May-15-2017

Reel Snippet – Power Rangers

Synopsis: The war between good and evil has waged for ages, culminating in a battle 65 million years ago between Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) and Zordon (Bryan Cranston). The battle ended in a stalemate with Zordon and his robot Alpha (Bill Hader) trapped in stasis – waiting for new, galant warriors to take up their cause. Instead, they are wakened in the present day city of Angel Grove by a group of outcast misfit teenagers: a jock named Jason (Darce Montgomery), a fallen-from-grace queen bee named Kimberly (Naomi Scott), an autistic nerd named Billy (RJ Cyler), a loner questioning her sexuality named Trini (Becky G), and a brash youth named Zack (Ludi Lin) taking care of his sick mom. These five strangers have been gifted with amazing powers and not a moment too soon; Rita has reawakened and is summoning an ultimate monster to dig up a massive source of power under Angel Grove. The five teens need to come together and overcome their hurdles if they are ever going to truly become… the Power Rangers.

Review: Power Rangers was surprisingly not bad at all. It’s not a great movie and I’m on the fence if I can call it a good movie, but I can definitely say that I enjoyed myself, certainly more than Ghost in the Shell. And the reason is quite simple: I like and care about these characters. I felt for them, I thought they had a great dynamic, and I got sucked into many of their personal struggles. There’s a moment near the end where it looks like curtains for one of them and you know what? It pulled on my heartstrings something fierce. I didn’t think that person was really going to die, but seeing how everyone else was affected and how the atmosphere vividly sold the scene really made me feel for the whole thing. That is not an easy task.

I also appreciate how the teens have a little more depth than being just one-dimensional goody-two-shoes like they were in the original show (and bear in mind, I’m talking about the early seasons of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, not the series that came afterwards). Granted, some of their vices are bound to turn off some people, but I personally think that the movie is more powerful for having a group of misfits take their walls down and grow into the role of heroes. Also, this way capitalizes much more on the “teenagers with attitude” tagline the original boasted. In short, I rather liked the Power Rangers meets Breakfast Club vibe they had going.

The acting’s… okay, I guess. Nothing that’ll set the world on fire, but certainly nothing that’ll sit next to Kevin Kline and Saoirse Ronan. Cranston and Hader throw in good work, but the real standout performance is Elizabeth Banks, who is so over the top that I can’t decide if she is very good or very bad. Granted, the original Rita was hammy as hell, but Banks chews so much scenery that it can be hard not to laugh, even when she’s brutally savaging homeless people. Not sure that was the dichotomy the filmmakers were going for.

From here, it’s a succession of balancing scales. The effects and action are great, but the film gets a bit boring when it switches from teen bonding to action. The humor gets me in the funny bone, but the rather hamfisted product placement is funny for all the wrong reasons. The ending bit feels a tad rushed and over-edited, but I got a kick out of some action pieces and the cameos of two series veterans. Really, what catapults this into being an enjoyable experience is the immense amount of heart it had. It wasn’t a cynical insult like the Transformers movies or Jem and the Holograms. It felt like it respected the franchise and its fans. Do all the jokes hit bullseye? No. Is it high art? Lord no. But is its heart in the right place. Certainly, and sometimes, that’s enough for me.

Wait… there’s no new version of the classic theme song. There’s just a snippet from the 90s movie theme and some super short orchestral blurb in the credits. Bad movie! Zero out of ten! Childhood ruined forever!

Fun Tidbit: It’s funny how you don’t realize some things until they get dropped right in your lap. To clarify, this is the first blockbuster movie (as in high budget aimed at a mass audience) to feature an LGBT character and an autistic character. Being the first to include either of those would have been good enough, but the fact that it hit both at once and did it so well is truly a benchmark.


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