Go, Go, Power Rangers
As you all may know, Saban’s Power Rangers was brought to the big screen on March 24th, and since then an outstanding mix of hate and appreciation has filled social media airwaves. In this day and age, anyone with a Twitter handle can consider him/herself a critic of sorts. Personally, whenever I get to watch a highly anticipated film I tune out all critics until I take a look for myself. Well after doing so (twice) I know have formulated my own opinions about this adaptation of the legend that is the Power Rangers.
As a huge Power Ranger stan, I had to keep in mind that this was not going to be the mid-90’s after-school phenomena we grew up on. Let’s face it, looking back at majority of the franchise was corny, but back then you couldn’t tell us 90’s babies anything.
Every new episode, new power, new Zord, new season, we embraced it with open arms; that is until we grew out of the beloved Power Rangers some time around Y2K. Nonetheless, Saban continued gathering five (give or take) teenagers with attitude to protect the earth from a new evil. If you ask me, the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and the subsequent 3 seasons, Zeo, Turbo, and Space, were the epitome of the Ranger Universe, mainly because the seasons all ran together with recurring story lines and similar characters being passed on to the next season. These seasons were also the most revered because right around then is when my generation began growing out of the hype and into other things like the emergence of anime culture to our age group. Hats off to Dragon Ball Z and subsequent anime epics. It’s safe to say that I was no stranger to the Power Rangers universe when I stepped into the movie theater to watch the Lionsgate adaptation of the original Mighty Morphin’ season that got their source material from Japan’s Super Sentai. I’d been waiting since New Year’s 2016, when the film was announced via a huge ass Ranger balloon in the Rose Bowl parade.
First and foremost, the realism and humanization of the Ranger is something I totally enjoyed. It didn’t dawn on me until the movie that these “teenagers” never had normal lives a.k.a. Parents, families, history, hell, they never really were filmed in school except by the lockers! It was almost like they were Rangers first then kids. In 2017, we get a little backstory on all of our heroes. There is the typical jock and cheerleader that are Jason and Kimberly, nerd Billy, and cool hip outsiders Trini and Zack. However, the race swap isn’t the only difference we see in this new set of Rangers. Each one of them have certain flaws or motivation, that eventually place them in the ravine when their powers are awoken. I almost forgot I was watching a Power Rangers remake and thought Mr. Vernon was going to walk in and make it a Breakfast Club remake. So we have a millennial Ranger team who are far from the goodie two shoes who never missed class and did all the extracurriculars from the 90’s. What else is new? Plenty, of course.
One element that I noticed is that the kids received powers outside of their suits. Much like Peter Parker after his spider bite, the teenagers woke up extra strong with enhanced reflexes and agility. Superheroes traditionally have powers and abilities, so that was another turn to realism that the filmmakers added.
We also get a little bit of backstory to what happened prior to the present day adventures of the current ranger team. Besides focusing on the team maturing, the film also focuses on Zordon developing as a mentor as well. Think about it, was Zordon really just born all wise and father like? He had to learn just like everyone else! Again, the theme of realism flows even through the all knowing floating head we all used to love.
So the plot was pleasing for me because of its strong focus on humanization. What also further carried on this theme was the actors that filled the roles. Props to Bryan Cranston for a great job as Zordon. Coming from a variety of roles like the awkward Dad in Malcolm in The Middle or the most bad ass high school teacher gone drug lord, Walter White; I was definitely intrigued how he would deliver this iconic mentor to the big screen. Elizabeth Banks portrayed Rita Repulsa in the film and she did the infamous witch justice. I always remembered Rita as the loud mouth tyrant who sent the scary monsters to do battle with our heroes, but she was never really intimidating. This time around she was a genuine villain that scared me! Not to mention seeing her in a fight scene further gave her the villain cred she lacked. Her presence and menacing attitude definitely gave her more street cred than she ever had in the tv show for sure. The actors that filled the roles of the rangers also had breakout performances. They all portrayed the emotions and passions of a teenager that we don’t see as much these days. It was in a Tyler Posey’s Teen Wolf kind of way but a little more angsty. In my opinion, RJ Cyler as Billy the Blue Ranger was the most stand out. He really took small foundations from the original nerdy character and created a different dimension we didn’t see in terms of his motivations and joy of being a superhero.
The main critique or grievance I noticed over the social media airwaves was that “they took too long to morph.” Let me ask you this, if a floating head gave you a coin and said “ok go save the world”, would you know what to do? Yeah it was a bit of a wait to see the rangers in action, but it was all for a purpose. There’s two main reasons why I feel they saved the morphing for the climax. First, is just what I stated, if we were looking at the story with a realistic point of view, the characters just didn’t understand their powers; they had to learn them, and become a team, which reinforces the theme of maturity of the story. You think the original Jason and Kimberly knew to scream out “TYRANNOSAURUS, PTERODACTYL.”? There were a lot of these plot holes that as a kids we never payed attention to. Second reason why, after doing some light web browsing, it turns out Lionsgate has a plan for up to six more films.
S I X.
So if you plan to have at least one more film, why spill all your beans in the first movie? Neo didn’t even become a badass until literally the last minutes of the first The Matrix. (Not saying The Matrix needed sequels). We barely got introduced to Voldemort in the first Harry Potter film. Your first album should never be your best. So yeah, if we are about to have a movie franchise based on source material, you hold your cards and play them as needed a.k.a the new and and improved ranger suits and zords at the end of the movie. Besides, the teaser suggested the Green Ranger arc for the next film so yeah I’m not mad at all if we are getting that next.
All in all, the film delivered the nostalgia-packed, part coming-of-age part superhero movie we deserved. I am not saying it was perfect, but it was very enjoyable and I liked the realistic take on the beloved franchise. Hopefully, the franchise doesn’t tank and we get a Green Ranger film (good luck finding a good Tommy Oliver), maybe an Ivan Ooze/Ninja comeback, a Lord Zed cameo, Rito, and so many other storylines. Now that the Power Rangers and Lionsgate have established themselves, I am definitely interested to see how the Rangers franchise will develop later on and how much growing they have left to do.
I mean we didn’t jump for joy for dudes dressed up as megazords for years to not grow to appreciate what direction the franchise is taking now! Nostalgia takes the win here people!
Under-Promising and Over-Delivering,