Reboots of well-known franchises always tend to come with a sense of paranoia from fans of said franchises, and one can’t really blame them since their first introduction to a franchise leaves such an impact that any later attempts to try and replicate that “for the modern times” would be nothing short of watered-down and at worst, a disappointment. The fact that there have been disappointing results from certain reboot attempts only makes this fear more prevalent. However, despite these few setbacks there are plenty of good examples that showcase how to introduce and reintroduce audiences to something familiar. Christopher Nolan’s 2005 film, “Batman Begins” is a prime example of this, for it not only reintroduced Bruce Wayne/Batman to audiences, but it was done in a way that wasn’t done with Tim Burton’s “Batman” in 1989. It got the audience to care for and therefore root for the main hero before he dons the hero costume.
With “Power Rangers” fans also had their own share of worry once official news of a new PR movie broke. Although there had been two films back in 1995 and 1997, they still echoed the TV show (the second movie Turbo especially), which was by design since the producers felt that that was what kids wanted to watch. However, as the new millennium dawned and superhero films began to get more sophisticated with their storytelling (as well as leave quite the impression on the box office), diehard fans began to take notice of this and demand that Power Rangers be given the same type of treatment as well, but the producers put their feet down and refused to do so, believing that going with that approach would alienate their target audience – children – and cause them to lose revenue from toy/merchandising sales, which help finance the shows.
And for a long time, that was always the mindset…until March 24 of this year.
With this film you’ll immediately find yourself in a universe that is completely new yet at the same token has some bits and pieces of familiarity to it, for right at the beginning you are introduced to both Zordon and Rita Repulsa but in a way that hasn’t been seen before, and you get to see how their “final” confrontation sets in motion everything to follow.
And with that you get to be introduced to our five heroes: Zack (Ludi Lin), Kimberly (Naomi Scott), Billy (RJ Cyler), Trini (Becky G) and Jason (Dacre Montgomery) with the latter being the first one you see, and right away you’ll notice that this is not the same one you knew from the TV show, for this version of Jason does something that lands him in a heap of trouble right from the start. However, despite this he still has a sense of right and wrong for when he arrives at his high school for Saturday detention he comes to the help of another student who turns out to be Billy, which sets the stage for their friendship as well as how they end up meeting the other teens that will make up their team, as well as finding certain coins.
The scenes that follow immediately give off a mixture of “The Breakfast Club” and “The Goonies” with the dialogue and the banter between the characters, and even during the moments where the characters aren’t saying anything.
And speaking of performances among the main cast, perhaps the most notable of all of them is RJ Cyler’s portrayal of Billy Cranston. With this character you not only get a sense of him being the brains of the bunch, but he is also the heart of the team. The fact that Billy seems to have some degree of autism doesn’t take away from the performance at all. Rather, it enhances it tremendously.
And this also goes for many of the other teens as well, for as the movie goes on you find that all of them have something that they are dealing with, and none of those things feel contrived nor do they detract from the overall story but they make Jason, Kimberly, Billy, Trini and Zack more accessible to the audience, and that is in no small part to both the screenwriters and the actors. For example, with Dacre’s performance he gives Jason a vibe very similar to what Chris Pine did for Jim Kirk in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek (2009) – a character who has potential to be something great yet has a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Yet despite this Jason has a sense of dignity which allows him to have a likability that feels real.
And of course, Elizabeth Banks’s portrayal of Rita Repulsa gives you a villain who not only can chew the scenery in the best of ways, but can also make you feel that she is a genuine threat and is not afraid to get her hands dirty and even play head games with our heroes a bit.
And even once the five teens meet Zordon and Alpha, they don’t become the Power Rangers right away either, let alone know how to fight. Instead they have to both train together as well as get to know each other even though they are total strangers because morphing into their Ranger suits requires them to be able to function as a team. As one might expect this doesn’t come easy for them at all. But nevertheless they push on and at one scene they manage to get acquainted with each other in a way very similar to that of an aforementioned 80s film.
And during all of this, you also get a bit some moments where the would-be Power Rangers even talk back to Zordon, with Jason finding out that their new mentor may not have as much faith in their ability to stop Rita, and this is something that does carry to a point.
Then after a nasty encounter with Rita and even with all of them being down and out, the Rangers ultimately do help each other pick up the pieces, come back together and step up to the plate to do what it was they were meant to do.
In all, what would be the best way to describe this film? Well, I believe the word “special” wouldn’t do it justice, but it really is the best way to describe this film, for not only is it a love letter to those who watched the very first season of Power Rangers back in ’93 as children (this writer being chief among them), but it takes these beloved characters and takes them out of a cheesy, campy environment and places them in a much more grounded reality while still holding on to the essence of what made the characters great in the first place. In addition, the film also adds in new wrinkles and layers to them that make them more three-dimensional and not caricatures. There still is a tiny bit of chessiness, but that’s okay, for these types of films do need a tiny bit of it so as to add a sense of fun and not have it take itself too seriously.
Plus the score that Brian Tyler did gave the movie it’s emotional punches and in ways very different than what Greame Revell did for the ’95 film, for while Revell tapped into more of a John Williams’ vibe, Brian Tyler tapped into the more modern vibes with his themes for the film, yet still add in his own twists.
In terms of what could be critiqued, it’s the way Goldar was brought into this universe, for unlike the TV show he is not a henchman let alone a right-hand agent of Rita in this movie, which is a shame since the character did carry a presence about him during the TV show that made him a force to be reckoned with at times during the early season of PR before relegating him to a joke in later seasons.
Despite that, the film does successfully incorporate elements of “The Breakfast Club”, “The Goonies”, and even the first couple of episodes from Dreamworks’ “Voltron: Legendary Defender” which only add to the experience more, for once you add those elements along with what the writing team, director Dean Israelite and the cast did, you got yourself a movie that will make you laugh, smile, and even get emotional at certain moments, which is exactly what the best kind of movies should be.
And just as important, the movie does bring home the thematic message that was placed on the teaser poster some time back, and it is that while we all come from different backgrounds and we all have our flaws, but in spite of that we all have the capacity to do something great, and not just in an individual sense, but together as a team.
Because together…we all are truly more!