Photo Courtesy of Lionsgate
From the beginning, I knew I was going to enjoy Dean Israelite’s updated, matured, and more structured “Power Rangers” because, it was just that, wiser. Gone are the days of cheap 90s production value, when the best thing about the color coded Rangers were their suits, and the ability to pick your favorite one at recess - as of this publication, my nephew, who is five, still plays Power Rangers, so they are still relevant - and hoping to cash in on that nostalgia is Lionsgate, with the hopes of jump starting a new franchise. The gamble of which, could have destroyed childhood memories and, in the process, made a mockery of the Rangers, thankfully that’s not the case.
What is the case, lies in the smooth edges that Israelite's film does for the characters, which surprisingly gives them depth. The movie is really two parts meshed into one, the first is a “Breakfast Club” young adult drama that makes terrific use of the fine young actors, and the other is a smashy-smashy, rock-em-sock-em cage match. All that’s missing is a song by Simple Minds.
Fleshing out a script that was written by, John Gatins, and Matt Sazama, this reboot is made with the intention of future installments, so the setup is very intentional. This incarnation follows the compatriots of; Jason (Darce Montgomery), a local football legend that had high aspirations but threw all his ambitions away on one night of reckless behavior, Kimberly (Naomi Scott) - the school’s babe that has a few skeletons hidden in her closet, Billy (RJ Cyler), the nerd of the squad, that is on the spectrum (and very proud to admit it), but he also has a sweet side. Zack (Ludi Lin) the token Asian ranger, taking care of his sick mother, and Trini (Becky G), the new kid on the block, that has only been in the town of Angel Grove for a month.
More than likely, under any other circumstances, this group wouldn’t mesh well. They all meet in detention and have vastly different personalities. But it’s not until a stowaway evening when Billy decides to uncover, what feels like, a lost civilization that the group comes together, It’s deep underground where the group meets the one and only Zordon (played via motion capture by the great Bryan Cranston) and Alpha 5 (Bill Hader lending his vocal talents here) - and they discover “what they were born to do.”
We get a glimpse into the history of the Rangers and the rest is almost history, aside from Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) who has plans of world domination all her own, which involves an ancient crystal, lots of gold, and doughnuts. Banks is fun to watch in this role, and the way she is amped up to give this horror vibe-like presence might be just enough to scare the youngsters. I was a little frazzled at points myself.
But what works best about “Power Rangers” is how deeply invested it is with the characters. Fortunately, that means we don’t get as much action (it’s not till about the 90 minute mark that we actually get to see the Rangers morph). So most of the movie is spent on the origin, which was to be expected. All of the young actors do fine work, playing “teenagers” (I suppose that’s one thing this movie has in common with the TV show, they cast people well into their twenties to play teens). Cyler is the standout - whose last big screen role in “Me, Earl, and The Dying Girl” was flawless - as the Blue ranger. He brings a gentle warmth to the role unlike any of the previous alum before him.
On paper, “Power Rangers” had no merits to be as good as it was, because if we are judging based on old archives of footage we can scavenge on the internet, then you know how bland and cheesy it actually is. The most important note, however, was the reward in the end. Yes, it takes some time to get there (almost too much time, frankly), but the waiting game of seeing our suited comrades in the finale is well earned. Partially because it knows how to handle their situation, and really because it’s just fun. Who knew that all the Power Rangers needed was a little makeover and some fine attention to detail. GO GO! B+