The Power Rangers franchise has captivated audiences the world over for two decades, with over 800 television series episodes, several films, video games, books, comics and merchandise. Beginning in 1993 with Saban’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, the franchise still continues to grow today, with the new Power Rangers film releasing this week.
Directed by Dean Israelite, the new Power Rangers film is a reboot of the franchise and sees a reimagination of how the original five rangers from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series attained their special abilities to become the fated protectors of their little town of Angel Grove and the world at large. This means that we are shown a modernised look into how Jason (Dacre Montgomery), Kimberly (Naomi Scott), Billy (RJ Cyler), Zack (Ludi Lin) and Trini (Becky G) become the Power Rangers and meet their mentor, Zordon (Bryan Cranston) and his sidekick, Alpha 5 (Bill Hader).
As a die-hard fan who grew up watching every episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, collected all the toys and could tell you more than you would ever want to know about each character on the show, I was incredibly excited about the new film. My excitement grew even more upon learning of Bryan Cranston’s role in the film, and that Elizabeth Banks was playing the wickedly evil Rita Repulsa.
As with each episode of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers television series and each of the previous films, an enemy threatens Angel Grove or any other location on Earth, and the Power Rangers are called upon to put an end to the threat, which results in them morphing into their armour and fighting off evil minions using martial arts and weaponry, before summoning their zords to combine together to create the Megazord to assist in defeating the giant monster that eventually arrives to destroy the rangers. This film is no different, and follows the standard Power Rangers formula which, while predictable, remains true to its core concept of good triumphing over evil.
While the plot essentially takes inspiration from the first season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, with Rita being set free to unleash hell on Earth, the characters of the new film have definitely been altered with the rangers being made up of real ‘teenagers with attitude’. Where the original team of rangers were made up of rather popular teenagers, each well liked and possessed of their own special talents, the five teenagers in the film are all misfit diliquents, each of whom could be seen to be social outcasts.
Zordon too, despite being played by Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), is different in terms of character, as he doesn’t come across as the wise, fatherly type of mentor, compared to his Mighty Morphin Power Rangers counterpart. Thankfully, Bill Hader brings wit and humour to Alpha 5. As for Rita, I don’t recall her ever being as evil as the Elizabeth Banks version, which makes Rita into a terrifying villain with an insatiable lust for gold. This version of Goldar, however, is just a mindless giant gold monster with no personality whatsoever, and whose only purpose is to destroy.
When it came to the villains, the putty patrol (or ‘putties’), Rita’s minions, lack any kind of character compared to their original counterparts, who were, at least, slightly humorous in their attempts to fight off the rangers. The film appears to have included the putties simply as target practice for the rangers to show off their martial arts skills.
Compared to the television series, which saw the rangers both in and out of armour in equal amounts and much more martial arts, this film spends far more time building the story of the teenagers becoming friends and supporting one another, more than actually working on learning how to use the zords and fight off the villains. The martial arts sequences are brief and the zords, albeit ‘powerful’, aren’t exactly impressive. This could partially be the due to the poor design of the zords, which look nothing at all like the original and more like scraps of metal pieced together, or the fact that throughout what should have been an epic battle scene, there’s no epic music to really carry the scene. In fact, the entire soundtrack feels rather lacklustre. This most certainly was a missed opportunity, as even the formation of the Megazord is poorly done. To be fair, we’re treated to a brief few minutes of the classic Power Rangers theme, but this is sadly short lived.
The soundtrack is what made the first, 1995 Mighty Morphin Power Rangers film a hit, despite the terrible CGI graphics, corny lines and cheap thrills. Where the new film isn’t as corny and really does portray a story of misguided teenagers finally finding their purpose, the lack of great soundtrack, especially during key scenes, was a deflating experience.
Despite building a decent story right from the get-go, it does feel as if Power Ranges dropped the ball halfway, and the ultimate result is frustration for the fan. And unfortunately, even the film’s visuals feel lacking, despite the more modern and improved CGI. Throughout the film, there’s nothing that really stands out visually. By contrast, the 1995 Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was terrible visually, but was still bright, colourful and appealing. Not only were their armour shiny but their Ninja suits looked incredibly cool. Even the stunts and fight scenes were awe-inspiring in that film. I have to admit that I just wasn’t impressed by much in this new film. At all.
Despite the many drawbacks and disappointments this latest Power Rangers film, it did bring back fond memories of my childhood, and made me want to rewatch the old television episodes. I suppose that means that the film somehow did its job, but while the film certainly isn’t terrible, it’s certainly not what it could have been, either.
- Power Rangers is in NZ theatres now.
* This review was first published on www.thevanguardsite.com