Starring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Becky G.
Directed By: Dean Israelite
Running Time: 124 mins
BBFC Certificate: PG
UK Release Date: July 31st 2017
I’m a bit confused. It’s called Power Rangers, but no one is wearing spandex, there are no men in slightly cardboard looking suits, and no CGI that looks like it was made in 10 minutes on a ZX Spectrum. Perhaps most confusing is that Rita Repulsa’s mouth now moves in time with what she’s saying. It’s all very strange.
It’s time for an origin story though. The film opens with Bryan Cranston causing the end of the dinosaurs. Well, Cranston’s alien Power Ranger, Zordon, does anyway, dying himself in the process of stopping evil former ranger, Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks).
Zip forward to the modern day, and a bunch of teenagers in a US town called Angel Grove have ended up in detention. They include Jason (Dacre Montgomery), Kimberly (Naomi Scott), Billy (RJ Cyler), and Trini (Becky G.), none of whom seem to have much in common. However, they later all end up near the town’s gold mine, along with another teen called Zack (Ludi Lin), when Billy uncovers some strange coloured ‘coins’ hidden in crystals.
They also discover that underneath the earth is a spaceship that’s been there for 65 million years, containing a robot called Alpha 5 (Bill Hader) and a digital version of Zordon. The ancient alien believes that the five teens must be the new Power Rangers. They’ve arrived not a moment too soon, as Rita is in the process of returning. She wants to resurrect her monster, Goldar, and get him to rip the zeocrystal from under Angel Grove – and if he does that, the Earth will be destroyed.
There’s a problem though, as the kids don’t know how to be Power Rangers, and as a result they can’t morph into their brightly coloured armour. Only by learning about each other, training and figuring out how to be a team can they hope to defeat Rita. Oh, and they’ll get to control some giant robots if they’re good enough, too.
After a lot of rather cheesy but insanely popular Power Rangers TV series that have spanned the galaxy and the ages, as well as a couple of equally camp movies, this time they’re taking things a little more seriously. This is Power Rangers as a large scale, big budget action film, with all the CGI, fighting, and special effects that might suggest. There’s also been an attempt to try and keep what young people liked about the original Rangers – teens with the power to save the world, giant robots and lots of fighting.
Unfortunately though, it doesn’t work as well as it might have.
The actors give it their all, and director Dean Israelite provides a few impressive sequences (most particularly a Children Of Men-esque single shot car chase/crash near the beginning). However, they’re all slightly hamstrung by a rather cringe-inducing script.
It’s clear early on (and confirmed by the special features) that this wants to be The Breakfast Club of superhero movies – and yes, that is as odd as it sounds. Hence four of the five teens meet in detention, and there’s a periodic need for the youngsters to unload their emotions and angst in scenes that are almost painful to watch. That includes a moment where press coverage would have you believe we’re presented with the first out lesbian superhero. However, the character never actually says what her sexuality is, it’s purely inferred by what another character says. So like Lefou in Beauty & The Beast, what’s been lauded as a watershed LGBT moment is actually pretty coy and easy to miss (although in the featurettes the cast and crew sure like to slap themselves on the back for it).
And sadly, despite Elizabeth Banks seeming to be smart casting as Rita Repulsa, the way the character is presented is so over the top and silly that it’s like she’s fallen in from a Power Rangers pantomime, while everyone else is taking it fairly seriously. That’s not Banks’ fault at all, as it’s essentially built into how they decided to present the character.
All of this could have been easy to overlook if the movie had been zippy and exciting, but at over two hours it sure takes it time. They don’t even get into their Power Rangers costumes for about an hour and forty minutes. Although this is meant to be an origin story, there are numerous points where it’s difficult not to wish they’d originate a little faster. Add in its need for character beats that only serve to slow down the film, and entire sequences that are essentially marking time, and you have a movie that’s on the verge of being quite cool, but instead ends up being overdone and overlong.
Even so, quite a lot of it is fun and watchable, it’s just that other, largely unnecessary things keep coming along to drag things down. The multi-national cast certainly take to their roles with gusto, and you can feel everyone pulling together for what they hope is going to the start of a multi-picture franchise. Unfortunately though, following a rather muted response at the cinema, it’s currently seeming unlikely we’ll get Power Rangers 2. That’s actually a bit of a shame, as with more control of the script and less fear of killing your darlings, a follow-up could have been really good. Indeed, the exact same thing is true of this movie, which isn’t terrible but stretches things out to the point where it’s outstaying its welcome.
It has to be said though, the special features on the Blu-ray are pretty good, including a making-of documentary that’s actually longer than the film itself.
Overall Verdict: There’s a lot that’s good about Power Rangers and it could have been a lot of fun all the way through, but a bloated running time and pacing issues bring it down.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac
Audio Commentary with Director Dean Israelite and Writer John Gatins
‘The Power of the Present’ Documentary
Theatrical Trailer with Audio Commentary by Director Dean Israelite