***½ out of five stars
Based on the long-running superhero TV series of the same name, Power Rangers reinvents those monster-battling teenagers with attitude for a new generation.
Jason (played by Dacre Montogemery), Kimberly (Naomi Scott), Billy (RJ Cyler), Trini (Becky G), and Zack (Ludi Lin) are five wayward teenagers from the town of Angel Grove brought together by fate. Upon finding five mysterious glowing rocks, they become the newest members of the Power Rangers, an ancient team of super-powered warriors and intergalactic defenders of good. Under the command of Zordon (played by Bryan Cranston), they must prepare for a battle with Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), an evil ex-Ranger who plans to summon the giant monster Goldar (voiced by Fred Tatasciore) and destroy the Earth.
The Power Rangers TV series, which has lasted almost nonstop for nearly 25 years, is an odd beast. It utilizes special effects stock footage from the Super Sentai Series franchise produced by Toei Company in Japan, combined with new material filmed in the West. As a result, its Western production team made up much of its mythology, especially in its first incarnation as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, as they went along. With a big budget movie reboot, producer Haim Saban (in association with Young Adult film adaptor extraordinaire Lionsgate Studios) has the chance to revamp the back-story of the series in a more coherent manner.
This new movie manages to stay true to many of the core concepts and characters of the original series, while freshening up certain elements for modern audiences. The cast gives it their all. Redemption is a key theme here, as most of the Rangers are atoning for transgressions committed in the recent past. A few moments are even reminiscent of John Hughes’ 1985 cult classic The Breakfast Club. Even before the teens stumble across the rocks that grant them powers, we see Jason and Billy strike up a friendship. Billy is shown as a very socially awkward kid, and the way Jason takes him under his wing provides some charming character development. The other three Rangers are also given quality time and development. Cranston’s Zordon and his robot sidekick Alpha 5 (voiced by the delightful Bill Hader) are also captivating, but Banks’ Rita Repulsa steals most of the spotlight. Banks makes Rita creepy, campy and menacing all at once.
The tone of the film is more serious and even somewhat melodramatic compared to the camp of the original show. But there is still enough humor and repartee to keep things from getting overly dark and gloomy. And, while I’ll always hold a candle for the miniatures, spandex and rubber monsters of the original series, the film’s CGI effects are perfectly serviceable.
Power Rangers succeeds in rebooting its source material and telling a story relevant to today’s youth. Hopefully, it will lead to sequels and more reincarnations of familiar faces from the series. Speaking of which, please stick around for a mid-credits bonus scene.