If Hollywood has taught us anything recently, it’s that when it comes to reboots on the big screen, there is a fine line to walk between recreating the magic of the original for a new audience whilst still retaining the charm and characteristics that make the original so beloved. Saban and Lionsgate’s Power Rangers manages just that, crafting an experience as camp and cheesy as its original 90’s Mighty Morphin version whilst boasting some impressive action sequences, special effects and an undeniable sense of fun.
Set in the small fictional American town of Angel Grove, Power Rangers follows the story of five misunderstood misfits, high school football star turned disgraced quarterback Jason (played by Australian newcomer Dacre Montgomery), “on-the-spectrum” Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler), fallen popular girl Kimberly (Naomi Scott), the resident crazy Zack (Ludi Lin) and the new girl Trini (Becky G.), who become strangely and inextricably linked after finding five uniquely coloured discs that make them stronger, faster and more powerful than they may be ready for. With the help of Zordon (Bryan Cranston), a former Ranger whose consciousness is trapped in a ship buried under the town, and his sidekick Alpha 5 (voiced wonderfully by Bill Hader), the group must learn to trust each other and work together to stop Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) before she destroys all life on the planet.
Screenwriter John Gatins, whose previous writing work has included Coach Carter, Real Steel and most recently Kong: Skull Island, does good work injecting life into what could have easily been your formulaic origin story. While the material doesn’t necessarily bring anything ground-breaking to the table, the screenplay is light and moves at a decent pace for the most part (with the exception of a slightly late 2nd/early 3rd act lull). There is a certain fun that comes from the way we are introduced to the characters and the screenplay provides room for emotional moments with them, even if these sections don’t all stick. Following on from 2015’s Project Almanac, Dean Israelite’s direction captures the light-hearted and spirited nature of Gatins’ screenplay and helps boost the more mundane scenes in the third act. Likewise, in the film’s climax, Israelite proves he is the right guy for the directorial chair, making sure the big action sequences not only look good, but balance the right mix of fun, cool and gadgetry you expect from your favourite morphing heroes.
As mostly new actors to big screen blockbusters, the lead cast manage well with their material. As leader and Red Ranger, Montgomery brings a great charm and likeability to his cool guy turned outcast Jason. His on-screen presence is commanding and he seems a natural fit as the team leader. As his obviously designed potential love interest, Scott also brings a nice nuance to popular girl Kimberly. With the help of Gatins’ screenplay, her character is lifted beyond its obvious stereotype and she does better than the others with the more emotional aspects of the script. However, the biggest surprise and delight is Cyler as Blue Ranger Billy Cranston. Having already demonstrated great acting chops in the indie hit Me, Earl and The Dying Girl, Cyler’s Cranston is undoubtedly the heart of the Rangers team and he carries this weight easily and effervescently. Of all the team, it is Cranston that I was rooting for most, from the beginning right until the end. Lin and Becky G., rounding out the team, have less to offer, mostly because the script seems less interested in them as characters, leaving their chemistry lacking compared to the other three.
As for the rest of the cast, Bryan Cranston and Hader are perfectly suited as the Rangers’ mentors Zordon and Alpha 5 respectively. Cranston brings a great maturity as the wise and elder Zordon, and the effects that impose his face into the ship’s walls do well to capture the actor’s facial expressions, emotions and authority. Likewise, Hader voices Alpha 5 with his usual likeability, charm and wit, his presence interjecting the story with a nice bit of fun and excitability. Banks is clearly relishing her chance to play a big bad with Rita Repulsa. However, her excitement is sometimes overplayed and at times her already cheesy villainess becomes almost comedic instead of scary and fearsome. Whilst this cheesiness is somewhat in the spirit of the original TV series, it seems at odds tonally with the rest of the characters and script.
Power Rangers is ultimately a really fun time. As someone who only casually watched the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers TV series after school, I found all the same corny, camp and cheesy elements that was on offer back in the day, but with the big-budget production and notable action sequences that this kind of blockbuster should have. Sure, at times Power Rangers struggles to find the right tone and hits some slight missteps when it comes to the more emotional aspects of the story, but for the most part the film captures the excitement, kick-ass action sequences and joy you want from a superhero origin story. It’s not ground-breaking cinema or the best superhero movie you will see, but if you are looking for a fun, action-packed flick that will help you both fondly remember and reintroduce the heroes from your childhood to a new generation, then GO-GO see Power Rangers. It’s well worth the price of admission.
THE REEL SCORE: 7/10