Directed by Dean Israelite
Written by John Gatins
Growing up I loved the show Power Rangers. I am this movies demographic, to be certain. But what I often find when facing films such as Power Rangers is that the quality of the film is really in the eye of the beholder. This is a film that, for some, will be a heck of a nostalgic ride, and for others a relatively cliche ridden, eye-rolling cheesy bore. The television show has been airing, in one iteration or another, for a very long time, so this film also has its target audience in youngsters who still watch the show, but I am fairly confident after having seen the film that Power Rangers will have a wide range of reception. Some critics will definitely rag on this film, while others, perhaps not unlike myself, will embrace the film for the fun camp being had. Whichever camp you’re in, I’m fairly confident that you’ll know whether this film is for you or not by the time you’ve finished my review. So be warned (or appropriately excited!).
This is a film which can certainly draw comparisons to other films, like Transformers or even The Breakfact Club. The Breakfact Club connection runs only deep enough to say that a group of kids find themselves in detention on Saturdays for various reasons. Once fallen star quarterback Jason (Dacre Montgomery, a spitting image of Zac Efron) makes friends with the room’s dork Billy (RJ Cyler), he plays along enough to follow Billy to the local gold mine where the two, along with other social outcasts who hang around the quarry (Ludi Lin, Becky G. and Naomi Scott), uncover mysterious stones and a spaceship, which give them superhuman strength and the ominous and unbelievable mission of protecting a mysterious crystal from known intergalactic sociopath Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) who hopes to obtain it for world domination.
I mean look, right from the opening scene you’ll probably know whether you’re on board with this film or not, whether this is the type of camp nostalgia which will work for you or not. Perhaps my bias kicked in early, but I threw caution to the wind and decided to let the journey take me where it may, and what ended up happening was I enjoyed the movie perhaps way more than I should have. I’ll admit it, there are elements here which are cringe-worthy. The characters are crafted pretty broadly and are otherwise pretty shallow. A group of stereotypes and tropes we’ve seen countless times before. But you know what, this group, these actors, are having a ton of fun and the direction of Dean Israelite really helps add a sense that this film is not taking itself too seriously, something it could have easily fallen into given other more grim and gritty adaptations in recent years.
The film also suffers from its expected climax action scene, which falls somewhat flat, and pretty bad, nauseating cinematography throughout, but I had way too much fun with these teenagers as they came together, discovered their powers and struggled to become superheroes. It’s a cheesy, over-the-top, schlocky film, but it knows it is and embraces these elements. So did I, this is Power Rangers, afterall. So having said that, it should be no surprise that the themes of the film are such things as friendship, teamwork and self-sacrifice. But we mustn’t forget this is a film for young adults and teenagers, these are strong themes for that demographic. And even if they may be a bit too contrived for the older audience, they apply to any age group. But what makes it work is that they are handled well here, if not subtly. Again, if you were coming to Power Rangers for subtlety, you came to the wrong movie.
Power Rangers is not a great movie. It’s not a movie which will be soon remembered by a number of its audience, but it is plenty of fun for the moment. I can’t help but feel like I’ve spent this whole review recognizing the film’s faults and defending them. I have. But what is great about this film is the ensemble’s chemistry, how much fun Elizabeth Banks is having in what is obviously a ridiculous role, how much charisma RJ Cyler has coming off a breakout performance in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. There is just enough meat on the bones of each of these characters, as stock as they may be, to root for them, to become vested in both their friendship and the Rangers’ success. I’ll happily stand here and defend how much fun can be had in a movie like Power Rangers, while also acknowledging that it probably isn’t for everyone.