And so finally – almost 25 years since the series debut – the third theatrical release is upon us, the first of which to be given a legitimate, big budget Hollywood treatment. And before I give my verdict it's important to put this review into context (something that most respected film critics will fail to do). It isn't about what adults think of this new movie, but rather what its target audience think. How does POWER RANGERS play to kids, and does it succeed? The answer – YOU BET IT DOES!
The film, set in contemporary America, serves as an origin story as a means to completely reboot the franchise. It wisely ignores the expanded Power Rangers universe as established in the cluster of spin-off shows and returns to the original (and best) series of the early '90s. We are reintroduced to the original characters as ordinary, albeit troubled, teenagers who find themselves stumbling onto an ancient Alien spaceship buried beneath a mountain and being recruited by the mystical powers. The ship's occupants are an interdimensional general named Zordon who is trapped inside a super-computer, and his robot assistant Alpha-5 who have been in hibernation for millions of years following their capture of the evil sorceress Rita Repulsa. When Rita is released following the Power Rangers' recruitment, the five teens must accept their destiny and become The Power Rangers, a tight-knit band of superheroes whose powers are strengthened by their solidarity.
Aside from the original backstory of Zordon and Rita's arrival on Earth being changed, POWER RANGERS remains true to the source material, and with the benefit of modern technology has been amplified for the big screen in the best way possible. The classic cheesiness of the TV-series has been preserved, with deliberately stilted dialogue and outrageous Manga-inspired action sequences. As soon as the initial character development is established the film kicks into overdrive and pummels the screen with the sort of nonsensical battles and ludicrous setups that made the show such an enduring and beloved franchise. Fans of the series ought to lap this one up.
The casting of POWER RANGERS feels right. Each of the teen characters have been chosen carefully and represent the sort of diversity that should satisfy modern social expectations. In fact Alpha-5 even declares “Five coloured children. Five children of colour!” as a non-too-subtle double entendre. We also have one of the rangers representing the LGBT community and another identifying as autistic. Neither of these details detract from the concept and, if anything, they add a little more flavour to the ensemble. Bryan Cranston plays Zordon and his presence gives the movie a big fat dose of credibility. Cranston had an uncredited role in the first season of the original tv-series and it's only fitting that he would return to the franchise. His performance is great and there's a sense that he relished every moment. The evil Rita Repulsa is played by Elizabeth Banks, who also has fun with the material, and her character benefits from a total makeover. She is now much more malevolent with a lot less exaggeration, and Bank's performance is at times sinister while at other times frivolous. Alpha-5 has also been given a much needed make-over to keep the subterranean sequences lively.
POWER RANGERS is mostly praise from me. Aside from some really lucid and distracting cinematography, the movie delivers on its promise. It is a fun, exciting and action-packed movie for kids that reignites an old flame and never overstays its welcome. I saw it with an audience of enthusiastic nerds (of young and old) and when they erupted into a cheer at the sound of “Go Go Power Rangers” it was very clear that film criticism of such a movie seems almost irrelevant.