The Russell Review: Power Rangers

Minor Spoilers Ahead: You’ve been Warned!

It was difficult to watch Power Rangers without feeling like I was 6 years old again. I haven’t felt nostalgia and childlike wonder in the theater like this in quite some time. The Power Rangers were a big part of my after-school ritual for years, and knowing that a big budget version of the costumed “teenagers with attitude” was coming to theaters got me more excited than I expected. While it’s not a revolutionary movie, Power Rangers is arguably the best children’s show movie when held up to the Transformers, Ninja Turtles and G.I. Joe series.

The main thing that stood out to me about this movie was the actual depth of the characters. In the original series, the Rangers themselves were very one-dimensional. Billy was nerdy, Kimberly was a gymnast, Jason was the leader, Zack was a dancer and Trini was just…Trini. However, in this new movie, all of the kids have problems. Sexual orientation, learning disabilities, sexting, and broken families all play a part in the lives of the teenagers in this movie. I think it was bold of the movie’s screenwriters to go down this path, as the young audience of this movie might have similar problems, and they now have new idols to aspire to. Often, heroes are these perfect paragons of humanity, so it’s refreshing to see people come together because they’re far from perfect.

Becky G. as Trini, Dacre Montgomery as Jason, Naomi Scott as Kimberly, Ludi Lin as Zack, and RJ Cyler as Billy in Power Rangers. (Photo Credit: Kimberley French, Lions Gate Entertainment

This dynamic provides the movie with a story that I’ve seen best described as “Breakfast Club meets Batman Begins.” While this movie isn’t nearly as good as either of those two, it is much better than it has any right to be. There are plenty of cringe-worthy lines, points of convenience, and questionable special effects, but there is heavy characterization and story-telling (at least in the first two-thirds of the movie), which is probably the last thing I expected in a movie about teenagers in colorful suits beating up on rock monsters.

The tone of the movie was definitely a bit off, as there were times where it felt like two movies were going on. Whenever Elizabeth Bank’s “Rita Repulsa” was on screen, it seemed like the director told her to be as campy as she could possibly be. When compared to Rita from the original series, it makes sense, but the serious tone that sits over most of the movie makes it seem more out of place. It didn’t bother me too much, as I expected camp from a movie based off of the Rangers. The fan service was incredible, making just enough nods to the original series without beating people over the head with it. The placement of the original theme song is truly an epic moment, and my friend and I were literally fist-pumping in the theater.

Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa in Power Rangers. (Photo Credit: Lions Gate Entertainment

The final act of the movie, like the series, of course focuses on the Rangers fighting a giant monster in the middle of the city. This is when the movie starts to feel rushed and that the budget might have gotten stretched a bit thin. There are moments of struggle which are obviously going to turn out fine for everyone, choreography that isn’t extremely inspired, ugly computer graphics, and the most heavy-handed product placement I have ever seen (for Krispy Kreme, nonetheless). Regardless, the movie did a great job of building the mythology of the universe and leaving it open for more stories to be told, especially if you stick around for the scene in the middle of the credits.

Power Rangers, while not a game-changer, surprised me and my friends with its quality. While it is a familiar story of a group of vastly-different strangers coming together and becoming stronger thanks to one another, it tackles this subject very well and has plenty of fun while doing it. Seeing commercials, I was worried that another aspect of my childhood was going to be bastardized, but now I am happily looking forward to the inevitable sequel. Go, go, Power Rangers!