Released 23rd March (Australia)
Seen 4th December
Directed by Dean Israelite
Written by John Gatins
Produced by Lionsgate, Saban Films, TIK Films, Temple Hill Entertainment, Toei Company, Videocine
Starring Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Becky G., Bryan Cranston & Elizabeth Banks
Growing up in the 90s there was exactly one superhero team that everyone loved. That team was the Power Rangers and I’ll admit I grew out of them a while ago, but I still have fond memories of the original series. The characters were well developed and relatable, multicultural, they felt like actual teenagers and the fights were fun and over the top. I still genuinely enjoy the original movie, Ivan Ooze may be my favourite family movie villain because he was so over the top and fun. Since our culture is riding on a tidal wave of 90s nostalgia someone decided now was the time to revive the Power Rangers franchise and whoever made that decision is an idiot.
From the very first shot, this film is not even close to the classic series that shaped an entire generation. The colours feel muted, it feels grittier and like they’re taking this all far too seriously. This film opens with an apocalyptic battle between Bryan Cranston in bad makeup and a CGI lizard woman talking in gibberish while they bury glowing multi-coloured discs. You remember what the opening scene of the original film was? Everyone skydived while a cover of Higher Ground by Red Hot Chilli Peppers blared and it was awesome and fun. That’s a serious contrast in tone and sorry, I prefer the more fun tone when it’s related to Power Rangers. It has always been a show that was fun, it could have its serious moments when needed but for the most part, it was just a lot of fun. This movie lacks fun.
I understand that they’re trying to come up with a brand new origin for the rangers and, in the films credit, the kids they picked are pretty good. I enjoyed the new version of Jason, Dacre Montgomery really got to show a side that he didn’t get to show off on Stranger Things and I liked it. I think this version of Billy might be my favourite of the entire batch because not only did they make him African-American, meaning they avoid the awkward racial implications by making the African-American into the Blue Ranger (Also they had the Asian character as the black ranger, thank god they fixed that awkwardness) but they put him on the spectrum. A superhero who is on the spectrum? Yes, I’m all for that. I’m less for how every one of our heroes is a labelled a screw up who are constantly in detention, I feel like that’s been done to death and I’m tired of it. Oh, also, can we maybe have the film wait until after the 5-minute mark to make a “Jacking off a Bull cos I thought it was a lady cow who needed milking” joke… not even kidding, that’s a thing that happens.
Elizabeth Banks as Rita might be the most annoying thing because, sorry, that’s not Rita. Rita was a billion-year-old space witch who had a penchant for cackling, beating her assistants and screaming “Magic wand, make my monster grow!” before somehow throwing her wand from the moon to the earth. She was hilarious, she was iconic, I loved her… they turned her into discount Divatox with a gold fetish and it sucks. She only really starts actually being fun right towards the end of the film when they’re doing the climactic fight scene and then I actually started to enjoy what she was doing. Again, the main villain in a Power Rangers property should be entertaining. Ivan Ooze was one of the most overdone charming crazy characters I’ve seen, he screamed about missing the Brady Bunch reunion and was hilarious. This film needed an Ivan Ooze.
Zordon and Alpha are just there, there’s nothing truly great about either one. Zordon actually just flat out lies to the kids at one point and treats them like crap which OG Zordon probably wouldn’t have done, not like this anyway. The whole original movie was focussed on the love the kids had for Zordon and how saving him was their motivation for the entire film but here? Zordon could die, no one would care. Alpha is just Bill Hader doing bad stand up jokes, doesn’t even try to put on a silly voice to make the character fun. Also, he looks hideous.
In fact, every character design is bad and awful and wrong. Goldar looks like snot, the Zords look like they’d be rejected from Transformers movies, the putty patrol looks like a discount CGI version of the Rockbiter from Never Ending Story. At no point did I feel like there were actual giant robots walking around Angel Grove, at no point did I feel like the kids were fighting a monster and guess what? I felt that while watching the original movie. Cheesy as it can be, two guys fighting in robot suits while surrounded by a miniature town will always be more visually interesting than a generic CGI snore-fest.
They make a big deal about the kids morphing throughout the film and guess how long they spend actually morphed? 20 minutes, right at the end of the film. And half of that their faces are exposed and they’re in the Zords which is nowhere near as cool as seeing a bunch of teens in colourful costumes kicking some ass. The only other time we see them morphed is in the shot that is just above this pargraph. It is 30 seconds, it’s just one ranger, and then they make the point that he can’t do it again on command. I’m going to keep comparing this to the original because that’s just unavoidable. In that film they morphed within the first 20 minutes, still spent most of the film in bright coloured visually interesting outfits and when they got their powers back at the end they kept them in those costumes in full view of the audience as long as they could. I don’t think it’s exaggerating to say that the original movie let the Rangers stay in the suits for a solid half of the movie while this one barely lets them be in them for a quarter and god does that change things.
There is, exactly, 10 minutes of this film that feel like it belongs in Power Rangers. It’s when they get in the Zords, they blare out the original theme tune and it’s awesome, Rita stops to eat Krispy Kreme while Goldar punches buildings, there’s a lot of high energy fun to be had for 10 solid minutes and then they just lose it. This isn’t a Power Rangers film that needed to be made, this is a cheap setup to try and get to sequels and sorry but you need to actually make a film that warrants one. The writer of this film wanted to make a dark gritty movie about 5 brightly coloured ninja superheroes who punch clay monster men in the face until they explode into flames… and no one told him this idea was bad and he should feel bad.