90’s kids are entering the entertainment industry in droves these days. As a result, all our favorite stuff is getting a big budget adaptation. Power Rangers is the latest franchise to get that treatment. On paper, the property sounds ripe for the rebooting. A cheesy 90’s kids show that’s been on the air for 25 years in some form or another. Cut it, print, and send it out to the theaters. So, does the latest toy selling franchise need to exist? Maybe.
Go Go Power Rangers?
For what it’s worth, Power Rangers isn’t a total disaster. However, a funny thing happened on the way to make a Power Rangers movie. The creators barely made one. The film runs over two hours, and the amount of time the rangers are in their suits totals twenty-five minutes if we’re being generous. In addition, the amount of time dedicated to the rangers doing martial arts in their suits is maybe two minutes. The rest of the time, they are confined to their Zords, fighting a giant monster. All of that certainly feels like Power Rangers, but the film is less interested in that aspect.
Rather, Power Rangers is a coming of age drama in the vein of The Breakfast Club. As a matter of fact, it’s closer to a Breakfast Club reboot than a Power Rangers reboot for most of its runtime. And the five main actors carry the weight pretty well. They’re all charming in their own ways and their backstories are distinct. Spending time getting to know these characters is more fun than seeing them toss around faceless bad guys. Elizabeth Banks plays up Rita with the cheese turned up to eleven, and it’s a fun performance. Unfortunately, the film does not lean into the cheese and leaves Banks high, dry, and out of place.
The problem with Power Rangers being a decent John Hughes riff, is that it’s a Power Rangers movie. Slavish devotion to a source material is never a good idea, and Power Rangers wants to distinguish itself from the rest of the blockbuster fare. That’s a good thing, but its execution is sub-par at best. The nods to the original Power Rangers feel out of place when they should feel organic to the storytelling. The tone is out of whack. It’s not as bad as some of the other films in this wheelhouse, but the script needed a pass over before filming began.
Furthermore, director Dean Israelite is not doing the tone of the movie any favors. The camera work in the movie is atrocious. The canted angles on display rival only Battlefield Earth in terms of overuse and misplacement. Everything is shot to look as cool as possible, even a close-up of bull genitals (don’t ask). The film has a nice polish, but it’s distracting rather than helpful.
Power Rangers is a lot better than most of the Transformers films when it comes to character moments. Sadly, it comes at the expense of compelling action. There is a way to make both work but the filmmakers don’t have the chops to do so. The cast is a lot of fun to watch, particularly RJ Cyler’s Billy. Seriously, look out for that guy, he’s about to become huge. Also, the film plays up a diversity/family angle in a way no other franchise outside of The Fast and The Furious has been able to do. Power Rangers possesses great franchise potential, but without better filmmakers at the helm, it will fall flat.