Galvanic Cinema – Power Rangers (2017)

Go Go Power Rangers!

I’ll just cut straight to the chase. Go see it. Satisfied? Well, if not, keep reading. If so, go see it. And now for the actual work.

Power Rangers is a film adaptation of the original television series, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, which first aired in America in 1993. The show predates me a bit, but I did grow up watching its many direct follow-ups. Despite that, I didn’t really develop the same connection with the series that I did with things like Pokemon. What I’m saying is that the series has always been a very tiny blip on the nostalgia meter for me. I had several of the toys, from the rangers, themselves, to numerous Megazords. So I’m in the awkward place of both being the exact target audience for this movie, and not being so. Regardless, how does the film stack up?

I’ll be honest. I have to eat some serious crow, on this one. I was… leery about this one. Early promotional material didn’t give me good vibes, and that first trailer… actually… all the trailers were just… not good. I practically expected the thing to suck from the instant I walked into the theater. Why does every superhero have to have armor? Why do all robots have to mimic the Transformers look? Why is the obsession with dark and gritty still a thing? All questions that early promo material kept giving me. And I was only two thirds correct. It does still bug me that the suits are armor, and IronMan-style armor, at that (because you couldn’t at least come up with a way to make the suits look as little like IronMan as possible). And it irritates me that any form of giant robot now has to take from the Transformers model, forgoing sleek, aesthetically pleasing design for a collage of small, shifting pieces that just look like a mess. But at the very least the movie wasn’t as honed in on being “Teenage Batman Corps” as I thought it’d wind up being. Far from it, actually.

Traditionally, the characters of Power Rangers have been upstanding do-gooders with spotless or near-spotless records, and blah blah blah. And, really, that’s perfectly fine. Provided the characters have enough personal struggles in other areas, their ethics and morals don’t need to be the backbone of the entire story, if called into question at all. And that was one of the strengths of the original show, and subsequent series. While most rangers won’t traditionally have their morals or ethics particularly tried (after all, most of the Rangers’ enemies are as plainly evil as it gets…most), they manage to have enough other issues to keep things interesting. After all, there are other complications that come with their roles. Not only are they superheroes with secret identities, they’re teenagers. There’s plenty to be done with that without trying to get pretentious about moral and ethic quandaries that the audience (children, for the most part) may not be capable of fully grasping. Which isn’t to say the series was entirely devoid of those deeper ethical conundrums, but they were less frequent. The point is that the series focuses less on their pasts, and more on developing the characters based on their present. And, of course, previous episodes. This is where the movie takes things. They focus less on the superhero, and more on the teenager. Which, for a first-outing, may have been the smartest move. It was a risky move, giving us more human than hero, but still smart. It let us get truly invested in these characters, since we’d obviously have less time to do that than a show on the air for 3 years. And each character brought more relevant, serious, longstanding issues to the plate because this movie intends to set things up for a long haul. It wants to explore those specific elements of these characters in future installments, rather than treat their problems in a “freak of the week” manner, giving them whole new problems with each movie, complete unrelated to the established problems, here. That said, some things could have been done better. While Jason (Red), Billy (Blue), and Kimberly (Pink) get their fair share of development time, Trini and Zack (Yellow and Black) are a bit behind. Both have their moments, but don’t see nearly as much development as the others. Nor are they particularly linked in the same way that the other three are. Ultimately they only got involved at all because they just happened to be there when Billy found the coins. It’s a small thing, but still worth mentioning.

Then there’s Rita Repulsa… yeah, that was… a performance. Elizabeth Banks… is a good actress. This role, though… it was weird. She was way too subtle and quiet to be Rita, but way too silly and over-the-top to be anyone else. Maybe Divatox? Eh… no… still not silly enough. Karone? Er… too silly. Y’know what? Point is, I wasn’t really feelin’ this take on Rita. I liked her look. Like an old hag witch, in the beginning, then the cool green getup. Neat. She was surprisingly competent in a fight beyond just casting spells… in fact she barely seemed to do that at all. Actually… I don’t think they ever did really explain the source of her power. Because I’m pretty sure I never heard the word magic. But I don’t want to get into spoilers. Point is, she was entertaining to watch in a “oh my god, this is so silly, I can’t look away” fashion, but she seemed otherwise pretty out of place in this somewhat more mature movie. Could’ve been the script, could’ve been the direction. You decide. She does, at the very least, pose a very considerable threat to the team, so she’s worth using as the film’s core  villain.

And then there’s Zordon and Alpha 5. Well… they managed to make Alpha less annoying. In fact he was actually pretty okay in some scenes. I think I’ll give that one to Bill Hader. Very distinct voice, but he manages to make Alpha more endearing than annoying. And kind of clever. And part of it is also the writing, I think. He speaks slower, and isn’t a walking exposition dump, on top of his voice not being so grating. Design-wise, I don’t much care. Zordon is… well… let’s be honest. Zordon’s pretty much always been a colossal jerk. This one wasn’t doing many favors to help that perspective, but the difference is that the movie honestly seemed to acknowledge that fact, and use it. Which is brilliant. Taking the flaws of the old and turning them into strengths for the new is awesome… when it works. Sometimes they just end up making things worse, of course. Not so, here.

So. How was the action? How were the effects? Eh. Too brief, and too unimpressive. As I said, the things you wanted to stand out the most the suits and the Zords/Megazord just wound up looking like imitations of other popular franchises. The Putties were basically just rock creatures. Nothing I haven’t seen before. And, well… that’s about it. When the ranger action is happening, it’s plenty enjoyable, just watching them wail on some Putties, even with the meh suit designs. Then there’s the Megazord, and… ow. My eyes. See, on top of being lame and Transformers-y, the design, itself, is just… blah. Honestly, the movie is at its most interesting when they’re actually not doing the Power Rangers-y stuff. Which, I suppose, is a good thing, considering that the action is all so brief, and there isn’t much of it.

Overall, I’d recommend the flick. Solid characters with fleshed out backstories make the rangers feel like they have history as people prior to being dropped onto the screen. While the flick certainly punched that nostalgia button a few times, that’s all it did. It didn’t rely on nostalgia, it first worried about being its own movie, and that earned it the points to go for the nostalgia factor. That’s how it’s done.

What can I say? I was wrong. I’d recommend giving it a look. If you didn’t like Power Rangers already, I can’t say this’ll sway you, but if you’re a fan (and not a purist) I think you’ll find it rather enjoyable. If you’re not really up on the series, I’d recommend giving a look to Linkara’s History of Power Rangers series. In it, he provides a detailed analysis of each series, from Mighty Morphin’ to Dino Thunder, and beyond. As for this movie, I give Power Rangers a B+ With all that said and done, folks, that’s it for today. Thanks for reading, as always.

Keep up the awesome,
Chris V.

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