Sunday, March 26, 2017
Power Rangers Review
In the last few years, I think I've been pretty good about setting a proper expectation and gauging how excited I should be for a movie. Take, for example, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. I expected it to be about on par with Man of Steel and for the most part I was right. This year, though, my expectations are all over the place. I don't know what Spider-Man: Homecoming or Wonder Woman are going to be like. Power Rangers was a movie that I had no idea what it could be. Could it try to be just like the show and take a silly approach to an even sillier concept? Would it go for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/ Transformers route of trying to make this grim and gritty and for adults? What would it do right or what would it do wrong?From the get-go it should be noted that this series shares names and concepts with the original series and that's about it. Some of the qualities of the original five Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers are still there: Jason's the stoic leader, Billy's a geek, and Kimberly's super pretty and popular. The show still takes place in Angel Grove but it has much more of a small-town feel than the original series. Zordon and Rita Repulsa both have different backstories than the original series but still fill the same role.
This is also an origin story for the Power Rangers, telling a story with a somewhat altered history than what we're used to. There are previous Ranger teams but not in the way you necessarily think. They play with previous lore in a way that I can get behind. Remember: this is a reboot. It takes information you already knew about and spins it on it's head just a bit so that it's recognizable for longtime fans but also fresh for people new to the franchise.
Did it do these things correctly? For the most part, yeah. In fact I would recommend this movie to someone interested in it.
It's very different from the original show. The action is not the emphasis; instead, the Rangers themselves are the focus of it all. Which makes sense. All previous TV series have, for me, lived or died by the quality of the cast. Dino Charge (not the second season), Time Force, Wild Force, Jungle Fury and the original are classics in my mind because the cast is so much fun. You would want to hang out with these people and could believe that they're the ones behind the mask.
With so much emphasis on the characters, you'd better hope that they do two things right: establish that these are the Power Rangers...and have good acting. At first, I'll admit, I was a bit skeptical about why, indeed, these kids were chosen. But by the end of the movie I realized that I did want to see more with this team. These are indeed the Power Rangers. I like them more than the current canon team in Ninja Steel.
Jason, Kimberly, Billy, Zack, and Trini all feel like real people with real problems. The story does resemble the whole "people from different worlds coming together" type of deal but it pulls it off slowly and in a way that makes sense. They don't all just come together and become best friends. There's nervous and insecurities between all of them and on more than one occassion do they spat and fight because, really, they haven't know each other long.
Jason and Billy are the two closest knit of the group, but that doesn't mean the other characters are shrugged off with their development. All of the teenagers get good amounts of screen-time and development. I almost forgot that they were supposed to morph and fight and do all these crazy things because I was so caught up in watching them grow. There's a strong theme of friendship and what that actually means that can be relatable for a lot of people.
All of the Rangers are very well acted, too. Zack was my least favorite at first but he has a scene-stealing monologue near the end of the second act that really sold him as an actor for me. Sometimes their dialogue can be a bit clunky and awkward, taking away from the whole "real characters" aspect, but most of their acting shines in their expressions. Trini doesn't speak much but she emotes so well that you know exactly what's going through her mind...and sometimes, you aren't really sure. It gives her layers.
The other main actors (save for one, but we'll get to that) do a fine job for what's required. Bryan Cranston as Zordon is as good as everyone is expecting and Bill Hader as Alpha-5 was just fine for me. I think most people will be annoyed with him, but I'm used to Alpha being an annoying character so it didn't bug me at all.
Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa might be what really annoys some people. Me? I thought she was great. She was vile, evil, and absolutely insane. Maybe she watched some of the old series and tried to mimic the utter lunacy of the space-witch Rita. If so, she pulled it off pretty well. And it does fit the story. It's implied that Rita's power, and her growing power, corrupted her so maybe it's all gone to her head. Compared to other women that go insane with power in sci-fi films, she's the best we've gotten in a while. She's way better than the Enchantress from Suicide Squad.
I just found it really strange to think, "Wow, Rita looks pretty hot" because, you know, it's Rita Repulsa. Stop making me think odd things, Power Rangers.
My biggest complaints with the movie are that it doesn't feel all that huge at points where it should've, and I think that's a post-production problem. Big epic moments lack that score that would've really put it over the edge. They do use some modern music that I'm otherwise "bleh" about effectively during fights (and perhaps a certain theme song pops up at a point in the climax...). Pacific Rim style of fight music is what I was thinking (specifically when Gypsy Danger throws down in Shanghai against the double Kaiju).
There are other complaints I have that you'll see everywhere. Krispy Kreme has some incredible overt product placement that's both stupid and effective. They just say the store's name a lot. Although I will say one of the funniest images and concepts ever does relate to Krispy Kreme near the end. It got a solid laugh out of me.
If you're expecting something along the lines of Transformers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the recent films), you're for the most part not going to get that. There is way less action in it and instead really makes you feel for this team so that when they do come together to finally fight, you feel the weight of their actions and understand how far they've come as the Power Rangers. The ending fight is a big CGI-fest but honestly if you expected anything else, in the modern age, you're way too optimistic. The action, in spots, was actually some of my least favorite stuff about the movie. I really enjoyed when they were doing fight-training with each other, like when Jason is teaching Billy how to fight, or when Kim and Trini start working together to choreograph their moves.
And yes, of course, there are goofy references to the show. Some are goofy, some are surprisingly important, and some are quick enough for longtime fans to catch and get a little smile at. There are a pair of cameos I'm sure you've heard about a pair of cameos that are being way over hyped (although I swear I thought Austin St. John was playing Jason's father, that would've been cool!) The references and all that aren't as bad as some of the Marvel movie references that are very in your face, and I didn't mind them at all. One that Rita says got a little chuckle out of me just from the way Elizabeth Banks delivers it.
Overall, I had a fun time watching Power Rangers and I'm looking forward to future sequels. I wouldn't mind them making a franchise out of the series, and would be interested to see their take on the Green Ranger saga (including the White Ranger), Lord Zedd, Rita's other bumbling servants, and maybe even the origin of the Power Coins and possible other Ranger teams.
If you're a fan of the series hoping for a solid take on the franchise, definitely check it out. If you're getting sick of these huge blockbuster glops of destruction and fake empathy, I'd say this is another one. The Rangers are genuine characters and are well-acted. Sure the action at the end is a bit much, but, hey, it's Power Rangers. That's kind of how it is.