Review: Power Rangers (2017)

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Colour-coded team assemble!: Lionsgate/Saban Entertainment

Let’s be clear from the outset: I have nothing invested in POWER RANGERS at all. I never watched the show, I never had the toys, I know nothing about this property beyond the fact that they re-edited a janky Japanese show with English-speaking actors. Now comes the latest big(ish) budget reboot for the next generation, though I only saw 90s kids at my screening.

An ancient intergalactic conflict reignites and the latest generation of Power Rangers are chosen to defend their home from all incoming threats. Can a group of five teenagers unite and learn to wield the powers bestowed upon them?

As admirable as trying to further diversify the team is, having the Rangers sit around a campfire and literally explain the way their characters have been written was a bit on-the-nose for me. The actors all do reasonable enough work (the young actors – I don’t really know what Elizabeth Banks was shooting for as the villain), with Jason (Dacre Montgomery) and Billy’s (RJ Cyler) motivations firmly established in an early scene where the former open-handed slaps a bully in defense of the latter. Unfortunately the others who appear just in time for the accident that gives them their powers (Ludi Lin’s Zack and Becky G’s Trini in particular) are hurriedly and inconsistently defined. Why is Trini considered a weirdo, because she wears a beanie and doesn’t talk a lot? Just once, can’t we have a teen with a sad family backstory express themselves in another way than just being a tool? Characters contradict themselves too, with Zack putting on a hard-man act but more than happy to open up because it’s the aforementioned “share with the group” scene, and when it’s revealed that Kimberly’s (Naomi Scott) guilty secret is the distribution of a friend’s explicit pictures, she feels so guilty that she immediately shows Jason the incriminating evidence.

Anyone who was fooled by the moment where a key character apparently dies for about 10 minutes needs to watch more movies. The way this sequence is played, with the score and cast changing drastically to sombre and serious is frankly laughable. Half of the time the film’s style overshadows the material. I’ll give director Dean Israelite his dues for pushing for a distinctive visual style (Matthew J Loyd of COP CAR makes the opening fleeing from the police far more interesting than it should be by smoothly rotating the camera as the action progresses) but the script (credited to 5 writers) just doesn’t live up to it.

The action is fluid and glossy, but confined to the final 20 minutes. The Rangers grapple with rock monsters on the ground and Goldar, a walking mountain of liquid bling, from their dinosaur-shaped mech suits, Zords. I feel like the Zords should be cooler: as they are (much like a few other elements of the film) they’re fine, but they don’t inspire a “OMG that’s cool” reaction. Perhaps we needed more time to take in the designs or they needed more character within the action. It’s easier to make out what is going on in the set-pieces than in say, TRANSFORMERS (which gets a name-check), but it’s a conventional action finale that won’t stay with you other than breaking the record for the number of times characters mention Krispy Kreme.

I can’t feel strongly either way about Power Rangers. It’s competent, it’s admirable in the manner it tries to revive the franchise for a modern audience and there are some pleasing stylistic touches. But the character work, despite the actors’ best efforts, is mishandled, it’s tonally more than a little weird and the action should have been better spread across the film. The Power Rangers fan friend I saw this with reckoned this was a decent version of the mythology, but I find myself thinking it would take something truly special to bring me back to this world. SSP

About Sam Sewell-Peterson

I'm not paid to write about film - I do it because I love it. Favourites include Sam Mendes, Guillermo del Toro, Bong Joon-ho, Steven Spielberg, Danny Boyle, Edgar Wright, Taika Waititi and the Coen Brothers. All reviews and articles are original works owned by me. They represent one man's opinion, and I'm more than happy to engage in civilised debate if you disagree.
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