When I think of classic kids TV shows that were a staple for a lot of kids during the ’90s, one of the first ones to pop into my head would definitely be MIGHTY MORPHIN’ POWER RANGERS. Not only did the original series become an instant hit with kids when it first premiered on TV back in 1993, it actually became a pop culture phenomenon that took the world by storm. Sure it was a completely cheesy and campy superhero show but at the same time, it’s not hard to understand why it became a hit. The show pretty much had everything kids would want in a show: superheroes, martial arts, monsters, giant robots etc. It’s success led to a massive franchise that included two theatrically released films and many spin-off TV series, which are still being produced today. Now the series makes it long waited return to the big screen and rebooted for a whole new generation in the form of the film POWER RANGERS.
Set in the small town of Angel Grove, the film tells the story of five teenagers from very different backgrounds: Jason (Dacre Montgomery), Kimberly (Naomi Scott), Billy (R.J. Cyler), Trini (Becky G) and Zack (Ludi Lin). Despite their differences, all five of the them have something in common: they’re troubled teens who have become outcasts their town. One day fate brings them all together when after an accident they caused at the town’s mine, they discover five different coloured coins and an ancient alien space ship buried beneath the surface of the mine. When they go inside the ship, they come face-to-face with an alien being named Zordon (Bryan Cranston) and his robot assistant Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader). Zordon tells the teens that the coins they found are called Power Coins and that they have been chosen them to become Power Rangers, a group of warriors whose mission is protect the universe from evil. The teens now have to put their differences aside and work together as one to stop former Power Ranger turned evil witch Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), who wants to find a power source called the Zeo Crystal so that she can use it to destroy the Earth.
Before I go into my review, I need to get this off my chest: I was actually kind of excited for this film. Why’s that you ask? You see when I was a kid, I use to be a really, and I mean REALLY, big fan of the all things POWER RANGERS. Now looking back on it as an adult, I fully acknowledge that the original TV series definitely was not a *good* show by any means. However that being said though, I’ll have a nostalgia fondness for it since it did play a big part of my childhood. So when I heard that Hollywood was going to reboot the franchise and do a new modern take on it, I was genuinely excited for it. POWER RANGERS is one of those ideas with a lot of potential and if done right, it could be really fun film that’s in the vein as other superhero franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the X-MEN films etc. Now having seen the actual film for myself, I wish I could say that it was like one of those. Now I know what your thinking: it’s a POWER RANGERS films, what did you expect? It’s true that I wasn’t expecting a high quality film or anything but I was still hoping that would be at least be an entertaining good time nonetheless. Instead we have an extremely dull and badly made superhero film that was clearly made by people who had no idea what type of film they wanted this to be. Seriously, this is without a doubt one of the most tonally uneven films that I’ve seen in quite a long time. I haven’t seen a film that badly juggle so many different tones in one film since the ’90s Shaquille O’Neal abomination KAZAAM. If ask me who I believe who is responsible for the way that this film turned as bad as it did, it’s definitely both director Dean Israelite and the screenwriters.
While I give director Dean Israelite (who previously made the solid time travel found-footage film PROJECT ALMANAC) credit for attempting to take a more mature and less campy approach to this new adaptation of POWER RANGERS but sadly, his direction here was just poorly done in every way. It’s clear that he wanted to make this reboot a mixture of grounded THE BREAKFAST CLUB/STAND BY ME style teen drama with over-the-top sci-fi superhero action but the end result is a complete utter mess in both style and tone. While I was watching the film, I just found it completely jarring how the film would go back-and-fourth between these aspects. It felt like I watching two completely different films that were edited together. Also the way that he directed the scenes with ‘Rita Repulsa’ was just as jarring as well since they felt like they belonged in a full-blown horror film. In a better filmmaker’s hands all these different tones probably could have worked together but in Israelite’s, it’s just inconsistent and all over the place. Plus his staging of the film’s action set pieces was both bland and unexciting. It probably didn’t help that the he was working from a really weak and idiotic screenplay by Oscar nominated writer John Gatins (which he wrote from a story by Matt Sazama & Burk Dharpless and Michelle Mulroney & Kieran Mulroney) as well. You would think that with a premise as simple as POWER RANGERS it would have been easy to make it into a something fun but nope, Gatins’s script was poorly constructed on both a character and story front.
When it comes to the technical side of things, I really wasn’t a fan of the film’s visual look. Sure there was some cool stylistic moments here and there but it was let down by the Matthew J. Lloyd’s awful cinematography, which I thought made the look really murky and washed out. This is film whose visual look should be vibrate and colourful, not so dark that you can barely see what was going on. Seriously, even the daylight scenes look like they were shot at night. Also the CGI was rather mediocre, the Zord/monster designs were uninspired and the product placement was really irritating. Now you’re probably wondering, was the aspects of the film that I did like? One of the main being the cast. While I think that their characters could have been better developed, I did feel that the young diverse cast (Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, R.J. Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin) did well with what they given with their roles as the ‘Power Rangers’. They did have some solid chemistry with each other and that’s very important for a film like this. However the stand outs were definitely both Naomi Scott as ‘Kimberly a.k.a. The Pink Power Ranger’ and R.J. Cyler as ‘Billy a.k.a. The Blue Power Ranger’, who definitely had the more engaging characters in the film. Bryan Cranston (‘Zordon’) and Elizabeth Banks (‘Rita Repulsa’) were okay in their roles but I wished they were given more to do. Although I do give credit to Banks for going all out with her bizarre performance. At least she seemed like she was having some fun. Also the score by Brian Tyler was great, the production/costume was nicely done and I really enjoyed all the nods/cameos to the original TV series. Sure it was total fan service, but it did put a smile on my face nonetheless.
Overall despite some of its very minor positive aspects, POWER RANGERS was still a unfocused, dour and badly put together film that squandered its potential to be a really entertaining blockbuster. If a sequel does get made (based on how it’s done at the box office so far, it’s definitely a given), I just hope that the filmmakers look at all the problems that this film had and try to improve upon it next time around. Even if that means getting a whole new creative team behind it. Whole I’m sure that they’ll be a lot of you POWER RANGERS fans out there might still have fun with it regardless of what I think (I know quite a few people who did) but for me personally, I thought it was pretty bad.
Review written by Bede Jermyn