Power Rangers Review: Teen Angst with a Superhero Twist
The new Power Rangers movie is aimed like a laser at the fan base. Audiences that grew up with the television show are going to be enthusiastic. I was too old to have the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers be an integral part of my youth, so I judge it as a novice. The film is incredibly hokey in parts. An overabundance of CGI turns some scenes into a chaotic video game. That said; Power Ranges surprisingly captures teen angst in an effective way. There is an edge to the characters that lead to unexpected moments.
The story takes place in the town of Angel Grove, California. Jason (Dacre Montgomery), a former jock turned kind-hearted rebel, lands in detention for his antics. He stands up for Billy (RJ Cyler), a slightly autistic teen that convinces him to go on a secret project. The pair ends up at a mining quarry. While Billy creates havoc with an experiment, Jason runs into three more lost souls.
Kimberly (Naomi Scott) was the school's most popular girl, until an unwise decision led her to trouble. Zack (Ludi Lin) is the reckless adventurer hiding a tragic home life. Trini (Beck G) is the outsider struggling with sexual orientation issues. This motley crew finds destiny and danger that fateful night. They uncover a long hidden power meant to protect the Earth from a murderous villainess (Elizabeth Banks).
The plot ticks all the boxes of the standard origin story. In that sense, there's nothing new in general. The actual details however are quite intricate. Lots of goofy terminology is introduced to explain the abilities and purpose of the teens. It's exceptionally silly, but is easily understood. I've been told it adheres close to canon, so that should please the die-hards.
Power Rangers somewhat lost me in the pendulum swing between dark matter and fluff. The teens are like a politically correct focus group of misfits. But they actually coalesce around their mission and each other with serious intent. The coming together of these different personalities could have been foolish. It's not. There are genuine moments of drama, feeling, and humor; which pop like a balloon when followed by absurdity.
The visual effects waver substantially. Some are jarring and very well done. I'll qualify them by saying that the multiple car crashes and chases look fantastic. It falls prey to convention with the parade of endless CGI monsters. This is a tenet of the show, so had to be done; but I wish with more originality. Every movie like this just becomes a blob of action. It's a tired approach that we've seen too many times to find interesting.
The runtime is a head-scratching two hours and four minutes. It could certainly have been shorter. It moves quickly; but would have been more entertaining as a leaner edit. The cast was unfamiliar to me, but well chosen by the filmmakers. They are believable in these roles and have solid chemistry. It adds tremendous value to the film for newbies. From Lionsgate and Saban Films, Power Rangers eeks out a positive recommendation.