is quite jumpy, so there’s a decent injection of thrills in the mix. RJ Cyler, playing the role of Billy Cranston (the Blue Ranger), is exceptional, providing good-natured humour and laughs throughout, without his lines feeling forced or unnatural, and his was definitely the most interesting of the teenage heroes’ characters.
I may have stopped watching the TV series around the time of Power Rangers in Space, but this 24 year old couldn’t help but smile at seeing Zordon, Alpha-5, Angel Grove and the original roster of Rangers back. Power Rangers doesn’t, and was never going to, plumb the depths of human emotion – it’s best if you take it at complete face value and don’t read too much into it, lest you see it for what it is… a good attempt at reinvigorating a pretty naff, stale and tired format.
It’s fun, camp, and enjoyable for a couple of hours, with just about the right doses of everything this film should have. It won’t stay with you once it’s finished, and it also most likely won’t do anything whatsoever for those who didn’t grow up with the original TV series but, for those who did, sit back, get comfy, and enjoy a trip down memory lane filled with all the tropes that made the show so fun back in the day.