Film Review: Power Rangers (2017)

As a kid, I was a big fan of the original Power Rangers. I watched the TV show, bought the toys, discussed which Ranger was the best (Green) on the playground at school and watched the 1995 movie way too many times. I remember being so excited whenever the Power Rangers piloted their Zords (dinosaur robots) to do battle with some new giant bad guy and the reboot manages to recapture a lot of that excitement.

Power Rangers honors its source material while making changes in thoughtful and surprisingly progressive ways. There are a lot of changes on the outside, like the appearance of the Rangers’ armor, Zords and the grounded to reality vibe, but the film keeps the heart (and campiness) of what made me love the series the first place. It probably won’t win over too many new adult fans, but people who grew up with the original series are in for a treat.

One of Power Rangers best qualities is the action, especially in the last thirty minutes. A big mix of faux-martial arts, superhero brawling and giant robot craziness. I loved that a few of the Rangers’ fight moves on the Putties were almost exactly like the really cool (but probably impractical) moves from the TV series. There was a weird double-kick that I loved in the show and Billy uses it in the movie, which was kind of nostalgic.

Power Rangers also had a great main cast. Most of the Rangers were okay on their own, but were fantastic together; which is a good thing because most of them didn’t get too much to do solo.

The best of them was RJ Cyler, who stole the show as Billy Cranston/The Blue Ranger. Billy is on the spectrum in the reboot’s continuity, and I loved that. Power Rangers is the first blockbuster superhero movie to feature a main character that isn’t neurotypical and, to someone who has learning differences, this is a big deal. I was concerned when I heard about Power Rangers featuring a character on the spectrum, but I was pleasantly surprised at how genuine the writing and Cyler’s acting were. People with LD’s are often portrayed in movies just to get laughs, make characters appear superhuman by solving huge math problems, or some combination of the two, but Power Rangers is the first movie I’ve seen do it in a totally respectful way. Billy isn’t better or worse than the other Rangers, he just happens to be on the spectrum. He was a bit odd at times, but he was also the best part of the entire movie.

While I loved most of the cast, I didn’t really care for Becky G’s Trini/Yellow Ranger. Trini had the least amount of screen time among the Rangers and that heavily affected her character development. The movie would’ve been the same without her. Bryan Cranston was fine as Zordon, a disembodied entity who acts as a mentor to the new Rangers, but he would have been better if he had more to do. Casting an actor as talented Cranston and then using him so little seems silly to me. And I laughed a few times due to Bill Hader as Alpha 5, a robot that trains the Rangers.

The biggest disappointment of the movie was Elizabeth Banks’ Rita Repulsa. The tone of the character was all over the map. In one scene she would be a monster from a sci-fi horror flick, and in the next she would just a crazy lady creeping people out at a jewelry store. Luckily, she evens out in the last third of the movie, which is also the film’s best part. That’s when it feels exactly like a Power Rangers episode. The action is at it’s biggest (both in danger and size), the cast’s chemistry is really going, and it feels just a bit silly.

Power Rangers isn’t perfect, but it has more successes than failures. Most of the main cast is great, the story is decent while maintaining a bit of campiness from the original series, the action is awesome and, most importantly, it was just plain fun to watch. If you enjoyed the original series, you should GO GO see Power Rangers.

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