Power Rangers 2017 Movie Review

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Power Rangers Reboot Teaser

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“This was a different kind of show.”

That was the mindset many cast members had when they worked on the show, and in a lot of ways, Power Rangers really was.

And from its heyday during the early to mid-90s, Power Rangers was truly a show that set itself apart from other kid’s shows due to its mixture of action and comedy and with some heartfelt – albeit corny – moments between the characters.

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And although we fans – myself included – more than enjoyed what the show was, many of us did eventually outgrow it and moved on to other things.

But even with that, many fans did wonder about Power Rangers from time to time, and as superhero films emerged again towards the beginning of the new millennium, and this time with a more serious tone, fans then began to wonder if it was possible to reinvent Power Rangers in the same vein.

Naturally this idea was shot down by the show’s producers whenever they were asked about it, for they felt that while it was understandable for fans think that way given how successful other superhero films were becoming once again – both critically and commercially – that would not benefit Power Rangers, for to take those characters in a more serious tone would alienate the target audience: children. Not only that, but money would be lost from toy/merchandising sales, which help finance the shows.

And so for a long time after that, the show continued on as usual.

But even despite that, fans still wondered.

Naturally, as the internet evolved there were a few fan-made attempts to reintroduce the Power Rangers – two notable ones in particular as well as an R-rated parody film (now removed from YouTube as of this post), but still nothing official from Saban’s side of things.

Until early of this year when news began to circulate of a Power Rangers reboot film, followed by the official casting of unknown actors in the leads, and then the announcement of Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa, followed by Bryan Cranston as Zordon, as well as official posters/wallpapers.

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But even with all that, fans still weren’t completely sure what to make of it, until October 8 of this year, when an official teaser trailer was finally released, and just before the Power Rangers panel at New York City Comic Con.

Now this goes back to the question fans have always wanted to know: Power Rangers may be known to work best as a campy, cheesy show and as such treating it in a more serious, realistic fashion was impossible, but…what if it could be done?

While it is best to let the teaser speak for itself, don’t be surprised if it gives you the vibe of a certain “brat-pack” film from the 80s. And while the tone is radically different from what’s come before, it still seems to have that vibe of the first season at the same time, which is key to making a film like this work. As the best successful superhero films have shown, success comes if the filmmakers get inside the material, respect it, and build off of that earnestly. And if the filmmakers themselves are fans, well then that’s even better.  And based on the NYCC panel, the director is a diehard fan from the first season.

So in all, here’s hoping that the Power comes back, and in a whole new way both for newcomers and the diehards alike.

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